I stumbled upon the manga of Wolf Children first. The English translations were not fully done for all the chapters, so I searched for the movie adaptation to get the full story.
Wolf Children (2012) is directed by Mamoru Hosoda, who is also responsible for other great animation films such as Summer Wars (2009) and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006). The art may not be as good as 5 Centimeters Per Second*, but the story is still wonderful. It tells the tale of a university student, Hana, who falls in love with a wolf man. They have a daughter, Yuki, and a son, Ame, in a small apartment in Tokyo. The sudden death of the father leaves Hana to care for her 2 children alone. Needless to say, any kind of parenting is difficult. Hana struggles to care for Yuki and Ame in the city as they tend to switch back and forth from human and wolf forms. Finally, Hana decides to move to the countryside in hopes of protecting her children. In the isolated yet warm community of her new town, Yuki and Ame grow up and attend school. As the years go by, Yuki and Ame learn to decide for themselves which path to take.
I peed all over him to show him who’s boss!
I teared up a few moments while watching even though English dubbed films are awkward. I guess it’s impossible not to tear up a little when watching a movie about mothers.
I actually found the beginning to be a little slow. I guess I wasn’t in the mood to learn about the mother’s budding love story. I wanted to get right into the meat of it- the story of how she brought up her 2 wolf children. Yuki is the older sister. She is spunky and enjoys collecting snakes and bones. On the other hand, her little brother, Ame, is a crybaby and sticks to Hana. It was interesting how my predictions on which path the 2 would take were completely different to how it turned out. In the end, Yuki decides to live life as a human while Ame chooses to live as a wild wolf. I think their first wakening experience had a lot to do with their final choice. Yuki’s fascination with school, desire to fit into a “pack” (the group of girls), and her fear of hurting those around her pushes her to choose the human life. All that, and her out-going personality also makes her more suitable to conform to living in society. Ame’s attraction to nature and hunting begins when he falls into a river while hunting. His constant curiosity about his dead father and the teacher he meets later in the mountains also supports his passion to live in the wild as a wolf.
A few scenes that I personally really enjoyed:
- Yuki and Ame frolicking in a snowy field with Hana on the first day of snow.
Well, it was a beautiful scene. Pure white scenery flashing through your vision in a blur as the movie puts you in first-person mode like you are running alongside Yuki and Ame. The perfect stillness of snow falling silently onto the three happy characters made me feel refreshed. They moved to the countryside to escape from the prying eyes of people who would judge them for their wolf forms. This scene showed a snippet of the freedom Yuki and Ame experiences in their childhood.
- Ame looking at the view from the top of the mountain with his teacher.
Ame is following his teacher, a fox-looking wolf animal who teaches him about the mountain, weather, and other animal life on the mountain. His teacher leads him to a beautiful view of a lake and crisp mountain tops. The lake shows a reflection of the blue sky and clouds, that looked very much like the world map to me with the clouds in the shape of continents. Ame’s eyes light up at the view and for the first time, I see his expression change into a passionate and delighted smile. He is usually seen expressionless in his everyday human life.
- The scene of Yuki and Ame attending school, switching left and right from classrooms over the years.
There aren’t a lot of children in the countryside, so there’s only one classroom for each grade. The film pans left and right from the second grade classroom to the first grade classroom, then from the third grade classroom to the second grade classroom as Yuki and Ame consecutively turn a year older and are put into a new class. This scene goes for a few years, and it shows a lot of differences between Yuki and Ame. Yuki is seen actively participating in class, raising her hand up to answer or ask questions. Whenever the camera pans over to Ame’s classroom, he is always sitting in the back with his head staring out of the window, once again portraying his desire to be in the wild. There is also a cute part where Ame gets bullied by classmates outside his classroom, and Yuki comes charging out of the corner to chase the bullies away. Even though it easily foreshadows a different future for the 2 siblings, they still share a close relationship.
- When Sohei makes Yuki touch his healed ear.
Sohei is a new transfer student Yuki meets in the 4th grade. On their first meeting, he asks Yuki if her family owns a dog because she smells like one. This causes Yuki to be very anxious because in order for her to attend school, she had promised to keep herself under control and not turn into her wolf form. She avoids him and Sohei comes to the conclusion that she hates him because he is the “new kid”. On their confrontation, Yuki injures Sohei as she momentarily claws his ear in her wolf form. Yuki stops going to school but Sohei persistently visits her house with homework and snacks, hoping she will come back to school. The scene where Yuki touches his healed ear signifies a moment when she overcomes her fear of hurting humans. It is also a cute childhood love scene… which is why I like it.
- Hana watches Ame leave in his wolf form for the last time.
A tearful scene where Hana has to let go of her baby. Well, technically he is still only 10 years old but apparently that is adult age for a wolf. Ame chooses to live the life of a wolf and wants to live in the mountain, much to Hana’s initial protests. Seeing him in his wolf form, she realizes he is a full grown wolf (and therefore not a child?) and that is time for her to let go of Ame. Hana is also reminded of her late husband, as Ame and the father both share many similarities in terms of appearances. I think Ame’s previous almost-death experience of falling into the river causes her to be extra protective over Ame (that, and his weak health as a baby). It must have been hard for Hana to let Ame go, but I guess that is a bittersweet and lonely feeling all mothers have to go through one day.
Hana is a great mom, I think. My admiration for her character grew immensely the moment she moved to the countryside. One thing I really liked about Hana is that she was always learning. She always read books on agriculture, childcare, nature and wildlife in efforts to be able to care for Yuki and Ame. And after the death of her husband, there wasn’t really anyone else who helped her raise them. She fixed up the broken house by herself. She learned how to farm with help from other residents. And most importantly, she had always worked hard in order to provide Yuki and Ame with the choice of deciding themselves what they want to be.
The movie is very heart-warming and a little sad. I haven’t gone through the experience of raising up children and watching them leave, but that’s basically the general overview of the story. It may not be very realistic (of course it’s not… wolf children) with a twenty-something city girl who rebuilds a house and grows crop by herself while raising 2 children, but it does tug at your heart strings. Moms are wonderful, everyone!
Happy Mother’s Day!
Why is the wolf always the bad guy?
* To read my previous post on 5 Centimeters Per Second: here.