Wolf Children

Wolf Children

Wolf Children anime movie poster and cover art
Wolf Children Poster

Overview

Wolf Children is a movie about children, who are also wolves. Who would have guessed? It’s actually the story of two werewolf children who are raised by their single mother (a human) after their father (a werewolf) dies.

While I don’t typically like to spoil anime when I review them, it’s hard to actually discuss parts that I liked, didn’t like, or didn’t understand without being fairly specific. With that in mind, yes, this review will contain spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, but plans to.

My first issue with this movie comes in the first act while we’re watching the relationship between Hana and the Wolf Man develop. I’m generally not a fan of anthropomorphism when it comes to things like wolves. Sure, something like Mickey Mouse is fine, but a wolf or fox man isn’t really my thing.

With that in mind, there’s a scene in Wolf Children which leads to the eventual birth of Hana and the Wolf Man’s first child Yuki. If the Wolf Man is usually in human form, and can change form as he wishes, why was he a wolf during the sex scene instead of a human?

Maybe Hana is into that sort of thing, I don’t know, but you’d think that his human form would be the go-to in that situation. It wasn’t even like they were using his wolf form to imply that he has a savage or animalistic nature when they made this scene.

I have other things to say about the Wolf Man, but I’ll hold off on that for now and save those criticisms for the characters section.

The second act of the movie was by far the best part and takes up the most time of the film. In this part, Hana and her children move out to the countryside to start their new lives with some privacy.

I like to call this section of the movie “Farming 101” because we see a lot of Hana and the kids learning how to farm. This is also the section of the movie where we see the kids just being kids. Yuki is exploring her new world in the country and Ame, being the younger sibling, is typically stays by his mother’s side.

I particularly like the scenes of Yuki collecting sticks, leaves, and dead animals (as pictured in the gif farther down the page).

The third and final act of the movie was supposed to be the climax, but it fell short. The major conflict for this act was the storm that was passing through, but it didn’t really amount to much and took up more time of the movie than it should have for its lack of substance.

During this point, all that really happens is it’s confirmed that the Yuki’s classmate knew she was a werewolf, and Ame decides to live as a wolf on the mountain. These may seem like major developments, but anyone paying attention throughout the movie knew these were going to happen anyway.

Really, all the final act did was confirm what the audience already expected to happen, but in a way that didn’t really introduce any new conflict. Sure, there was a storm, but did it actually affect any of the choices made by the characters? Not really.


Characters

The first character I want to mention is the Wolf Man since he’s only in the first part of the movie. Notice how he doesn’t have an actual name, but is simply referred to as the “Wolf Man,” that will be important in a bit.

He’s generally a loner, but has a gentle side despite how he outwardly tries to distance himself from Hana at the beginning of the movie. It’s this side of him which seems to have initially attracted Hana’s attention.

I think we’re supposed to start liking him as a character through seeing how he interacts with Hana. However, since he doesn’t actually have a name, we as the audience never really connect with him in the same way we do with Hana even though we understand him.

This brings me to the scene of the Wolf Man’s death. Now, some people I’ve talked to about this have told me that they became emotional during this scene, but it didn’t even phase me. He was a no-name character who lasted 19 and a half minutes (I checked), why would I care about him?

Aside from the fact that I didn’t care about him yet at the time of his death, his death itself didn’t make any sense to me either. Based on the scene of his death, as well as a scene of Ame drowning later on in the movie, it appears to be implied that the Wolf Man died by drowning.

However, the water his body was discovered in was just four inches deep at most. It wasn’t even deep enough for his face to be completely submerged and the people disposing of his body are easily able to walk right through the water. So how did he die?

I will say that there was one thing I liked about the scene. After removing his body from the water, the sanitation workers proceed to put him in a trash bag and throw him into the back of a garbage truck.

Maybe that’s how they deal with dead dogs in Japan, but that was pretty cold-blooded considering even though they didn’t know he was a werewolf, they still should have thought he was Hana’s dog based on her response. Yet, they still threw him out right in front of her.

While I liked Hana as a character much more than the Wolf Man, I don’t really feel like there’s too much to say about her. After the death of her husband(?) she continues to raise their two young children alone despite not knowing how to raise wolf children.

This causes multiple problems when she doesn’t know who to turn to when she needs help. An example of this is when Yuki eats some chemicals and gets sick. Hana isn’t sure if she should take her to the hospital or the vet. In the end she chooses neither because she’s afraid someone will find out her secret.

Throughout the entire movie, Hana simply wants what’s best for her children. This means she wants to keep their true nature as werewolves a secret because she’s afraid of what will happen to them if anyone finds out, but it also means she wants them to be themselves.

Hana wants her children to be able to choose whether they want to live as wolves or as humans.

Yuki and Ame are two sides of the same coin and so I feel it’s only natural for me to talk about them both simultaneously. Yuki was always the one who seemed to like exploring and meeting new people, while Ame tended to be shy and like to stick to what he knows.

While their natures don’t change throughout the story, their outlooks on life do. Originally Yuki was the one who acted like a wolf more than a human, while Ame was afraid of acting on his animal instincts and instead preferred to be more human.

However, as the children grow up, their positions switch. When Yuki enters first grade, she begins to make friends and learns that she needs to fit in if she wants to be accepted by her peers. Because of this she gives up on collecting dead animals because “girls don’t do that” and eventually chooses life as a human over that of a wolf.

Yuki with a box full of dead animals from the anime movie Wolf Children
Yuki with a box full of dead animals

Ame, on the other hand, eventually decides to live his life as a wolf instead of a human. This makes sense for his character because he never really made any friends at school and seemed to prefer nature. It appears that after seeing the caged wolf at the wildlife sanctuary, he started to think of school as a similar kind of prison.

Since Yuki is the narrator of the story, even from the start we can assume that she survives to the end, and is probably living a good life since she’s telling her tale to someone (us). However, Ame’s end is unknown for most of the story since we don’t get his perspective.

There was one scene involving Ame in particular that seemed to foreshadow future events, but they never came to pass. As a young child, Ame enjoyed reading fairly tales involving wolves, however, he was upset that the wolves were always the bad guys and died in the end.

It’s true that his father, the Wolf Man, had died, but as far as we know there was nobody who hated him and no foul play suspected in his death. This leaves the viewer to believe Ame’s concern is foreshadowing something that will happen, or might happen, to him in the future.

While I never expected him to die in the story, his continuing movement towards being a wolf rather than a human made me suspect even more that he would eventually have an unfriendly run-in with the local villagers.

I assumed Yuki or Hana would end up coming to his rescue and convincing the villagers he was harmless, while possibly revealing his secret. This would have been a fairly standard third act conflict resulting in the villagers learning that they shouldn’t judge someone by the way the look or some predictable outcome like that.

Although predictable, this is a tried and true plot device. Since it didn’t end up happening, I can’t say for sure if I would have liked it more or less than the ending we actually got, but I like to think it would have been better than the ending with no meaningful conflict.

Conclusion

Wolf Children is a 6/10 and nothing anyone says is going to change my mind. It’s a cute movie for the most part, but there’s very little meaningful conflict and the main source of “sadness” fell flat when they failed to make me care about the Wolf Man.

The ending of the movie wasn’t very ambiguous, we know that Yuki went off to live at the dorms at school, Ame lives as the guardian wolf on the mountain, and Hana lives alone in the house where she raised her kids. But even knowing all this, I didn’t ever feel like the story ended.

Without that final bit of conflict, I can’t be satisfied with the ending of the movie. It didn’t have to be the Ame vs. the villagers final conflict I was expecting, but the Ame vs. Yuki conflict about which of them chose the right path and the Hana vs. the rain conflict(?) didn’t amount to anything.

We always knew that even if Ame and Yuki didn’t agree on whether to be a wolf or a human, Hana was going to accept their choices either way so there was never any real suspense there. Hana may have died in the storm at the end, but her children already didn’t need her support anymore so, while it would have been sad, it wouldn’t have changed anything either.

Finally, keep in mind that a 6/10 is not a bad rating. I enjoyed the movie, but it’s not something I’d go out of my way to watch again just like Summer Wars and Akira.

The English trailer for Wolf Children is available here.

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