Wolf Children is a beautiful and touching story that proves that anime can be a true art form. While the movie does have its slow moments, it more than makes up for it with incredible visuals and wonderful characters.
Written by Mamoru Hosoda (Known best for Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time), Wolf Children tells the story of a young woman who falls in love with a dashing man and has two adorable children with him. But there is one small thing, the man is a wolf. And that means the children are wolves too. The story then focuses on the characters relationships with each other and how the children deal with trying to figure out who they are; human or wolf.
Wolf Children takes the approach of having magic ground in reality, meaning that everything in the world is realistic and magic is only a thing of fairy tale . The only small part of magic comes from the fact there are a few wolf children in the world and that’s it. This allows the story to focus more on character development and less on the idea of there being magic in the world, as the story isn’t about magic or fighting other magical wolves to become the king of wolves, far from it. Wolf Children’s story hits home a lot more than you would expect.
Mamoru Hosoda is notorious for his films focusing heavily on character relationships and family, Wolf Children is no different. The whole story follows the two children as they try and grow up in a world that can never know who they truly are, that would treat them as monsters if they would reveal themselves. The only place they feel at home is with their mother. They constantly face challenges brought upon them in life, they have social anxiety problems and always feel pressured to fit in, problems that many people can relate too and can sympathise with. The only difference is that they have to deal with the fact they are also animals, and that turning into a wolf in public could ruin their lives forever. The whole concept sounds strange, but is pulled off incredibly well and really tugs at the heart strings, there were often times I would find myself relating to the characters and feeling honestly sorry for them. The story is just incredibly well made, for the most part.
Wolf Children’s first half is vastly superior to the second. The story starts exceedingly well and sets the mood perfectly, having characters personalities and relationships develop at a very comfortable pace. The children are born and begin to grow up, they learn about life and all of the wonders the world has to offer. Then the second half comes along, and changes the movies message a bit. The message of the movie doesn’t change drastically, not at all, but the theme of “family sticks together” seems to get lost later on when the characters grow older. The theme of teenagers not wanting to be with family can be found when looking back, but the overall ideal of family is played with quite a bit. That being said, the second half isn’t bad, it’s still great, but the utter beauty of the first half of Wolf Children makes the second half feel slower and more predictable.
Wolf Children is beautiful. The art and animation are just pleasing to look at. Hosoda wanted the production team from Summer Wars to stay on for Wolf Children, and their passion for the project really shines through. The backgrounds are vibrant in colour and incredibly well detailed to a point where they look like photographs. Characters move fluidly, with some moments of CGI blended into shots very well. There are moments when the CGI is very noticeable, but this is only on cars and other vehicles. A special mention goes to the wolf transformation scenes, the smooth transformations are a joy to watch, and it’s fascinating to watch body parts change from human to wolf with such subtlety.
The soundtrack was composed by Takagi Masakatsu, an artist that is sadly unknown to the anime community, but hopefully after this movie all of that will change. Wolf Children’s OST is haunting, the slow moving and soft piano emphasis the mood of the movie perfectly, the quiet and passion filled lyrics only enhance this. The string and wind instruments used during the lighter moments give a wonderful sense of freedom and discovery. A brilliant soundtrack to a brilliant movie.
Both the DVD and Blu ray come packed with a selection of extras and bonus content. The majority of the extras are previews, trailers and music videos for the film. These are nothing to write home about, but nice to have. The best extras are the pre-screenings interviews from film festivals in japan, and the English commentary where the ADR director Mike McFarland (known for FMA; brotherhood) interviews the cast of the movie. The commentary is by far the most interesting extra, as the cast talk about what changes and alterations had to be made for the very well made English dub.
It’s been repeated multiple times through this review, but just in case you didn’t see before; Wolf Children is brilliant. It’s a wonderful story about growing up and facing the problems life throws at you and ultimately who you will be at the end of it. Wolf Children is a brilliant gateway anime to show people who claim that anime is childish, as Wolf Children is one of the most captivating and magnificent anime movies I’ve ever seen.
Other anime recommendations
Every film made by Mamoru Hosoda
Wolf People: Wolves Rain
Wolf Children is available now on DVD and Blu ray from Manga UK