Original title: おおかみこどもの雨と雪
Genres: Animation, Fantasy, Drama, Slice of Life
Director: Hosoda Mamoru
Hana (Miyazaki Aoi) was a normal student at a university in Tokyo, but then her life gets turned upside down when she falls in love with a werewolf. They have two children, Yuki and Ame. But on the day that Ame was born, the father gets killed while hunting for the children.
The three are forced to live on their own, but with Yuki and Ame’s ability to change back and forth from human to wolf, Hana tries to live as secretly as possible. In an effort to live away from curious neighbors, Hana moves the family to the countryside. Growing up close to nature, it is in their new home that the kids must decide if they want to live as humans, or live as wolves.
Keeping with the pattern of centering on human relationships in his stories, director Hosoda Mamoru delivers another fantastic masterpiece. The relationship in focus in Wolf Children is the one between a mother and her children, exploring the troubles and the decisions she has to face as they grow up. The story is given fantastical seasoning, bestowing upon Hana two kids who can transform freely from human to wolf.
The first act is a cute tale of romance between a werewolf – who casts himself as an outsider because of his bloodline – and Hana – a young girl who smiles no matter how difficult the situation. The story is told very maturely; much different than how recent young adult novels would depict a romance between human and beast.
The second act bleeds cuteness. We get to see the titular children grow, going through many of the experiences regular children do, like eating something one isn’t supposed to eat, but made extraordinary because of Hana’s need to keep their heritage in secret. We even see Hana grow as a mother, as she pretty much learns how to do everything on the fly. It is a montage of cuteness and giggles, as the animation captures the characters’ movements so realistically and adorably.
The third and final act baton passes the primary narrative over to the children, as they live life as elementary school students. They start to become aware of the choices they have to make, and the sacrifices that come with whatever they decide. The story becomes a real tearjerker, being able to captivate with its realistic human drama and strong central characters.
What makes the human drama in Hosoda’s films so strong is his way of letting his characters find inner strength, overcoming obstacles set in their way. With that, Hana is by far the strongest character in Wolf Children. Not being able to console with the kids’ late father for advice, or anyone else for that matter, she commits to figuring out how to raise two half-werewolf children. Times get hard, to the point which it would break most people, but she perseveres on while smiling.
Hosoda’s films all have strong characters, and Hana, Yuki, and Ame are ones that fit that bill. They are likable and sympathetic with great character development, enhanced by the film’s clever cinematography as it captures them growing up.
However, if you’re looking for a Hosoda piece on the same level of epicness as Summer Wars, you might be disappointed in Wolf Children, as it isn’t an action film. But, what it lacks in action, it more than makes up with its strong characters and story. Definitely watch with a box of tissues nearby.
Watch this film…
…to experience captivating human drama, and to watch adorable kids as they grow up.