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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Top 5 Reasons To Check Out Reel Asian Film Fest 2012 (Kirk Haviland)

Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival

November 6-11 Toronto

November 16-17th Richmond Hill, Ontario

Toronto’s largest and oldest all Asian film festival, Reel Asian, will play out on screens across Toronto and Richmond Hill over the next week and a half. One of Toronto’s bigger and most recognizable festivals, the 16th edition of Reel Asian brings us over 60 films, feature length and short form, from over 13 countries. Without delving too extensively into the myriad of options available, we will simply highlight the five most intriguing reasons to attend based on what we have seen on the schedule.

Seeking Asian Female

#5 – Seeking Asian Female

One of the most intriguing documentaries playing at this year’s fest, Seeking Asian Female is about a man named Steven, a man in his 60’s with “yellow fever” who is desperate to meet a nice subservient Chinese woman to become his bride, much to the chagrin of Chinese documentarian Debbie Lum. After meeting a 30 year old named Sandy online and marrying her, Steven soon discovers she is not the docile mate he had expected and we follow the aftermath of his decision.

A Fish

#4 – A Fish

A rarity for Reel Asian, A Fish is a 3D film about a man’s search for his lost wife. He hires a private detective who informs him that his wife is living the life of a shaman and communicating with spirits on tiny Jindo Island. Jeon Hyuk goes off in search of his wife and we see all of the fantastical elements of the island in stunning 3D. A Fish will likely be the most visually stimulating film of the fest.

Valley of Saints

#3 – Valley of Saints

After winning multiple awards at the Sundance Film Festival, Valley of Saints makes its Toronto Premiere. Set in the Dal Lake region of Kashmir, Valley of Saints is the story of Gulzar, a young man in search of his future. Working as a boatman, Gulzar becomes involved in the work of scientist Asifa, who is collecting water samples to test. When shocking results come back from the samples, Gulzar must decide what he will do in the wake of the news.

Wolf Children

#2 – Animated Goodies – Tatsumi and Wolf Children

Each film screening separately at the fest, Tatsumi is a documentary on one of the most revered anime creators of all time, Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Tatsumi was one of the first manga masters to start bringing dark adult themes and tones to the medium, transforming it from simply the majority of child aimed and based material that dominated it before. Sure to contain brilliant visual demonstrations of his talent, the film has already screened in Cannes and Rotterdam.

Wolf Children is the new anime from the director of Summer Wars and The Girl who Leapt Through Time, Mamoru Hosoda. The visuals displayed from the film during the Reel Asian press conference were enough to get me on board as this film looks to have the charm of a Princess Mononoke. This coming of age story could be one of the hits of the fest.

Cold Steel

#1 – TAD Co-Presentations – Graceland and Cold Steel

The Toronto After Dark Film Festival will be co-presenting two films this year, also screening separately, at Reel Asian aimed straight at genre fans. Graceland is a taut noir film set in the streets of Manila. Marlon is a family man taking care of his daughter Elvie and frequently visiting his bed-ridden wife in the hospital. But Marlon’s life takes a drastic twist when his daughter is mistaken for that of a local gangster’s and is kidnapped. Marlon must now decide just how far he is willing to go to get her back.

And last but not least is Cold Steel from the long-time editor for John Woo and sometimes action director, David Wu. Being hailed as a Chinese war epic, and using a lot of bone crunching action packed choreographed fight sequences, Cold Steel is the story of a hunter turned sniper torn between the woman he is growing to love and his mentor. In the hands of a true action master like Wu, Cold Steel looks to live up to the hype and not disappoint.

For more information on the fest check out the Festival Website, complete with schedule and detailed info on all the films.

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

Follow me directly on twitter @moviejunkieto and by liking my Facebook page at Movie Junkie TO

Email me at moviejunkieto@gmail.com

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