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The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki


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Has anyone here seen this film?

I must say, I'm intrigued.

Glenn Heath Jr. of Slant Magazine and The House Next Door just posted this comment on Letterboxd:

My new favorite children's film. Really a stunning, layered, emotionally resonant piece of work.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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looks like the only way I'm gonna see this is through some anime site or youtube online. Most of the dvd/bluray copies on Amazon are very expensive. I know my library has Summer Wars and Girl Who Leapt Through Time, so I might convince them to order it.

"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

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I believe Doug Cummings posted something about this on Facebook a little while ago, so you might want to ask him about it. I recall he was a fan. I want to check it out.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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I've been lurking here for a while, but I have to come out of the woodwork to support Wolf Children. I had the privilege of seeing this film at the New York International Children's Film Festival. It's simply wonderful, a sensitive, mature, moving portrait of motherhood in all its joys and sorrows. I think the best comparison I can make for people is that it's sort of like if the opening section of Up was the whole movie. Often sparse on dialogue, the film relies heavily on its visuals and music to carry the storytelling, especially in its brilliant montages showing the passage of time. It's a simple story in its narrow focus, but it's not a simplified story, and doesn't shy away from showing how messy family bonds can be. Yet ultimately it is very affirmative of the value of good parenting for both the child and parent, and I think people here would find much to appreciate in it.

If you happen to have the chance to see this in theaters, you shouldn't pass it up. It deserves to be seen on a big screen, with its lush realization of the Japanese countryside (based on where Hosoda himself grew up) and energetic animation.

For me, Hosoda isn't the same class as Makoto Shinkai as the Future of Japanese Animation, but I am a fan.

Shinkai is very good at the things he's good at, particularly beautiful background art and pulling out the bittersweet emotion of impossible love. But he has major flaws as a director, mostly in how his love of the beautiful image seems to often prevent him from using his visuals to support his storytelling. Plus, he lacks range; his one film that really charted new territory for him, the fantasy adventure Children Who Chase Lost Voices, did not turn out well.

Hosoda is a much superior storyteller, and has much more range in the kind of stories he's able to tell. In the Q&A session with him after the screening of Wolf Children I saw, the thing that stood out to me the most was his response to a question about what direction he wanted to take his next film. He mentioned that people have said to him that Wolf Children and Summer Wars are so different they almost feel like the work of different directors, and he wants people to say the same thing about his next film. He sees the world as wide and wonderful, and there are so many subjects that interest him that he doesn't want to restrict himself. That's a creative philosophy I can get behind.

looks like the only way I'm gonna see this is through some anime site or youtube online. Most of the dvd/bluray copies on Amazon are very expensive. I know my library has Summer Wars and Girl Who Leapt Through Time, so I might convince them to order it.

It hasn't been released on disc yet in the U.S. I think Funimation will be releasing it late this year.

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For me, Hosoda isn't the same class as Makoto Shinkai as the Future of Japanese Animation, but I am a fan.

Plus, he lacks range; his one film that really charted new territory for him, the fantasy adventure Children Who Chase Lost Voices, did not turn out well.

Yeah, one of the concerns I have about Shinkai is that all of his movies I've seen (haven't had a chance for Children Who Chase Lost Voices yet) do have the same themes (and similar plots). I'm hoping he's early enough in his career to find a mode beyond what he's already done.

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  • 1 month later...

Hosoda is a much superior storyteller, and has much more range in the kind of stories he's able to tell.

Absolutely. I like Shinkai's earlier films a lot (especially Five Centimeters), but I couldn't even finish Children Who Chase Lost Voices, it was so dramatically inert and obviously aping Miyazaki. But Wolf Children is a beautiful film, like Christopher says, a very moving portrait of early motherhood and the Japanese countryside; also, all of the supporting characterizations are efficient and compelling, and it also has maybe the most fetching and observant depiction of young children since Totoro in their awkward but infectious movements and energy. My four-year-old (who was enraptured by a subbed version) really resonated with the characters and has been playing "wolf child" ever since.

It's a very deft film with a lot of heart that never sinks into sentimentality. Definitely my favorite animated feature last year--highly recommended. Very eager to see what Hosoda does next.

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  • 5 months later...

