Wolf Children is a film directed by Mamoru Hosoda and released by Studio Chizu.
Directed by: Mamoru Hosoda
Written by: Satoko Okudera and Mamoru Hosoda
Starring: Aoi Miyazaki, Takao Osawa, Haru Kuroki, Yukito Nishii
Run Time: 117 Minutes
My husband and I were in the library the other day and found a DVD for Wolf Children on the shelf. It’s a film we’d seen a lot of trailers for on various FUNimation Entertainment releases over the past couple of years, so we were kind of curious about it. Also, as much I hate to admit this, in the 11 years that I’ve been writing about anime on the internet, I had not yet seen a film by Mamoru Hosoda. I’ve heard his name a lot over the years, but I had never actually gotten around to watching something he directed. I knew I needed to finally rectify this.
The film starts out with a college student named Hana encountering a mysterious man in one of her college classes that she has never seen before. After an initial brief interaction, they start hanging out together and become a couple. But the man reveals a secret: he is a wolf man. He’s afraid Hana will leave him, but she doesn’t. She becomes pregnant, and the two become parents first to a little girl named Yuki, then a little over a year later, to a little boy named Ame. After Ame is born, the man decides to become a wolf and hunt for some food. Unfortunately, he is killed, and Hana becomes a single mother raising two wolf children on her own.
As a mother, I could relate to what Hana is going through raising her children. I may not have the added stress of having children that can transform between human and wolf and trying to hide this from the world, but many of the normal parenting issues she encounters are relatable to people who have been through similar situations.
Another thing I wanted to mention is the fact that the wolf man is never given a name in this movie. Hana never refers to him by a name, and his driver’s license always has the characters for his name hidden or blocked somehow. I can’t read the characters, so being able to see these wouldn’t help me. But for viewers who are familiar with reading Japanese characters, they still wouldn’t be able to figure out what his name is. I found this to be an interesting storytelling choice on the part of Okudera and Hosoda.
Unfortunately, as the children start to get older, Hana finds it harder and harder to hide the fact they’re part wolf. Between Yuki transforming into a wolf in public, and an insistence of case workers to see the children, Hana realizes that she needs to leave the city and get away from the prying eyes of neighbors. She ends up getting a beat up old house out in the country, where the nearest neighbors are a significant distance away. She has the challenges of making the house habitable for herself and her children, as well as trying to find a way to grow food in order to help save money. She finds over time that some of the families in the village want to help her and she starts forming some friendships. Hana muses at one point that she’s grateful for all the help she’s receiving, she thought she had moved out to the country to get away from people.
At the beginning of the film, Yuki is depicted as being a very energetic and emotional character, while Ame is timid and unsure of himself. As children, Yuki is excited about being part wolf, while her younger brother has a harder time embracing this part of himself due in large part that wolves are always depicted as bad and evil in stories. But as the children age and go through experiences, their personalities and how they embrace being part wolf shifts. I appreciate how Okudera and Hosoda wrote this shift, because it isn’t something that happens suddenly and with no explanation. The shift in the character dynamics feel realistic. And the character development and interactions that take place are believable.
When it comes to the animation, it’s overall a well animated piece. My only real complaint is a scene that takes place in winter, where Hana and the children are running through the woods in the snow. There’s this weird and sudden shift from traditional animation to CG, which is jarring and feels unnatural to the viewer. There’s another running scene later in the film where it goes from traditional animation to CG, but the transition there felt more natural and was nowhere near as jarring for the viewer.
Outside of that one complaint, though, I thoroughly enjoyed Wolf Children. There are many elements in this fantastical story that are relatable to viewers, and the characters and story are very compelling. If Wolf Children is any indication of what Mamoru Hosoda is capable of, I’ve been missing out and need to make more of an effort to see the other movies in his filmography.