Rhys Review: Wolf Children

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*Before going into the actual review article, you’ll notice I’ve changed the name of this from ‘Radical Review‘ to ‘Rhys Review’. To anyone who has read my articles I’d like to know which you’d prefer me to call them as I’ve dropped the Radical name from my other uses but feel the need to pay homage to my original articles.*

So, anyway, going through my BA (Hons) Animation course at the University of South Wales, I’m always willing to research any form of animation, past or present, and look at how they influence the art form that is animation, as well as how they influence those who watch these animations, whether that be films, television shows, short films, web shows, computer games, etc.

Lately, during a very, very rare opportunity for a break due to new assignment material not being obtained on the day, I decided to lie back and watch a film that makes me realise why I’m glad to be studying a course in animation.

This film is called Wolf Children (released in France and Japan in mid-2012 and dubbed in English in late 2013), which focuses on the main character, Hana, and her journey raising her two children, Yuki and Ame, who also happen to be half-wolf. Yes, I’m sure this sounds like a 13 year old’s fan fiction by reading that sentence alone, but trust me, it’s not nearly as corny as it sounds. Basically the story begins with Hana meeting a young man during one of her university lectures. After this, the two start getting to know each other more and soon develop feelings for one another. Not long into the film Hana is shown that her new partner is not entirely who he appears to be, for he reveals himself to be the only half man, half wolf left in Japan. This does not phase Hana, however, as she continues to be with him and even go on to have two children with him. Events take place during the film where Hana is suddenly left alone with her two children, Yuki and Ame, (I’m not saying what happens, that would be telling!) and the rest of the film basically goes through her journey in raising them to choose whether they wish to be humans or wolves.

This film truly stands out to me not due to the initial fan fiction writing of human/wolf hybrids, or because ‘JAPAN!’, cause you know, who else would make a film with a story like this other than Japan right? But going through the film, it has this storybook vibe that easily captivates you in the first few minutes. The calming melodies and scores throughout the film also represent this innocent, young feeling throughout that will leave you with a smile on your face.

That smile will also get bigger as you go through the events of the film, and then it can easily turn into tears of sadness during more emotional parts, but nothing to the levels of crushing your hearts into tiny pieces, or devouring your soul in the sense of ‘WHY DID THEY DO THIS TO ME?!?! WHYYYYYYYY?!!?!’ The story, to me, takes a fantasy-like story and applies real-life situations and journeys that makes the film feel much more real that it actually is.

The characters are the main strong point of the whole journey, of course, where you have the frisky, always playful and active Yumi and the quiet, shy and easily frightened Ame going through their paths into young adults and figuring out who they are meant to be in the world. While not trying to spoil anything from the film if any of this interests you, the film takes an interesting turn as when they get older and more mature, their personalities soon alter into the opposite direction as the story progresses, and it is done in an honest and interesting way.

However while the film is titled Wolf Children, it is actually the mother, Hana, who steals the show as we go through the journey of this young woman, raising two inhuman children (not in a moral sense), going through her many highs and lows, first as a woman falling in love with a stranger, to becoming a single mother of two. Hana, to me, is a representation of a true strong female character in animation that could very well inspire many people who watch this film, mainly girls and women of course, but boys, men and others also. Everyone can relate to the struggles that Hana is placed in during the events of the film and the fact that she takes all of this and powers through it all on her own, without her partner or close friends or family, and just smiles through it all, is a truly powerful sentiment to strong characters.

As a side note as well, while I haven’t listened to the original Japanese dub, I’d watched in the English dub licensed by Funimation Entertainment, and the acting in the film is also done very well and makes you emphasize with the characters and the story that much more, particularly Colleen Clinkenbeard as Hana, not just because she plays the main character, but because she’s a darn good actress.

As for the actual animation itself, it’s all done primarily in 2D and gives you the sense of it being like reading through a storybook with the soft colours and stunning scenery throughout. While I’m still in the process of learning the true fundamentals of what makes an animated film good in terms of actual animations and visual and special effects, this film felt very simple but done in a truly memorable way that doesn’t distract from the story, the characters or the environments throughout, and in some instances, makes these stand out even more.

So what else can I say about this film? It’s truly one of my new favourites from the last few years, and it makes me want to go on over to Japan someday and ask them how they create art like this, or better yet, I end up creating art like this someday. I cannot recommend this film enough, to any fans of light-hearted, warm-feeling and happy times with amazing story-telling through the main story and the characters within it.

Just watch the film, you won’t be missing out.

Image: girlsincapes

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