Last Level Press

Film Review: Wolf Children

Reviewer: Olen Bjorgo

Valentine’s Day, that holiday where couples can be lovey-dovey with each other and profess what should be obvious, but sometimes be reminded of the obvious because, damn it all, it can be cute. And this year it’s on a full moon, which is basically the pinnacle of romantic as far as the moon is concerned. And, being such a romantic myself, I decided to review a movie about a college student who fell in love with a wolf man and has his children.

Pictured: The objects of absolute love and adoration.

Wolf Children is a sweet, tender film written and directed by Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars) about a young woman named Hana who has to raise her wolf children, Yuki and Ame, without her mate who had died after a hunting accident. On paper it’s your typical story of a single mother that has to endure trial and tribulation to raise her kids alone, and how they grow up into their own people in time, and how a mother’s love is sacrificial, but the film itself is so much more than that; it’s beautiful in every sense of the word.

Just try not to dwell on how much this character resembles a lupine version

of Bambi’s dad.  You’re welcome.

Mr. Hosoda, whom many have likened to the legendary and renowned animator and director Hayao Miyazaki, strikes again with animation and scenery that is simply sublime. From the crowded streets of Tokyo, that change through the weather and seasons of the year, to the rural countryside that Hana goes to raise her children in for fear that the city is a dangerous place for their secret to be discovered, each area brings its own beauty, but none more so than the scenic country, filled with wide green fields, farm land, lush forests, and an imposing mountain that stands over the small village like an ever-watchful guardian. The film not only has eye candy scenery but also amazing character and object animations that are smooth and clean, each with their own delicate movements that look natural. Perhaps the best example of how masterful the film is animated is the transition from human to wolf and back again that happens so suddenly, yet moves effortlessly.

The soundtrack for the film is very much on the soft side, with an emphasis on violin and piano all throughout. The most bombastic and fast-paced piece involves an amazing scene where the children and Hana experience their first snow in the country as they run and play through the forest and countryside. For moments that are sad there tends to be no music or the only sound is the rain, which is admittedly a cliché, and when there is only rain and no music, you know something tragic has happened, but works because the music you’ll typically hear is soft, kind, and even produces twinges of nostalgia and melancholy. Its simplicity builds a feeling of childhood, which helps since violins and pianos are coincidentally common instruments for children to practice.

The story is told in such a way that Twilight wishes it had even half this film’s maturity and genuine emotion. The love between Hana and her mate is most similar to the opening minutes of Pixar’s Up in that there is very little said, but we see the passage of time and the love build between them as they start their family and life as a couple. We see the reluctance of Hana’s mate not showing what he is and how Hana still loves him, how they fear being discovered and give birth to the children in their small apartment in case the children came out as wolf pups instead of human babies, the heartbreaking tragedy of when her mate is found dead, the fear of raising two rambunctious children who can’t control their abilities, and the difficulties of being in a modern society that couldn’t accept them. There is love and tenderness, but we also see that it’s not a cakewalk or perfect, and there is genuine struggle. The passage of time is shown through imagery of seasons changing, notches on a post that show growth as they age, the classrooms that shift down the hall that increase in grade level, years of life and struggle shown in small bursts that tells us so much by saying so little. If there’s one thing that Wolf Children does best with its story, it’s to show and not tell.

No, really.  This may look comical at first, but put yourself in her

position for a moment.   …Your eyes just widened a little, didn’t they?

As always, Funimation has produced a wonderful dub with a good cast of folks.  The usual suspects that any fan of them can catch appear, as well as some folks I hope to hear more from in the future. Colleen Clinkenbeard (Princess Jellyfish, Space Dandy) plays the kind and ever-smiling mother, Hana, and gives her a loving but stern voice, a perfect fit for the hardworking mother that knows she has made mistakes but still tries to do the best so her kids have a wonderful life. David Matranga (Saiyuki, Kids on the Slope) plays Hana’s mate with a deep and raspy voice, which could be his regular voice, but I’ve never really heard of him before, so I hope to hear more of him in the future. However, I loved how his portrayal of the character just fit so well: he was a rough and distant lone wolf at first, but soft and kind, who cared deeply for his love and children.

And finally, there are the titular wolf children, Yuki and Ame, each played by two different actors for different times in their lives. Yuki is played by Lara Woodhull (One Piece, Deadman Wonderland) as a child, and by Jad Saxton (Future Diary, Fairy Tail) as a teenager and adult; Woodhull gives Yuki a cranky and high-pitched voice that is perfect for the hyper, excitable, rough and tumble tomboy she is as a little girl, but Saxton gives her a more calm voice that shows her being more studious, more feminine, and determination that her mother possesses. Ame is played by Alison Viktorin (Case Closed, Space Dandy) as a child, and by Micah Solusod (Soul Eater, Level E) as a teenager. Viktorin gives the shy, sensitive, and wavering Ame a quiet and soft voice, while Solusod gives him a matured voice that is less shy but more aloof as Ame becomes more in tune with nature rather than be part of the human world.

And puberty just gets all around awkward…er.

The film is just engrossing, visually and emotionally, with its animation and atmosphere despite being a predictable story, and that is more of a credit to Mr. Hosoda as a director and writer. To give you an idea of what I mean, this movie made me cry. Maybe I can only speak for myself, but any movie that can do that, even if I know what’s coming, deserves any accolades it gets. Is it a good Valentine’s Day film? Well, I did this mostly as a joke because of the full moon, but this would be more appropriate for Mother’s Day if there had to be a holiday to watch it on. Or it would be an amusing gift for any mothers that will be having children in November (thanks Mom!), but the father watching might be a bit nervous. No matter when you see it, you need to do yourself a favor and watch this whenever you can because it truly is worth seeing. Even if you don’t love animated films, you might enjoy this. If you enjoyed Summer Wars, you will enjoy this. Wolf Children cannot be recommended enough.

Rating: 9.2

Visuals: 10
Audio: 9
Narrative: 9
Acting: 8
Atmosphere & Experience: 10

Final Verdict:


  Director: Mamoru Hosoda

  Producer:   Yuichiro Saito

                    Takuya Ito

                    Takashi Watanabe

  Studio: Studio Chizu/ Madhouse

  Release Date (U.S.): June 25, 2012

  Release Date (E.U.): June 25, 2012

  Release Date (JP): July 21, 2012

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