For the uninitiated, Wolf Children is the latest film by a legendary anime director, Momoru Hosoda. Unless you follow anime passionately, most people have no clue who he is. The only that thing our generation would actually know him for is directing an episode in Digimon and also providing the middle sequence for The Digimon Movie. The part where there is a computer virus that multiplies at a consistent basis that no one can destroy and Tai and Matt need to team up to beat it. Other than that, his works include The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars, both of which are critically acclaimed titles.
So how does Wolf Children stand in comparison to two classic anime films? It's hard to say really. It all depends what you go into this film expecting. This movie can be a lot of different genres. It can be a romantic love story, a slice of life of watching two kids, Ame and Yuki, grow up, a drama with how the children, have to grow up hiding their special abilities, or even an ethical drama about identity and place in the world. This movie can convey a lot of different moods, and that in no way detracts from making this a good movie. It's just that every half hour or so, the tone of the movie can completely shift, and there are times when you pine for the previous moments. I personally loved seeing Ame and Yuki grow up, but I was less interested seeing how they adapt to their powers. And what are their powers you may ask?
Obvious cuteness aside, the best part of the entire movie is watching their mother, Hana, care for them as little kids. Watching them grow up from infants and toddlers to starting school is so enjoyable and shows off so many emotions. It's cute because we're watching baby wolves, it's scary when one of them gets sick and she doesn't know how to care for them, it's dramatic when child services show up to examine them, with Hana afraid that they'll discover what they can do. Pretty much everything that's great about this movie can be summed up in a solid half hour, and that'd be fine.
Unfortunately, it's not a short film though, and that's where the problems lie. If I could make a rough comparison, this movie is structured like a Disney Direct to DVD movie. It's three separate sequences that are tied together through characters, but each of them has their own plot that doesn't intercede with the previous plot. In other words, three episodes of a TV show that was never made stitched together to create a "movie".
Wolf Children is very similar to that structure. There are three general parts of the the film, the love between Hana and her husband, watching Ame and Yuki grow up, and watching them as preteens deal with their powers. Each part has its own tone, and out of all of the parts, the longest and my least favorite is seeing them as preteens. In what was originally just a story of a mother trying to raise her two children, by the third act characters are added that that detract focus from them. Instead they serve as obstacles or love interests, and they take focus away from what made the middle part of the movie so good; watching a family grow up.
|It's moments like these that make the movie great|
To get away from the plot, the animation is sublime. Momoru Hosoda is know for his style being a bit more free form than other animes, with characters having a sense of fluidity to them. That style is still retained, but now there's the added benefit of dedicating several parts of the film to watching Ame and Yuki explore vast amounts of nature. From a beautiful scene on top of a snow mountain to Ame exploring a forest, whenever sequences are dedicated to just watching Ame and Yuki run around as wolves, it's definitely going to be a crowd pleaser.
I could talk about the songs and how pleasant they sound, but that's really all that I can say besides going back to the plot. I know that I may have come off as overtly critical of the plot, but that's because when this movie is good, it's really damned good. It's just that it's only good when it's simplistic and insular. If the focus was on the three main characters with the occasional side character popping up, I would have loved this movie. But like the children, it can never be that simple. Things eventually have to become more complicated, exactly like how children grow up and discover themselves. It's just a shame that when the children are trying to discover if they're wolves that can become humans, or humans that can become wolves, the plot slows down and loses interest.
|Even though it's a static image, it looks great|