We now move onto the most recent of Mamoru Hosoda’s feature films. While his previous films, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars, had science fiction themes dealing with time travel and artificial intelligences, his last film was more of a fantasy film.
Wolf Children actually premiered in Paris a month before it was released in Japan, back in 2012. Again the film was produced by the animation studio Madhouse, and this is so far his biggest commercial success.
The story starts with a 19-year-old female college student called Hana, who while studying encounters a male student who she then falls in love with. After going out together for a while, Hana’s lover reveals to her his biggest secret: he is a werewolf, able to turn into a wolf at will. This does not put Hana off him and so the relationship blossoms.
Over the coming months and years, Hana has two children, feisty girl Yuki, and later a sickly boy named Ame. Both of them are also werewolves, a fact Hana has to try to constantly hide from everyone around her. Everything is well until a horrible tragedy strikes the family which results in Hana having to look after Yuki and Ame on her own.
The pressure of her neighbours and visiting social workers results in Hana deciding to move out of the city and into the countryside, where she buys an old farmhouse. She repairs it and soon starts planting her own crops. Meanwhile, the children are beginning to forge their own paths. Yuki wants to go to school and interact more with humans, while Ame is more interested in the surrounding forests and becoming more wolf-like. As the years role on Hana is constantly trying to figure out what is best for her children, and which paths they should take.
There is a lot to like about this film. Firstly the artwork is in my view divine. To me it is one of the most beautiful looking anime films made, and certainly one of the best anime films that is not made by Studio Ghibli.
I love the plot as well. In terms of the time scale, this is a long film told over a period of several years. However, we get to know the characters so well during this period. The way that Yuki and Ame change in terms of their behaviour during this time is one of the most intriguing stories I have come across in an anime film. Probably the best scene in Wolf Children sees Hana playing with her children on a snowy day, where they run through a forest, up on top of a hill, and then all three howl together. Overall, the plot is not only good, but surprisingly moving, especially towards the end as the children decide on their own futures.
The film performed well back in Japan. During its opening weekend it was the second-highest grossing film, even beating the Disney / Pixar film Brave which made its Japanese debut at the same time. In 2012 it became the fifth highest-grossing film of the year make ¥4.2 billion (nearly $54 million).
Wolf Children is a brilliant film. The plot, animation and characters all combine together to create a wonderful piece of work.
Wolf Children is released on DVD and Blu-Ray by Manga Entertainment.