Welcome to another edition of “Life on Anime”… this time we’ll be taking a look at Wolf Children is an animated Japanese PG Rated movie released in the US by FUNimation.
Here’s the premise:
Hana is a student who falls in love with an oddball guy who frequently attends her college classes, but isn’t a student himself. As they grow closer, the man decides to tell her a secret: he’s an Ookami (Japanese wolf). Instead of being repulsed, they move in together and their relationship blossoms and they start a family. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Hana is forced to raise her wolf children on her own. But how did it stack up? Read on to find out!
Anthromorphic anime aren’t really my cup of tea to be completely honest. So, going into Wolf Children, I didn’t have high hopes of enjoying it. I purchased the movie because it was on sale and has one of my favorite English voice actors in it, Micah Solusod. I’ve been impressed with his skills since Soul Eater and I wanted to hear what he could bring to the table with something much softer. That being said, I don’t often watch the English dubs, unless it’s something I’ve already seen. Micah pulled the role off quite well and, strangely, I enjoy his rendition of Ame, the young male wolf child, to the original Japanese voice actor.
I watched Wolf Children in both English and Japanese in one sitting.
It was delightfully charming and a little bittersweet. Though it’s categorized as fantasy, I think the coming of age genre is much more fitting, even though there are fantastical elements. It’s rated PG, so I didn’t expect it to be gripping, but I also didn’t expect it to be so grounded either.
Wolf Children feels timeless. There’s no specific date provided, or at least not one that I could readily ascertain. But it’s set in a time period prior to the internet and cell phones. Hana, when she’s a student, frequently visits a library to do her research and continues this practice well into motherhood when she has to research how to raise wolf children because their father is no longer around to help.
The ‘feels’ are strong in this anime. I didn’t anticipate crying in the first twenty minutes with the resolution of the father’s story. Without spoiling the movie for you, I don’t want to go into detail about what happened. Vaguely speaking, it was a moment of realization that he is, after all, an animal and what happened to him plays out exactly as it would have for an animal – not a human. It makes perfect sense and, in that regard, the scene is powerful. The significance of this moment is further exemplified by the lack of audio. There is no voice acting, no music, and, even though it’s raining, no sound of rain. The stillness is breathtaking. I knew I was watching something unique and special.
With her children’s father out of the picture, Hana raises the wolf children on her own by sacrificing her goals and dreams willingly and without prejudice. But her knowledge of their kind is wanting and, of course, there’s no “Raising Ookami” books on the market for her to reference. She does what any loving mother would do and does her best to care for them by educating herself. She reads everything she can about human and wolves and does her best to care for her kids. Illness becomes a gigantic hurdle, obviously. She can’t take them to a hospital and she can’t take them to a vet either. It’s clear that the world Hana and her children inhabit are much more like our own than the whimsical setting of most anime. There are real and grave consequences to letting others learn about her children.
Neighbors become problematic as they pry into their private lives, the department of children and families equivalent becomes an antagonistic force because her children have never seen a doctor, even the landlord aims to kick Hana out of her apartment for housing pets. There isn’t really a “villain”. People are just doing their jobs, protecting their property, and are genuinely concerned about Hana’s children. The conflicts are very real and relatable.
Hana moves to the countryside. This isn’t a spoiler – it’s on the back of the DVD cover. She and her shapeshifting children are faced with even more hardships, but at least they aren’t in danger of being as readily discovered. With miles between her and her neighbors, plenty of space for her children to run, and enough room for her to create a small farm for them to live on, Hana readily takes the new way of life in stride, finding joy in the simplicities and her children.
Wolf Children shows many parallels between human child behaviors and the behaviors of dog-like creatures. Ame and Yuki have a problem staying in their human forms whenever they are sad, angry, or excited. At first, I found the gradual anthromorphic transitions off-putting. But, as the movie progressed, I grew accustomed to it. There are a lot of fun moments when Yuki gets really upset at her mom for disciplining her. Like a puppy, she runs rampant around the house, tearing up things and chewing on furniture. For a PG movie, I expected a lot more of this sort of thing but the balance between character development, plot, and fun was really refreshing. No one element was ever too strong.
As Ame and Yuki age, they begin to change slowly. Each wants acceptance, but in different ways and are willing to go to great lengths to obtain it which leads to the climax and a very clean and touching ending.
The Bottom Line:
Bittersweet and charming are the best words to describe Wolf Children. It’s a timeless story about love, friendship, and acceptance. Though it’s rated PG, it can be appreciated by all ages. Children watching Wolf Children will be drawn to the fun, lighthearted moments and vivid animation. Adults will take away something completely different and more mature. It’s definitely worth watching but some people may not be able to get past the anthromorphic qualities. Bring tissues. — 8/10
Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine