Review: Wolf Children (2012)
By Floyd Rock
Pixar’s Brave may have won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature but Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children is 2012’s true animated testament to motherhood. The movie begins with Hana, a college student, befriending and falling for a mysterious young man, a man with a shocking and fantastical secret. He is a wolfman, a creature that can change his appearance from human to that of a large wolf at will. Hana is undeterred from her affections and the two fall for each other and eventually start a family. After having two children tragedy strikes and Hana is forced to raise their daughter and son on her own, a pair of cubs whom take after their father.
Though the concept may be fantastical it serves as a means to present the fears and struggles of a young, single mother. A mother seemingly overwhelmed without guidance or preparation for the task of raising such unique children, a feeling one would expect many new mothers to go through at one time or another. Her worries are numerous; from financial, to making sure her children grow up in the best possible environment, to even having others judge her competence as a parent, which leads to Hana finding a house in the country to raise her children from prying eyes and judging minds.
Though not as event and narrative heavy as Hosoda’s previous feature, Summer Wars, it’s in Wolf Children’s smaller moments that it truly lives. Moments like Hana’s daughter Yuki telling her mother about an encounter with a wild boar, pleading and throwing a fit over not being able to go to school and meet children her own age, or running wild through snow-covered hills. As Hana’s children, Yuki, wild and full of energy and Ame, quiet and guarded, grow into teenagers and discover who they want to be we also see Hana struggling with how to guide them into their futures, made even more complex with the two divided between their human and lupine halves. The film becomes not only a portrait of a young, dedicated mother but also a tale of two children coming of age. In Hosoda’s third film it’s evident that he is growing ever stronger at mastering his craft and Wolf Children is his most mature film to date. It’s welcoming to see a figure like Hosoda coming into his own with yet another strong feature and gives a promising outlook on his impact on the future of Japanese animation.
*Originally published online at MammothCinema.com