REEL ANIME Review - Wolf Children
When Madman first announced the line up for REEL ANIME at Sydney Supanova, I remember watching the trailers for each movie and being most impressed with Wolf Children. A reasonably basic, albeit fantastic storyline made me feel as though this could be a simple delight. I could not have been more wrong.
"When Hana falls in love, it feels like a fairy tale. She starts a family and produces two beautiful children – Yuki (Snow), a girl, and Ame (Rain), a boy. But the family harbours a secret – their father is a 'Wolf-Man', half human and half wolf, and has passed his affliction on to his children. The family try to reside discreetly in a quiet corner of the city, but their joyful life is shattered when their father passes away. To live peacefully, Hana must make the difficult decision to move Yuki and Ame to a small town and surround them with nature."
While the story of a mother and her half-blood babies is a relatively simple story and limited in terms of potential development, director Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars) has managed to get to the heart of his characters. The simple beauty of each character is highlighted and drawn upon time and time again. While the voice of young Yuki (Momoka Ono) is the cutest thing you're likely to hear and Ame's (Amon Kabe) wonderfully understated, it is Aoi Miyazaki who delivers the most emotive performance. Undoubtedly the voice actors deserve their fair share of praise for their efforts in bringing the characters to life, but overall it is the writing by Hosoda and Satoko Okudera that give the characters a heart and not just a voice.
The visuals in this film are stunning, even more so than the eclectic and vibrant Summer Wars. Madhouse (Summer Wars, Redline) have shown, time and time again, that they are capable of incredible work and this film is no exception. In fact, ignoring the visual spectacle of films like Redline and Summer Wars, this film is without a doubt their most elegant and beautiful to date. Backgrounds become a highlight in every scene and simple frames showing raindrops on a leaf stir something deeply emotional. Perhaps a focus on revealing the beauty in what would normally be considered to be mundane assisted in counter-balancing and grounding a story that is, after all, about half breed werewolf babies. If you thought that the beautiful backdrop of rural Japan in Natsuki's Ueda were stunning, you're in for a real treat. Further to this, the character designs by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Evangelion) are both low key and memorable at the same time. Everything from Ame's haunched walk to Yuki's temper-tantrum wolf face are pitch perfect and add so much believability to the characters.
Films like Wolf Children don't come along very often. Even though the film itself and the relationships formed between our main characters managed to draw tears, it was the films closing credits that had me at my most emotional. I simply did not want it to finish. Wolf Children is as close to perfection as you could ever hope for. The wide range of emotions that this film elicits, and by no cheap trickery, is truly the mark of a master filmmaker. Mamoru Hosoda has created a film, a story, a universe that drew me in and made me never want to leave. You could never hope to see a more beautiful film, not on any level. Wolf Children has taken pride of place at the top of my anime favourites list, an instant classic and one that I hope to revisit very soon.
All images © 2012 "WOLF CHILDREN" FILM PARTNERS