Review: WOLF CHILDREN Further Proves That Mamoru Hosoda Isn't The New Hayao Miyazaki (REEL ANIME 2012)
When anime director Mamoru Hosoda drew critical attention with his fantastic film The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in 2006, comparisons were immediately drawn between him and Hayao Miyazaki. With his follow up film Summer Wars in 2009, Hosoda should have truly stepped out of the shadow of Miyazaki because of his film's distinct visual style, modern story and great sense of humor. Despite that, many have continued to call Hosoda the 'new Hayao Miyazaki'. And now with his latest film, Wolf Children, Hosoda has told a story that bears similarities to many great stories that Miyazaki has told in the past, and in doing so clearly demonstrates how different he really is from the senior master animator.
Despite the film's title, the central character is in fact the mother, a very strong female character. She loves her husband for what he is, copes with all the hardship in raising their children and when the time comes, gives them the freedom to experience the world. Her life as a single mother is made much more difficult for the fact that her children are no ordinary children. They are 'wolf children'. Her difficulties are beautifully illustrated in the scene where one of her children is sick and she faces the dilemma of whether to go to a doctor or vet, and the way she handles the situation in the end shows her own resourcefulness. The original story written by Hosoda himself is full of keen observations of family life and seems to be deliberately based on reality rather than fantasy. One can easily imagine a similar story being told by Miyazaki and becoming a much more epic tale about humans rejecting the wolf people and waging war against them.
Unlike Summer Wars (which remains Hosoda's best film to date) or the earlier The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Wolf Children is a much quieter and gentler film. There are fewer characters and the story is a simple one. In fact, if the 'wolf people' were humans, the film would be purely a family drama. It basically tells the story of a single mother raising her children, highlighting both the joys and challenges of single parenthood. Many of the scenes are of everyday life, and the focus is mostly on small everyday events. Hosoda has written a simple story, told it really well, and made it real, easy to relate to and at the same time touching to the audience. Compared with Summer Wars, the film is also not as colorful or energetic, but is nevertheless still amazing to look at. The countryside and snowy mountains are particularly gorgeous, and the scenes where the children run and chase each other through the mountains are simply exhilarating.
Wolf Children establishes Mamoru Hosoda as a master animator and storyteller in his own right. He is impressively capable of telling greatly different kinds of stories and using wildly different styles to tell them. If the triumph of Summer Wars comes from its use of dazzling and imaginative visuals to tell the complex story, then the beauty of Wolf Children lies in its simplicity and gentleness. It is a film that quietly whispers in your ears and softly tugs at your heartstrings.
Australia's REEL ANIME 2012, presented by Madman Entertainment, will be showcasing From Up On Poppy Hill, the latest masterpiece from the Academy Award-winning Studio Ghibli; Wolf Children, from Mamoru Hosoda, critically-acclaimed director of Summer Wars; Berserk - The Egg of the King, the action-packed first feature film in a brand-new trilogy, based on the best-selling manga and anime series, Berzerk; and Children Who Chase Lost Voices, a visually stunning adventure film from cult director Makoto Shinkai (Voices of a Distant Star, 5 Centimetres Per Second). All films will be screened in Japanese language with English subtitles.
REEL ANIME 2012 will screen in selected cinemas from September 13 - 26. For more information, please check their official website.