Missed my chance to see this on a double-bill with Graveyard of the Fireflies a couple weeks back, dammit.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I saw this about a month ago and really enjoyed it.  I heard a couple of critics on a weekly radio movie review show give it the highest of recommendations, so I sought it out.  It was playing at one theatre here in the Los Angeles area, once a night at 10pm.  Can't for the life of me understand why it would have been scheduled like this, as it was terrific family fare (perhaps skewing towards kids ages 7 or 8 +) that should have played at a matinee.  I highly recommend it.

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

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  • 1 month later...

Wolf Children is on iTunes (not to rent, but it's only $9.99 to buy in HD), but it's a little confusing to kind, because it's labeled as a TV show. Anyway, I didn't know a lot about it going in and was expecting something like a good version of Twilight, but that's not what it is at all. Wolf Children (the first half, at least) is really about a single mother learning to accept the help of her community. The fact that they're wolf children is important to the story in several ways, but it's not what the movie is really about.

 

It's probably my favorite movie of the year. (I'm counting it as 2013 because it wasn't widely available in the US until last month, when Funimation released it here.)

Edited by Tyler

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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Well, Anne's sick with a terrible cold, so our New Year's Eve party consisted of a quiet evening on the couch with blankets and tea and... thanks to Tyler's timely update... Wolf Children, via iTunes. The HD download looked beautiful on our TV, and the sound design for the film is excellent, with a beautiful musical score. A very satisfying way to wrap up 2013.

 

Thanks, Tyler!

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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What a delightful film.  It took a little while to pick up momentum, but once it did, I thought it was near-perfect in its mix of poignancy and playfulness.  The love of nature and many of the visuals are almost Ghibli-esque (and I can't help but wonder if the rural home is a homage to Totoro, looking almost exactly as the home in that film would look after a couple decades of neglect), but in its fantastical thematic take on the role of a parent to raise children, allow their personalities and strengths to flourish, and then let them go, it went in a very different direction than Miyazaki or Takahata have ever gone. 

 

This ranks up there with the best of Ghibli's offerings.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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The movie grows up with the characters. The first half or so is gentler and simpler (although there is a scene when they discover the dead wolf-father), and the issues the children deal with become more complex and difficult (though age-appropriate) as they get older. They're around middle school age at the end, but I think it would be all right for 8-9 and up. Younger kids might be bored in some places, too.

Edited by Tyler

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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I bought it for $10 from iTunes and don't regret it.  There is some pre-marital nookie between wolf-dad and human mom that was a bit awkward to watch with my kids, but it's portrayed delicately.  You might want to screen the first 20 minutes on your own; after that, there's zero to offend.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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Watched it with the whole family.

 

The whole first act is a little worrisomely Twilightish, with our heroine falling for brooding werewolf lover with remarkable haste, and the bedroom scene (premarital? nonmarital? who knows?) is surprisingly early and frank, as is the tragedy that soon follows.

After that, though, the film settles into a groove that I just fell in love with.

 

The werewolf conceit puts a fantasy spin on what remain entirely human and even quotidian experiences and struggles:

  • the young mother struggling with the baffling demands of parenthood, making it up / discovering it as she goes
  • the mercurial tempers (and very different temperaments) of the young children
  • the trouble of rambunctious children and irritable neighbors
  • concerns about bureaucratic interferences (a particular concern for homeschoolers like us)
  • the tension between the daughter's eagerness to leave the den and join the larger pack at school and her intense awareness of being different and fear of being rejected
  • the mother's struggle to let her children go, first in little ways (to school) and then of course in bigger ways
  • the mother's awareness of her own inability to teach her children (especially her son) all that they need to learn, and the child's need for a mentor or role model outside the family
  • the increasing distance between the brother and sister as they choose different paths in life. 
Suz (who often calls our eldest and youngest sons her Big Raccoon and Little Raccoon) related a great deal to much of this. 

 

Like many Ghibli films (perhaps this is a pattern in a lot of anime; my exposure to non-Ghibli anime has been pretty limited); hard work and ordinary life are gratifyingly honored, and I love the communitarian themes around the mother's flight to ruralism.

 

Then, though, comes the last act — that fateful final day — and while I tried my best to allow the filmmakers to develop the material and characters in the way that seemed best to them, I felt let down in the end. 

 

Obviously the boy, Ame, has been growing moodier and more distant as he identifies more with his lupine nature. All right. I have a hard time accepting the notion of 10-year-old Ame leaving his human development incomplete just because his wolf nature is mature, but I guess I can roll with that as a logical extension of the film's fantasy conceit, though it weakens the metaphorical punch for me. 

 

Ame leaves his mother, Hana, and his home without so much as a goodbye or an explanation (nothing but a whispered "Sorry Mom," said only to himself). Maybe that's how grown wolf cubs do it in the wild, but they have mothers that understand. 

 

Knowing his mother, Ame must realize that Hana will pursue him into the wild and the storm, which is (Suz said it, so it must be true) the wrong maternal decision: Hana can't possibly hope to catch up to him, and he can take care of herself better than she can take care of herself; she should get to the school and pick up the daughter, Yuki. 

 

Then comes the stand-off with the bear. Perhaps Ame coming to defend his mother from the bear is too neat and obvious, but I can't help thinking it's better than what we get: After Hana slips and falls down the grade, Ame finally rescues her and, in human form, carries her to the forest's edge and leaves her … lying in a wet parking lot. Nice. 

 

The attempted triumph of Ame's return to the forest, and Hana's ultimate joyous affirmation of her son's decision, falls flat to me. And then her other child — Yuki, the one who has chosen humanity — who has spent this last day stranded at the school, is never properly dramatically reunited with her mother, who has just lost one child and needs, I feel, to get the other one back, not just in voiceover narration, but "really."

 

I don't think I'm a boorish American who needs everything played out in reassuringly crowd-pleasing closure. I love the ending of My Neighbor Totoro, with the not-yet-unresolved status of the mother's hospitalization, for instance. Partly it's because the real tension of that fateful last day has been Mei getting lost, and Satsuke is satisfyingly reunited with her sister before the denouement, and they both make it to the hospital and enjoy a brief, enigmatic connection with their parents, and the end credits assure us that the whole family is ultimately reunited. 

 

Here the drama ends with the widowed mother separated from her daughter and traumatically abandoned by her son. Voiceover narration is not enough to fix that for me — particularly when said narration quickly leaps ahead to Yuki living at boarding school and Hana living alone in that rural house, content just to hear her son's howl every now and again. Not enough for me. A boy should visit his mother once in a while.

All this is frustrating to me, because as I said I love the long middle act so much that if it ended more satisfyingly, it would be a contender for my top 10 films of the year.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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I pretty much agree with you, Steven. The pros outweigh the cons for me, but a more satisfying ending would have raised this into my top 10. (As it is, it just makes the top 20.)

 

Anne suggested that the mother's preoccupation with her son during the climactic scenes probably shows the influence of the glorification of the male child in the culture where this story was born. That doesn't mean we have to like it, but it does make those scenes ring a little more true for me. Also, Ame is coming to resemble Hana's lover at the time she met him, and that might lead to a sort of irrational attachment that is stronger than her connection to her daughter. (She also is coming to trust her daughter's sense of things better, whereas she's beginning to sense that Ame is a lost cause, and we're seeing her in a state of panic and desperation.)

 

I had the sense with this narrative that it really isn't a typical fantasy story that is supposed to neatly tie things off. It felt... autobiographical, like a male storyteller's tribute to the sufferings of his mother through the lens of fantasy. The whole thing felt so... personal, and the mother really is painted as a saint.

 

In that view, however, it makes her eventual rejoicing at Ame's glorification feel a little self-serving... even more like wishful thinking than truth.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I had the sense with this narrative that it really isn't a typical fantasy story that is supposed to neatly tie things off. It felt... autobiographical, like a male storyteller's tribute to the sufferings of his mother through the lens of fantasy. The whole thing felt so... personal, and the mother really is painted as a saint.

 

In that view, however, it makes her eventual rejoicing at Ame's glorification feel a little self-serving... even more like wishful thinking than truth.

Oh, brilliant, Jeff. 

 

Interesting, though, that while the climax is ultimately more concerned with Ame than Yuki, Yuki is nevertheless the narrator. It makes Yuki's narrative terminus (bracketing voiceover wrap-up) even odder. 

 

What a great middle act, though. 

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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  • 2 weeks later...

If any other A&Fers are near Indianapolis, there's a Tugg screening of this film scheduled on Thursday, January 23. The screening will not happen unless 56 more tickets are sold in the next 25 hours (I have no idea what the "Anime Underground" is doing to publicize this, but it doesn't seem to be very effective. I only discovered this by going to the site and searching for nearby events).

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