Wolf Children, one of the most talked about animated movies last year, and for good reason. With Mamoru Hosoda leading it, the movie was probably headed for big things, however maybe none of us were really ready for just how perfect Wolf Children would turn out.
For a film about two young human/wolf children it’s actually far more realistic than you would originally assume. It shows us the heartache and trails of a young mother, but also shows us what it means to grow older and choose your own path in life, because in a sense it’s both a coming of age story and something just a little more. Our story firstly introduces us to nineteen-year-old collage student, Hana, and Ookami the Wolfman who Hana finds herself falling in love with and eventually has two children with: a daughter who was born on a snowy day and thus called Yuki, and a son born on a rainy day and thus called Ame. Both children share their fathers ability of being able to transform from a human into a wolf and when they’re young they are unable to control the ability, leading to a few issues for Hana as I’m sure you can guess. As our story really starts coming into its own we see Ookami sadly pass away, and while overcome with grief, we see Hana vow to look after their children and give them the very best life she can which sees her move away from the busy and dangerous city and out into the middle of nowhere. This brings with it its own set of problems. Hana, Yuki and Ame move into a pretty run-down old house which needs quite a bit of work to bring it back up to be a respectable living place, however Hana is more than up for the challenge and won’t let anything stop her from living a peaceful life with her two children. We watch her struggle with the house and growing crops on the land, especially when the community and people around her have already written her off to fail, so it’s especially nice to see how determined she is to make things work, how all the work pays off in the end and how she deals with keeping her children’s secret well hidden from the people getting closer to her.
Of course, while we’re watching how hard Hana is working, we’re also getting to watch Yuki and Ame grow up and all the changes that are happening within the two. Yuki is loud and full of life, she runs about freely enjoying every moment of her life, while Ame is a quiet and sickly young boy settling for a quiet way of life when he’s younger. Early on it’s also quite clear that Yuki spends a lot of time being a wolf, while Ame is somewhat scared of that side of himself and would rather live his life as a human, something which changes as the two get older. As they get older Yuki begins to long to start school, and once she begins there it’s clear she wants human friends and must distance herself from her wolf-like instincts, even if that does prove quite the challenge. Ame on the other hand doesn’t settle at school and it’s clear he wants something completely different to his sister. He’d much rather spend his days as a wolf, even if that isn’t what his mother truly wants for him. This part of the story really is where the movie comes into its own, because not only is it showing us the story from the children’s point of view, but we are clearly seeing things from Hana’s point of view as well, leaving us with an immensely powerful amount of insight from all sides. This is likely what makes the movie so powerful emotionally. It’s very hard not to find yourself relating to all three of the characters. It’s simple to put yourself in Yuki’s shoes and relate to how hard it can be to fit in simply because you’re just…different. It’s easy to relate to Ame and see why he may give up on life as a human and rather spend his day up in the hills with the other animals, and it’s very easy to see things from Hana’s side and understand why she may not agree with Ame’s choices to begin with. If there is one thing this movie does very well it’s pacing, sure it’s a long movie, but it spends its time well, developing the characters and allowing us to watch them grow while also allowing us to grow very attached to them, so much so that you can’t help but love them.
As far as the animation and soundtrack goes, both do their job and more. The animation treats us to some simply stunning scenes. There is one moment about halfway through the movie where the first snow of the winter has settled and Hana, Yuki and Ame are running through it (first as children and then as wolves in the case of Yuki and Ame). The animation does a perfect job of catching the emotion and utter joy running through the characters at the time, and if that scene doesn’t leave you with a smile on your face and feeling warm and happy inside then this movie just simply isn’t for you. What the animation and story does very well in general is allow us to build a strong connection with these characters. Character designs are fairly simple, although we’re dealing with half human half wolf in the case of Yuki and Ame, neither is made to look too cute, with both looking fairly normal which suits the movie very well. The soundtrack can go from very quiet and subtle to being very loud and outspoken, although it does so very carefully and pretty perfectly. It’s safe to say that neither the animation or soundtrack can be faulted at all here.
In closing: Mamoru Hosoda has taken a very storybook setting and made it very, very real and created a movie that becomes a true classic from the second you watch it; Wolf Children is simply an all round wonderful story and is something that should and will be remembered for many years to come by anime fans of all ages.
- Overall: 9.5/10
- Animation: 9.5
- Story: 10
- Soundtrack: 10
- Characters: 9.5