Wolf Children is the third animated movie by director Mamoru Hosoda, a talented chap who in my opinion has the potential to fill the void left by the retiring Hayao Miyazaki. Hosada’s previous work includes the critically acclaimed Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, which happens to be one of my favourite animated movies of all time. The UK edition of Wolf Children, brought to us by Manga Entertainment, is presently available to buy from Amazon for around £16.00. Alternatively, if shelf space is at a premium in your household, you can download a digital version of the film via iTunes. That’s the option I went for, although it may not be ideal for everyone as the iTunes download’s audio is limited to the English Dub.
The movie follows the life of Hana, who we are first introduced to as a nineteen year old college student. During a lecture Hana’s attention drifts from the professor’s ramblings to Ookami, a dark haired chap whose passion for learning motivates him to sneak into classes even though he isn’t a registered student. He’s the polar opposite of me then. During my academic days I was known for sneaking out of lectures as opposed to attending them. Hana begins to date Ookami shortly after their inaugural college encounter and remarkably the relationship persists despite Ookami’s startling revelation that he is a werewolf who can shift between human and wolf form at will. One tasteful beastiality scene later, the story advances a few years to the point were the young couple have become parents to two adorable wolf children named Yuki and Ame.
Sadly Hana’s family life is shattered when Ookami passes away, leaving her to raise their children all by herself. Parenthood is not an easy job at the best of times and is made all the more difficult by her kid’s bouts of shape shifting. When the toddlers get sick is she expected to take them to see a doctor or a vet? How can she keep her offspring’s ability to morph from human to canine secret when social services are hot on her heels? The answer is to abandon their home in the city and start life anew in a rural area away from prying eyes. The new setting affords Hana the luxury of raising her kids in relative peace, but brings about new challenges such as learning how to grow crops and fixing up the ramshackle building they are renting.
If you have enjoyed Mamoru Hosoda’s previous work I think you will leave satisfied after watching Wolf Children. Much like Summer Wars the movie emphasises the importance of family, although it delivers its message in a calmer more slow paced manner. The narrative spans for a number of years showing how Hana’s offspring grow and change as they reach adulthood. Yuki, who acts as the movie’s narrator, develops from an energetic tomboy to a young lady who shuns her wolf half in favour of being accepted by regular humans. The more reserved Ame on the other hand embraces his animalistic side and seeks solace in nature.
Despite the many hardships Hana faces she refuses to let the smile on her face waiver and her determination to do what is right for her kids never falters. Whether its physical labour or the mental challenge of having to learn new skills nothing can dissuade her from caring for her family. When I played the mediocre Final Fantasy 13 I recall one of the characters saying, “moms are tough.” Hana encapsulates those sentiments entirely. After watching Wolf Children I would have to say that a humble mother can be just as inspiring as the typical anime hero who saves the world from legions of alien invaders.
My rating for Wolf Children is a five out of five. It’s a beautiful film filled with touching moments and realistically written characters. Visually the animation and artwork are stunning whilst on the audio side of things I found the English voice acting to be excellent. Despite the plot’s fantastical elements the story manages to stay grounded, much like how The Girl Who Leapt Through Time focused on its characters rather than explore the sci-fi intricacies of time travel. Back in 2013 I was flabbergasted when Neo Magazine’s readers voted K-On: The Movie the best-animated movie of 2013 over Wolf Children. Anyone who believes that Wolf Children is not one of the best anime movies in recent times must be “howling” mad.