Recently, I decided that I should really watch some of the movies I've been planning to watch for a while now. So, I went ahead and rented a few of them. Most of them are Hollywood movies but there are a few that are animated movies. One of the first ones I grabbed was Wolf Children or, if we go by its Japanese name, The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki.
I have been wanting to watch Wolf Children for a while now as many of my friends and former classmates have raved endlessly about the movie. I wasn't sure what to expect to be honest. But after settling down snugly in my living room to watch it from beginning to end I TOTALLY GET IT.
The movie is told from the perspective of an adult Yuki who is reminiscing and relaying the story of her mother Hana. Hana was a young college student when she met Yuki's father, a young man who is very reserved and is attending her college lectures without actually being a student himself. Hana notices that he doesn't have a textbook and offers to lend him hers. This eventually buds into a romance between the two, with Hana slowly but surely, getting past the young man's tough exterior and getting to know him little by little. One day however (it's Christmas if I remember correctly) he arrives VERY late to their scheduled date. He apologizes to Hana and finally reveals his secret - he is a werewolf! The last of his kind, he was raised in the country by relatives who knew nothing about his origins following the death of his parents. He decided to come to the city for work and lives a lonely life, keeping to himself due to his secret. While surprised, Hana accepts him for who he is and they soon begin a family. Yuki is born first and then one year later, Ame is born.
So, tons has happened already right? But this is only like the first 20 or so minutes of the movie! By this time, I was already emotionally captivated by the couple and looking forward to seeing how Hana handled having two wolf cubs as children. But this was the moment in which tragedy strikes. Shortly after giving birth to Ame, Hana notices that her husband has not returned. Eventually, upon looking for him, she sees a dead wolf by the river. She immediately recognizes her husband. He was killed while out hunting. Yuki narrates during this moment, explaining that Hana never understood what exactly happened nor why her father decided to leave at that moment. Yuki explains though that it could have been an instinct for him to go out and find something nutritious for his mate who had just given birth and for his newborn pup. Whatever the case, I was devastated. Now Hana is alone with two children she doesn't quite know how to raise in a small city apartment. It's definitely a difficult situation, made more so by the fact that her children are wolf children.
Things quickly fall apart of course. Ame can't stop crying or howling at night, Yuki is ALWAYS hungry, they can't run and play as they please because someone may notice their ears (which they can hide, but they're just kids, they can't control that yet) and the last straw comes when some of Hana's neighbors call Child Protective Services. So Hana packs up her bags and moves to an isolated home in the countryside. There, Hana hopes to be able to raise her children with more freedom and allow them the choice to live as they please - as wolves or as humans.
This movie is truly the story of a mother's journey. Throughout the whole movie I sympathized with Hana despite having no children of my own. The animation was great but what was truly amazing was the flow of the story. There were so many instances in which scenes relayed a lot of information without a character uttering a single word. Yuki's narration was also amazing because she was not overbearing, she was not telling us the whole story, she showed it to us and her narration really only showed up when certain parts of the story needed clarification or when she wanted to speak about her own feelings during a certain time in her life. During the first 2-3 years that the family lives in the country, it seems pretty clear that Yuki is a natural wolf. She hunts and she marks her territory, but as soon as she starts going to school, she focuses on being more human and slowly starts to draw away from a more "natural" life as a wolf. Meanwhile, Ame hated having to hunt and he asked a few times when they were going to go
"home." Ame stays close to his mother at all times until he meets "Sensei", another wolf who shows him the ways of the forest. Ame slowly but surely begins to embrace the wolf side of himself more so than the human side. Seeing this happen, I felt the same heartbreak as Hana did. Each child began to make his/her own decision about how they wanted to live. I think it would have been less heartbreaking had they been older when this happened, but wolves become adults much faster than humans and while their human bodies may still be childlike, as wolves, they are fully grown.
At the end of the movie, Yuki states that her mother said her time raising her children passed in the blink of an eye. And for a two hour long movie, I have to agree - it goes by extremely fast. Wolf Children is definitely a movie that stays with you long after it's over. It's sad in a way that you don't necessarily want to bawl your eyes out, but it definitely leaves an ache there. It was all around perfect and has made my list as one of the best animated films I have ever seen (for a reference, this list includes Grave of the Fireflies, Spirited Away and How To Train Your Dragon, among others). It's such an amazing movie and I definitely recommend it to anyone really! Whether you like anime or *think* you don't like it, you should give Wolf Children a ago, I'm sure it won't disappoint :)
Oh, and quick note, for those that don't know, Yuki = snow. Yuki was born on a snowy day. Meanwhile Ame = rain. And of course, Ame was born on a rainy day.