(anime film, 2012)
Of Mamoru Hosoda’s other work, I’d only seen The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and the first two Digimon movies. I somehow skipped Summer Wars, but I know I’ll get to it eventually. The animation style of Wolf Children is a bit closer to TGWLTT, but the story is a bit more fantastical, though not quite to the level of having monster companions battle it out in a digital world. The storytelling as well is more similar to TGWLTT in that it has nothing objectionable to kids and has a simple enough concept but runs with it to the point that it somehow achieves a very striking depth and range of emotion.
The premise of Wolf Children is a little strange. Hana falls in love with a man who goes to her university only to find out that he’s a werewolf. The couple have two children. As it gets harder and harder for them to hide the children’s wolf transformations in the city, Hana decides to move the family to a rural area to raise her family.
[Note: If you want to go into the film knowing as little as possible of the plot, you might not want to read this paragraph, though there aren’t really any spoilers.] Yuki, the older sister, is outgoing and fully embraces her wolf side, while Ame, the little brother, is shy and dependent. Hana is new to life away from the city, but is determined to make ends meet. The film is mostly cute and fun for the first half, then after a time jump, things develop and we see how each of the family members deal with the children’s unique abilities as they grow older.
The city settings at the beginning of the film are kind of pretty, but are nothing compared to the lush rural settings later on. Some scenes were just wonderful to look at–gorgeous mountain ranges both green and snowy, waterfalls and streams, even empty plots of dirt for growing crops looked good. The human character designs are pretty simple, realistic, and attractive, even for the minor supporting characters. The wolf transformation designs are a little awkward at times because the wolf forms retain some human characteristics like hair style and clothing color, but the transformation itself could not have been animated to be any more fluid and natural. Point-of-view shots of the wolves running were really weird at first, but now I’m really glad they put those in.
The music is simply beautiful, very calming and a perfect fit to the animation. I found myself actively wondering how they managed to make the sound editing seem so real, which is something I don’t usually wonder when watching animation, so I guess that’s worth noting. I mentioned before that narration usually bothers me, but I guess the only thing about it that bothered me in this case was that it wasn’t really revealed how old Yuki was as the narrator. Pretty great vocal performances all around, though I don’t think I’ve ever complained about the original Japanese voice-acting on anything…
Going into this practically blind, I didn’t really expect anything except a good movie, since I’d seen some of Hosoda’s work. I didn’t expect it to move me nearly as much as it did. The cute little wolf versions of Yuki and Ame running around in a small apartment living room did not set me up at all for the emotional complexity of the second half of the film. 10/10