Reel Asian Film Festival 2012: Wolf Children Review (Kirk Haviland)

Reel Asian Film Festival 2012

Wolf Children (2012)

Starring the voices of Aoi Miyazaki, Takao Osawa, Haru Kuroki, Momoko Oono, Yukito Nishii and Amon Kabe

Written by Satoko Okudera, Mamoru Hosoda

Directed by Mamoru Hosoda

Considered by many in Japan as the heir apparent to the anime crown currently adorning the master animator Hayao Miyazaki, director Hosoda delivers a fairy tale/fable with a very sophisticated and adult message, Wolf Children. An anime master in his own right, Hosoda shows off classic hand drawn characters on sophisticated backgrounds in a coming of age story with a very worthwhile message at its core. But how will Wolf Children measure up to the classic Miyazaki fare like Princess Mononoke, Ponyo and Spirited Away?

Hana is a nineteen-year-old college student. She meets and falls in love with a man, only to discover he is a direct descendent of the Japanese wolf, able to change between man and wolf at will. The two build a life together and Hana bears two children, a son and daughter named Ame and Yuki. After a tragic accident Hana and the children are left alone, Hana having no idea how to raise the children to deal with their inherited abilities.  She makes a life-altering decision to take her children and move to a rural town and raise them in seclusion. Ame and Yuki suffer growing pains in their new environment, but soon they must make difficult life choices of their own, to lead a life as either a human or a wolf.

The story and script for Wolf Children is eloquent and moving, and yes I am talking about an anime. The film depicts the trials, tribulations and sacrifices of a single parent, living and raising children completely lost without her soul mate, in a more mature and realistic way than a lot of more established productions could hope for. The children are portrayed as some of the most realistic of that age I have ever seen. Rambunctious, curious, enthusiastic and fiercely stubborn, these children have oodles of personality and jump of the screen.  The story forces the brother and sister to fight and literally claw their way towards adulthood, and while the two take different paths which lead to much tension between them, there is still a love there, just below the surface.

The animation here is fantastic. It’s great to see a fantastically executed hand drawn style in this world dominated by computer generated animation. The backgrounds are part CG and in most cases are breathtaking, photo realistic vistas. But all the characters in front of these pieces of set and scenery are wonderfully animated by hand and the characteristics of them shine through because of this. The setting of the farmhouse where they move is fantastic and shows how even animation can use a setting to enhance storytelling.

A charming and fantastic surprise, Wolf Children is a tale that will enchant and delight audiences of all ages, and it really does it in a smart and funny way. This is a film that stays with you and grows in fondness the more you think upon it. One of the best animated films of the year, Wolf Children is an absolute recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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