The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki
Studio: Studio Chizu, Madhouse
Release Date: July 21, 2012 (Theatrical release)
Hana, a 19 year old college student, finds herself fascinated with a mysterious man in her class. Starting off as just friends, the two begin spending all their free time together. The man eventually works up the courage to confess to Hana that he's actually a wolf man. While initially stunned by her partner's ability to transform, Hana's feelings for him remain unchanged and the two make love that night. Time moves forward and the couple have a boy and a girl named Ame and Yuki. One rainy day, tragedy strikes and Hana makes the decision to move out to the mountains so that she can better raise her children. What follows is a story about growing up, making decisions and finding your own path.
In some ways, The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki tells an exceedingly simple story. Hana is a young mother trying to do everything in her power to give her children the choice to live their lives the way they want to. The film's two hour run time gives director Mamoru Hosoda ample time to focus on each character's main dilemma, also allowing the audience to feel as though they've watched this family grow up. You see, The Wolf Children actually takes place over the span of 13 years. Hosoda shows us every high and low point of the family as they try to find their place in the countryside.
While the name of the film certainly highlights the two wolf children, Hana is at the wheel of the story. The film starts with her tale of romance and it is her determination and affection for her family that drives the narrative along. When the wolf man passes away early on, there's an indescribable pain that we as the audience feel because just as Hana does, we realize that there is no time to grieve. The world won't stop moving simply because she's been left alone. There's a sequence mid-film in which Hana is struggling to get the crops growing and having self studied, she's unsure of how exactly she can prevent the crops from rotting. Hana finds herself on the verge of tears, only to pull it all together when she sees her daughter Yuki next to her. She knows she's facing near insurmountable odds, but she's unwilling to give up no matter what.
The Wolf Children also does an impeccable job of fleshing out Ame and Yuki, creating a window that allows us to gaze on their growth from babies to young adults. There's one particular sequence in the second half of the film that utilizies montage in spectacular fashion to imitate the passage of time. The juxtaposition of these two children and the individual choices they find themselves having to make is nothing if not touching and sincere. We want to see both of them happy because we've spent so much time and invested so much into them emotionally.
While he doesn't get nearly as much screen time as the rest of his family, there's no doubt that the unnamed wolf man makes his presence felt. The early scenes that he shares with Hana are among some of the most touching and gentle sequences in the entire film. Every small moment of joy and discovery is felt in his expressions, and most importantly his love for Hana feels real and true. While the advertising for The Wolf Children has made it clear that the wolf man passes away, the weight of his death is nonetheless felt strongly throughout the whole film. For what it's worth, I shed tears.
While the rest of the cast isn't nearly as fleshed out as the main Hana and her children, they're all memorable and likable in their own ways. The old man who seems to care little for Hana's struggles, the young transfer student who wants to be friends with Yuki, the people of the neighborhood; The Wolf Children has a colorful and rich cast.
The countryside is as much a character in the film as the rest of the cast thanks to the stunning animation from Studio Chizu and Studio Madhouse. From the dilapidated houses to the lush forests and mountains, the whole film is filled with living and breathing locales. On top of that, characters move with a fluidity that often times causes one to forget that they're watching an animated film. One sequence that really stuck with me involves Ame, Yuki and their mother running through the snow in the winter. Both children seamlessly morph into wolves midrun while Hana trails behind, a huge smile on her face. As the family slides down a hill of snow, powder flies up into the air in spectacular fashion, making the whole scene feel a bit surreal. Despite being grounded in reality, The Wolf Children at times feels far more magical and fantastical than Hosoda's last film, Summer Wars.
Music is perhaps more important in The Wolf Children than it has been in any of Hosoda's previous works. Takagi Masakatsu's work here is tender and beautiful, oftentimes controlling entire sequences in the absence of dialogue or even sound effects. The main theme of the film is a somber, reflective piece that is repeated multiple times throughout the film in different arrangements. Even simply listening to certain tracks from the Official Soundtrack are enough to remind me of certain scenes and lines of dialogue. If you're at all a fan of instrumental music, I highly recommend finding a way to grab a copy of this OST.
In the pamphlet included with the soundtrack, director Mamoru Hosoda stated that this film was for the children who enjoy fairy tales, as well as the young adults who've yet to experience raising children of their own. Finally, he said that The Wolf Children was for the parents who watched their children grow up.
Since The Girl Who Leapt Through Time hit Japanese theaters nearly seven years ago, critics have been hailing Hosoda as the next big name in Japanese animation. With his latest film, Hosoda's proven that he's here to stay. I can't wait to see what he does next.
The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki is a brilliant film that never loses track of its heart and remains sincere to the very end.
10 – Legendary. As close to perfect as a production can get. 10’s are, to be frank, among best and most influential films or shows ever made.
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Elliot is an associate editor for Japanator and can be found contributing to Destructoid on occasion. He lives in Japan and can be found on Twitter @RyougaSaotome. more | staff directory
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