Something a Little Different
This article is an adapted version of a script for an oral presentation that I will be giving for one of my business classes. I was tasked to discuss something I have a passion for, so I decided to talk about Wolf Children. The reason I decided to talk about this film is for the following reasons:
- To challenge my class to explore a topic that they are unfamiliar with. Most members of the class haven’t even seen a Ghibli film, just as a frame of reference.
- Wolf Children is universally relatable in its themes and ideas. The film is also in English (not that there is much dialog to begin with) which removes a barrier from my audience.
- The film can be discussed without spoiling it. Additionally, Wolf Children requires no knowledge of anime tropes and conventions. End goal is to recommend the film.
- I am genuinely passionate about anime (obviously) and wanted to talk about my favorite anime film.
Past that, there are a few guidelines for this article since it isn’t exactly the kind of thing I normally do. This isn’t strictly a review of Wolf Children, more just why I like it so much. I have to assume you don’t know squat about anime and keep the language a bit simpler than normal. There will be some video and images in the article to enhance readability that I am unable to include in my oral presentation (we aren’t allowed to use any media whatsoever). If you enjoy this sort of article and want to see more like it, let me know by leaving a like and comment saying so below. Enjoy!
Today I will be discussing my favorite animated film, Wolf Children. The film was directed by Mamoru Hosoda, premiering 2012 in Japan. Many of you may be familiar with Hosoda, but just not know it. His directorial debut was in 2000 with Digimon: The Movie. Since then, he has directed 4 additional films: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars, Wolf Children, and most recently in 2015, The Boy and the Beast.
Hosoda’s style is reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki, which is unsurprising since Hosoda spent some time with Ghibli in his earlier years. While his career there never panned out, he has since been met with a lot of praise within the anime community and Japan itself. Some have even gone as far as saying that he is the “new” Miyazaki and that Hosoda’s films have surpassed anything Miyazaki has created.
While I don’t necessarily buy into these claims, I certainly believe that Hosoda is a top notch director whose films have a lasting impact on their audience. Now that you have some background, we can begin discussing Wolf Children.
Wolf Children’s narrative primarily focuses on three characters: The mom, Hana, and her two children, Ame and Yuki. The tale is told as a retrospective from the daughter, Yuki, detailing how Hana ended up with two wolf children and their lives.
The story begins with Hana meeting a man in college, he has no books and she finds out that he isn’t even a student. Even so, they both share a common interest in learning and reading and eventually fall in love. After awhile, he reveals to her that he has a secret, he is a wolf! This is the only bit of the film that feels a bit silly/weird to me, but there is a lot of cultural significance and such that I can’t really get into that makes this work. She’s totally cool with it and they end up having kids.
Things are great. Unfortunately, as we all know, good things must come to an end and the father is removed from the picture. To avoid spoiling exactly what happens, I’ll stop explaining the plot there. From this point, you see how the Mom handles raising her two children. It’s an emotionally heartfelt story that is meant for anybody, but particularly families. In fact, that would be the best way to watch it, especially with your mom.
Raising kids as a single parent is hard, imagine if your children were also wolves. It would be a real hassle and the film portrays this extremely well. The child characters are on the nose, as somebody who works with kids on the regular, I would know. The mom goes above and beyond and she has some real struggles here. There is one scene in particular that completely sells this when one of her children becomes ill. She isn’t sure if she should take her kid to the doctor or the vet. It may sound silly, but consider her situation, what would you do? This is just one of many examples that illustrates the superb directing style that Hosoda posses.
Unlike many Western films, Wolf Children tells its story slowly with a lot of breathing room where “nothing” is happening. This is known as Ma and is meant to give the audience a break, to just absorb the movie, taking a moment to digest what’s going on. Having this breathing space may seem to slow the film or make it boring compared to what many of us are used to, but it really doesn’t. Instead, these moments enhance and reinforce much of the narrative and allows for the story to be delivered in more unconventional ways.
A specific example of Wolf Children is that a lot of the film is actually devoid of dialog. This isn’t to say that there is no dialog, there is a pretty decent amount, but most of the story is told through the images on screen and the music alone. This is one facet of Wolf Children that I particularly enjoy since it is so effective in this film thanks to Hosoda’s direction.
There are three scenes in particular that I feel best convey this in Wolf Children and are often cited as the most prominent scenes by others. The first being a beautifully done scene of the first snow that the family experiences since they moved to the country side, it is absolutely fantastic in how it blends the orchestral swelling of the music and unbridled joy the scene conveys.
Thanks to Funimaton for having this clip up online
The next scene focuses on this single shot of a mountain lake, and it is just fantastic. It really is something you have to see to fully understand but once you do it speaks for itself. Incorporating aspects of what made the previous scene work, this one hones in on the beauty of nature which doesn’t normally resonate with me personally but is particularly effective in this instance.
Lastly, there is a sequence that shows the kids going through school. It is a really simple shot done to just music that lasts about a minute or two but conveys years of character development and growth that is expertly executed.
Some may remember this from my tweet. Check this guy out, he is seriously amazing.
Of course, the cinematography of the movie is not the only reason that I love this film so much. I also connect with the themes and concepts present within Wolf Children as well. In particular the themes of family and knowing one’s self/self acceptance are most important to me.
While I don’t feel particularly close to most of my family, the portrayal of happy functioning families has always had a great deal of draw for me. There is a lot I could go into here, but the long-short of it is that it is just satisfying to watch and makes me feel pretty good. I think that this movie shows people how a family should be even when times are tough.
For the theme of self, I connect strongly with the characters in Wolf Children’s story. As many of you know (though not online, but guess you do now :p), I have Cerebral Palsy so characters that don’t quite fit in are relatable. The film doesn’t explore these themes as deeply as other things I’ve seen but it does more than enough considering just how much is crammed into the 1hr 57m runtime.
Lastly, I want to note the theme of love which is majorly important to the film. Wolf Children, at its core, is a film about love. However, the word isn’t mentioned once. Rather than have the characters tell you how to feel and say things like, “I love you.” the film ops to show you. It’s abundantly clear from the actions that the characters take, there is no reason to say it. To me, this is the height of story telling and a testament to the film’s quality as well as Hosoda’s directorial talent.
There is way more that I could say about this film and why I love it, but unfortunately I can’t talk about Wolf Children forever due to time constraints. I encourage you all to give this movie a watch, and really watch it. Set aside the time to enjoy the film with no distractions and you just might see what I do; you might just find something new that you love in the process too.
That’s it folks, my speech. I know it was a bit different than normal but I hope you enjoyed it any way. Remember, leave a like and comment if you’d like to see this sort of thing in the future. I do assignments like this fairly regularly and don’t mind putting them up on here. For those who have been waiting anxiously, I will be getting to the Erased review soon as well as taking a look at the new SAO film, Ordinal Scale. Should be exciting!
Wolf Children is available online via Funimation’s retail store. You can also find it over at my personal favorite, Righstuf.com. If you’ve seen the film, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it and if you haven’t seen the film, I genuinely hope you’ll go out and give it a watch.