Usually I get kind of coy in giving reviews, making you read through my whole marvelous article before I finally let you know whether you should watch something or not. I also do not do movie reviews either, so this is a double departure for me. I’ll get straight to the point…..
You should watch “Wolf Children”.
Now, it will be coming out in the theaters, but it is going to be a limited release, which means you will have to do some hunting for it, but it will be in English Dub (although the subtitles were not a problem at all). The only thing wrong with the film is the title, which gives away everything far too soon. It would have been nice to be able to be surprised as to what events were unfolding. I even chose this image over the wallpaper release, as that really spills the beans regarding key plot points. Even something like “Different Children” would have been better as a title.
Now, if you enjoyed “Summer Wars”, this comes from the same animation house. I really liked “Summer Wars”, although this one is a big change of pace.
It is told completely in flashback, but that is more of a device to be able to relate the story. It could have easily worked as a straight-ahead film, but we do need that Guide Narration in certain instances.
We start off with Hana, who is a college student and has a part-time job. In her Literature class, she sees a student who is strikingly handsome and seems different from the other students, as he is furiously taking notes. Catching up with him after class, as he neglected to do something, she learns he is not a student, but wants to get an education he cannot afford.
After some dates, Ookami decides he has to tell Hana something and reveals that he is a wolf man. Now, we have taken the entire lycanthropy mythology and flung it out the window, for we learn the real truth about these individuals; that they can change their appearance at will and are not dependent on the full moon. He is also the last of his kind, descended from the now-extinct Japanese Wolf. They live together (although the question of whether they are married or not was side-stepped entirely).
She becomes pregnant in short time and gives birth to the older girl Yuki (“Snow”) and her younger brother Ami (“Rain”). However, tragedy overtakes the family and Hana must raise these children by herself. And let me tell you, it is not easy raising kids who have not yet learned to control their transformation ability. Adding to this, Yuki is what I would call an Alpha Leo: outgoing, demonstrative, rambunctious and always on stage. Ami is a classic lone wolf, in that he is painfully shy, weak and sickly and into himself emotionally.
Life in the city is getting both difficult and oppressive. How can she allow these children to let off their lupine nature? She learns of a program where people take over dilapidated houses that are almost rent free and they are located far into the countryside. She jumps at the chance, even though it requires a tremendous amount of work to get things back into shape, but she takes the house because her nearest neighbor is miles away and the views of nature are stunning.
We see the children grow up and mature in the 13 or so years the movie spans. But when external forces threaten to tear apart what Hana has worked so hard towards all these years, how will everyone react?
First of all, this is a beautiful film. You can see the effort taken to present both the city and country environment. You really get a feeling for the claustrophobic ways of the city, and the wide open freedoms of the countryside.
Character design is equally important and the scene where Ookami transforms is done well, avoiding a lot of the clichés and tropes that could have easily ruined this film.
This is a film about understanding who you are and what you choose to be. Now, we all know that growing up is never easy and this film shows both the pain and happiness that accompanies that process. Are there a couple of teary moments? There are, but you do not feel forced into them; it unfolds naturally. Now, it’s not even a two hour film and I never felt it dragged or had flat points, but because it is a ‘small’ film (there are no car chases or giant fighting robots bent on destroying the world), some might be bored by what is going on. Trust me, you will not be bored.
The scenes with Hana and her children are wonderful, as they come from someone who has raised children and are overwhelmed by what it all really entails. We have a couple of character standards (the gruff old man who knows everything, the Mutt-and-Jeff neighbors), but it is done deftly, as if we are going to take these characters and make them work for us.
I know you can go out and get the Blu-Ray, but I strongly recommend seeing this in the theater. It is a gorgeous offering and you want to take full advantage of what they have to present. Even your puny 60-inch HDTV is no match for a 50-foot screen.
I can recommend this film because the wife likes it. You should understand that she tolerates anime and detests current animation in general. For her to really enjoy this is no mean feat.
I give this 3 ½ stars out of four.
And remember, it’s first run until you see it. I hear the wolf’s howl.