Sunday, November 30, 2014

Anime Review No. 91 (Wolf Children)

‘Give life my best smile’
Wolf Children (2012 movie)

Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Writers: Mamoru Hosoda and Satoko Okudera
Studio: Chizu and Madhouse

So, I close out the year on the blog with another movie from Mamoru Hosoda. I covered Summer Wars this past spring and found it to be a fun, entertaining yet very heartfelt movie. I like it quite a lot, even after watching it both on TV and owning it on DVD. Around the time that I got Summer Wars last time, I heard word that Hosoda had done another film, and that Funimation was releasing it to the States late last year. Then one day, around late September/early October, I saw the following trailer:

I knew, almost that instant, I got to have this. So I ordered it along with Girls und Panzer and got it in early November. The movie in question, is of course, Wolf Children or Wolf Children Ame and Yuki as the original Japanese title for the film.

Wolf Children tells the story of Hana, a young college student living in Tokyo who one day meets a mysterious young drifter who turns out to be a ‘Wolfman’. Over time they develop a relationship and later they get to live together and have two children Yuki (snow) and Ame (spring). It’s a bit unclear whether or not they actually married or just agree to a mutual living space, who knows. However a set of varying circumstances force her to move out to the countryside with her two children and she does the best she can to raise them in human society and helping them sort out what their path in life will be.

It is a sort of ‘A fairy tale’ as Yuki points out in the narration, given the dream-like and tranquil atmosphere, punctuated by a few tense and sad moments, one which did give me a few tears. All things aside, Wolf Children is a rather casual and soothing slice of life story and it is charmingly simple and straightforward but it does this so well that doesn’t veer into being dull and rote. The ending is a tad bittersweet but overall a very satisfactory conclusion I must say.

In terms of visual presentation, the movie looks fantastic-being a collaborative effort between Madhouse and Hosoda’s own studio Chizu. There are a few obvious CG shots here and there but that aside its look very good, a high level production to be sure. Lots of visual storytelling with stretches of time with no dialogue abound in this film, which is a breath of fresh air not done often in animated features today. The scene with the mother and children frolicking in the snow is a marvel to behold and a highlight of the film. Narration provided by an adult Yuki as if she is recalling it from the past despite the fact that in the film present the story is being told is a nice touch, lending to the fairy tale aspect of the movie’s story. What is nice is that the story is equally about the mother Hana as well as the titular Wolf Children-about Hana’s struggles and triumphs as single mother (somewhat romanticized) as well as the coming-of-age tale for Ame and Yuki and the paths they choose in life. Music by first time composer Takagi Masakatsu is phenomenal and I hope he gets brought into do more music work for other productions; I just adore full scale orchestral score music.

Now the English dub is very strong effort by Funimation as expected from them nowadays. Sentai Filmworks may be my favorite when it comes to dubbing, but Funimation is the best one in the game presently. Mike McFarland directed, Patrick Seitz written, same team that helmed the dub for Summer Wars and is just as fantastic as that movie’s dub. Colleen Clinkenbeard deserves huge kudos for her performance as Hana and honestly deserves all the kudos for her acting. Houston veteran David Matranga puts in a nice effort as unnamed ‘Wolf-Man’ during that character’s part in the story. In addition, there is some really nice and convincing voice acting for the children, a rare feat these days in dubbing, so kudos to the voice actresses/actors that play the children. In fact there is some brilliant acting from the bit parts as well, especially with the cranky Grandpa Nirasaki, voiced by veteran Funi character actor Jerry Russell-granted he is only in a few scenes but he does a great job with such a small but integral role Sadly he died before the film got its commercial release, and the film is dedicated to his memory though really fitting for a film that explores the many wonders and struggles of life.

Overall, I really like this movie and proves that Hosoda has more the same tricks he showed in Summer Wars and can tackle a film with quite a lot of emotional drama, or ‘the feels’. I hope that Hosoda continue making films of caliber of Summer Wars and this, especially considering Miyazaki and Ghibli are pretty much not doing films as much nowadays. Of course, Hosoda doesn’t have to be the next Miyazaki-he can just be himself, and at least with Summer Wars and Wolf Children proves that he can.

Ok, so that's it for the blog this year. Next year's set of reviews begin weekend after the New Year. Of course, I am doing a review for Animation Revelation for the month of December, to be posted on there around the middle of that month. Here's a preview of that:

1 comment:

Overlord-G said...

Heard good things about this movie. Surprised it's by the same person who directed Summer Wars. Hopefully after reading your review this movie WILL be more than a visual treat and actually have an interesting cast.