Wolf Children tells the story of 19-year-old orphan Hana who is studying in a university on scholarship. There, she meets and falls in love with a wolf man, the last of an ancient breed of creatures who can magically change from wolf to man. Eventually, she gave birth to a girl and a boy, Yuki and Ame. However, when the wolf man died suddenly, Hana found herself trying to raise the siblings in a rather unfriendly city. She decides to move the rural area to bring up Yuki and Ame so that they can each decide their own fate - to live as wolf or human.
The story opens with a narrative by Yuki on how her mother, Hana, encountered the love of her life in the university while she was still a student. From here on, the focus is on Hana's early years as a student and her interaction with the Wolf Man, how they fell in love, their lives as a couple and how they cope with Hana's strange pregnancy. Hana's life took a turn for the worse when the Wolf Man died suddenly, leaving her with two young children who were unpredictable and could morph back and forth between wolf and human depending on their temperament. Yuki is the more boisterous of the two while Ame was slightly weaker and would frequently cry. They ended up making quite a lot of noise that disturbs the neighbors in the tiny apartment that they lived in. To make things worse, the Japanese welfare thought that Hana was mistreating the children as they have never seen any doctors or get vaccinated. Hana finally decided that enough was enough and relocated the entire family to the rural area where the lands are bigger and she has the freedom to bring the children up without unnecessarily restricting them.
That basically sums up about half the movie. The next half of the movie shows how they quickly settle to a rural lifestyle and how Hana brought them up to be free. It basically contrasted how Yuki's personality is very different from Ame and the events in their early years that would shape them to be who they are and how they will eventually lead their lives. I shall not go any further than that because then it will spoil the movie.
I think there is alot the director wants to cover with the limited two hours and that he is unwilling to cut out and truncate the parts that he felt were necessary to the story. I think he did a wonderful job but because the coverage was extensive, the story can feel slightly draggy at times, especially at the beginning. I thought it will be more effective if the story did not open with Yuki's narration - because Hana's story did NOT continue as a flashback and the entire storyline progress in a very linear fashion. I kept thinking that anytime soon, we would be switching back to a present day Yuki. But it did not happen.
The story focus on the one or two major events later in their grade school years (perhaps when they were 11 - 12 years old) that nailed their decision to live as wolf or human. And it also focus on their early childhood, maybe when they were 3 - 6 years old because this was the age that Hana brought them away from the city. So there is a slight gap when they were 7 - 10 years old in which the director very quickly bring us through with moving stills that pan between the classroom. If Hana's story were truncated, then perhaps there would be more glimpse into the Yuki and Ame when they were 7-10 years old, however unimportant it may seem.
Between Summer Wars, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Wolf Children, I would actually rank Wolf Children below them all. In technical aspects, they are all equal, because MadHouse never fails to deliver the visual and audio candies. In entertainment value however, Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time felt like it was moving at crack pace with the unbeatable feeling of adventure. Of course granted that all the movies were of different genre and it is much easier to achieve the feeling of "high" for Summer Wars because of the settings of the story.
Having said that, do give Wolf Children a shot. Hana's love for Wolf Man, her resilience, her dedication and undying devotion to her children, it is all a very touching movie. The comical bits are contributed mainly by Yuki's growing pains. The music was suitably moving enough to bring a tear or two, I can hear sniffles in the cinema. The visual are fantastic, best seen on the big screen, especially the part where Hana slowly revive the old house - the amount of details they put into the patterned glass windows and the colorful tiled sink. While I am not too familiar with the seiyuu, the voice acting were still perfect, as usual. (I notice the cast list has Megumi Hayashibara in it, but I failed to identify which character she played.)
The pacing needs a little work. Hana's story might have been more effective as a flashback. — Diane Tiu
Recommended Audience: Teens and up. Even if Yuki and Ame are cute, the storyline really is mature and boring for children. And you do know that for children to be conceived, sexual intercourse is needed? The sexual act itself is taken off screen. But the part where they were moving off the screen, the Wolf Man remained in his wolf form. Well, it was an eek! factor for me and the intake of air from the audience in the cinema was audible. It is like a throw back to hentai. But I suppose we will learn to quickly forget the scene.
Version(s) Viewed: Encore Films (Singapore), Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Wolf Children © 2012 Wolf Children Film Partners
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