Seeing as I’m a big fan of Mamoru Hosoda and his other works (e.g., Summer Wars, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time), I was very interested when I heard about Wolf Children. I started reading the manga before I ever got a chance to watch the film, and I loved it. The manga is based on this film, though there are a few differences.
Hana falls in love with a mysterious man while in college, and finds out he is the last of the wolves. They have two children, and shortly after the second is born, the wolf man dies while hunting as a wolf, leaving Hana to raise two young wolf children with very little knowledge of what to expect.
After her children get too wild to handle without questions in the city, they move far out in the countryside where she can raise them and let them choose what they want to be. After showing that she is willing to work hard and not give up like previous city dwellers trying their hands at country living, the locals warm up to her and begin helping her out here and there. She still has difficulty keeping the children’s secret from the locals because kids will be kids.
The animation is very well done, a mix of excellent CG animation as well as traditional animation. This film is another great example of how the tools which allow animators to do their work are finally catching up to the artist’s capabilities and allowing them to focus more on the art than the technical aspects of how to do something. I also absolutely loved the background work; it made me very nostalgic for the time I lived out in the countryside of Japan.
The music helped the film in all the right places, and was never obtrusive or distracting. Hosoda made excellent use of silence (periods of time with no music). He also made excellent use of pacing, as the story moved along quickly when necessary and slowed down for parts needing a little more contemplation. This might bother some people, but I thought it worked very well.
For sensitive Western audiences, there is one bath scene reminiscent of the one in My Neighbor Totoro, and it shows about as much as that one did. In addition, the one “steamy” scene wasn’t all that steamy, and nothing but the upper back is shown (in the dark, too). There are also a couple brief scenes after the birth of Yuki (the oldest, a girl) and the birth of Ame (the youngest, a boy) where Hana is shown breastfeeding, but there is nothing sexual about the scenes.
I really enjoyed Wolf Children, and I think it is a great alternate approach to the legend of wolf people. It has solid storytelling, solid plot, solid pacing, and solid characters. I recommend it.
Release Date: March 12, 2012 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Original Title: おおかみこどもの雨と雪 (Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki)
Nudity: 1 (very brief during baby feeding, brief kid’s bath scene, after rescue from river)
Sexuality: 1 (very brief scene, doesn’t show anything)
Violence: 1 (siblings fight as wolves)