The Film (5/5):
I’m always fascinated how other countries view the age-old myths of vampires, werewolves, ghosts and all those other things that go bump in the night. Asia’s vampire myths are varied depending on what regions you’re in and some are damn near Lovecraftian. But I’ve never heard or seen anything on what Asian werewolves are like. This anime movie, Wolf Children, is the first flick I’ve come across that deals with that to some degree. And it’s not even horror related. It’s more in the vein of a Hayao Miyazaki movie, yes, it has that vibe, and encompasses roughly a decade in this woman’s life as she meets a “werewolf,” falls in love, has his children and tries to raise them the best she can.
Ookami is the “ werewolf” and Hana is the college chick he falls in love with. But the movie starts out with a voice over from Hana’s daughter, Yuki, who’s recounting her mother’s life. This had me worried initially. The movie’s focus is Hana and her children but it’s not her that’s telling her story, which led me to believe there was a sad ending waiting in the wings. No such thing, thankfully, a bittersweet one, but nothing remotely tragic.
Hana meets Ookami one day in class. She clearly sees him as out of place and approaches him. As they get to know each other there comes that eventual moment where he must reveal his true nature. He does and explains he’s lineage is from a now extinct line of wolf that had human blood coursing through it. He is the last of his kind. Hana accepts him and they spend the night together.
The first part of the movie doesn’t have a whole lot of dialogue. It’s mostly told through vignettes as we see Hana pregnant with her first child, Yuki. And then a year later their son, Ame, is born, but as I expected tragedy strikes. Ookami goes out one day to hunt, like he’s done before, but never returns. Taking her babies with her, Hana, goes out into the rainy city to find him. She does. A couple of garbage workers are fishing a dead wolf out of the flooded canal. We never learn how he met his end. His eyes are open, clearly showing us he’s dead, but there are no outer wounds at all. Maybe, he slipped into the canal and drowned. Maybe, he had a heart attack. We never know.
Now Hana has to raise her children by herself, and being infants that can shift into a wolf form whenever they choose, integrating them into society won’t be easy. She is eventually harassed by child welfare who want to know why her kids haven’t been vaccinated or in school and to make matters worse her landlord is threatening to throw her out because there are no pets allowed and she’s heard sounds of dogs howling. The last straw comes when neighbors knock on her door angry that her son, Ame, won’t stop crying.
She needs to get out of the city.
She needs to raise these children among nature not in an urban jungle, so she buys a dilapidated house as far out in the countryside as she can get and tries to do just that.
Yuki and Ame as toddlers are not quite in sync with their wolf heritage, well, Yuki, is and she’s a fearless little girl as she explores the woods, the yard and anything she can find while Ame is afraid of everything and through the “bad guy” depictions of wolves in the children’s books he reads he doesn’t embrace his lupine heritage.
Though as the movie unfolds, we get to see these two kids grow up well into grade school and a change in character for both happens. Yuki wants to fit in so badly with other girls she eventually shuns her wolf bloodline for a more human life. Ame on the other hand, after a near fatal accident years earlier where he almost drowns in a river, no longer fears the wolf inside and embraces his hidden nature more so than Yuki ever did as a child.
Funimation has released Wolf Children in a DVD/Blu-Ray combo only. The 1080p 1.85:1 high definition anamorphic transfer is flawless. Animation alone is gorgeous, smooth, and appealing to look at it. With the audio (Blu-Ray) you have the option of either listening to the English dub in 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, or in it’s native Japanese with the same configuration. With the standard DVDs the audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 for both tracks. For those who cannot speak Japanese there are English subtitles and a separate English track that can be optioned that will show you the names of signs, etc.
The extra features and the movie are housed on one blu-ray disc, while they are spread out on two with the standard DVDs (movie on one, extras on the other). The bulk of the extras fall under Stage Greetings:
June 18, 2012 Japan Premiere (16:03)
June 25, 2012 World Premiere In Paris (7:04)
July 16, 2012 Theme Song Premiere And Stage Greetings (9:55)
July 21, 2012 Opening Day Stage Greetings (17:19)
August 7, 2012 “Hana’s Day” Appreciation Stage Greetings (6:39)
All of these stage greetings and premieres is the director and portions of the voice cast, which varies on each one, showing the movie to a packed audience and then doing a Q&A session afterwards. Except with the Theme Song Premiere, for that one the song from the move was performed live, after which the director (Mamoru Hosoda) and the actress that voiced the mother (Aoi Miyazaki) did a Q&A.
Other extras you get are basically music videos, one for the kids and one for the mother set to scenes from the movie—PR Video Director’s Version 01 (3:01) and PR Video Director’s Version 02 (3:02). You also get a Promotional Video (16:10), which is seven minutes of the director being interviewed while the rest of the run time is pretty much an extended trailer for the movie. Rounding out all that is the Original Trailer, the Original Teaser, the U.S. Trailer and a general Trailers section for other flicks Funimation distributes (One Piece, Fairy Tale, Dragon Ball Z, Sankarea, Guilty Crown, Eureka Seven AO, Funimation.com)
All three characters get just enough character arcs that you never feel cheated as to where they are a headed in life when the movie finally ends. It’s a nice “window-into-the-life-of…”
I had never heard of this movie until a week ago and before I said yes to reviewing it I needed to see a trailer. Normally, I wouldn’t have given this movie a second thought, if I had come across it any other fashion, but there was something in that trailer that piqued my curiosity. Couldn’t tell you what it was, but it was there and now you are here reading this review. Need I say more?