AKA The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki
Starring Aoi Miyazaki, Takao Osawa, Haru Kuroki, Momoka Ono, Yukito Nishii, Amon Kabe, Takuma Hiraoka
Directed by Mamoru Hosoda
Like Mamoru Hosoda’s other films, Wolf Children is a lighthearted, feel-good movie. It’s a movie that begs to be called “charming” and “heartwarming.” Even more so than his previous films, this is a story about family while still holding on to his usual themes of growing up. I usually prefer darker and more adult fare, but luckily for for me Hosoda excels at making these family-friendly stories engaging. He’s crafted a wonderful cast of characters that are easy to love and care about.
This time the story is focused less on growing up and more on raising children. Of course the two overlap, but in most coming-of-age stories the parents are off in the periphery. In Wolf Children the mother, Hana, is as much of a main character as anyone. The film follows her struggles to raise her two children, Ame and Yuki. The twist is that the kids’ father was half wolf, and so Ame and Yuki can change back and forth from human to wolf, leading to extra complications for Hana as she is also stuck raising the two children on her own.
The film is handled with a deft and gentle approach, mixing in a healthy amount of humor to lighten the mood, such as when Yuki gets sick, and Hana stands on a corner trying to decide between a pediatric clinic and a veterinary clinic on opposite sides of the street. It captures, in a cheerful and loving way, the uncertainty of how to raise a child and the impossibility of keeping up with a rambunctious child while taking care of all of life’s necessities.
On the production side of things I was a little disappointed, though. The CG is grating to me, and honestly the animation is not all that impressive, but for all that the visual style of the film is lovely. I probably shouldn’t be complaining as it looks about the same as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars, but I was hoping for some improvement as Hosoda’s career progressed. I guess I’ve been spoiled by Makoto Shinkai, whose films keep looking better and better every time.
Wolf Children is Mamoru Hosoda doing what he does best. It is charming, and it is heartwarming, and I can’t think of a better anime film to celebrate Mother’s Day with. This is right up there with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and if we can just keep Hosoda from trying to write about computer programming that he doesn’t understand I think he’ll continue to make great family-oriented films.