Wolf Children DVD Review

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If the words “Japanese animated film” make you think of Studio Ghibli and nothing else, then there’s a chance you’re missing out on one of the country’s best directors. Mamoru Hosoda has been responsible for two incredible movies, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars. If you’ve seen neither then that’s something you really need to fix.

Hosoda has a way of depicting characters in a realistic “slice of life” way but then adds one element of fantasy to ensure that the stories he tells are ones you haven’t heard before. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was about teenagers and young love but gave its main character the ability to leap forward and backwards through her life.

Summer Wars also starred young teenagers but also depicted the lives of an extended family during the birthday of their matriarchal figure. The unusual element in this one was the addition of the online world “Oz” that was used for everything from gaming to shopping, and banking to controlling traffic lights.

For Wolf Children that minor fantasy twist is the wolf children themselves, half human, half wolf and able to transition between the two at will. It speaks volumes for Hosoda’s style that this almost feels like it’s in the realms of possibility as you sit watching the day-to-day life of the wolf children as they grow older.

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 14.27.53While the film is called Wolf Children it could be argued that this is more about the mother, Hana, than it is about her children. Hana is at the centre of the story and most of the struggles are hers to carry. Starting with her in college, she meets a man who isn’t a student but sneakily sits in on classes, proving he is as interested in learning as she is.

The two quickly build a close connection and the man reveals his wolf side to Hana one evening. It shocks her but she proves to him that she isn’t afraid and she is more than happy to embrace the wolf along with the man. The idea of Hana sleeping with a wolf is a little strange at first but to the film’s credit the relationship is played totally straight. This isn’t for laughs and is handled in such a way that you really believe in it.

(Warning: Minor spoilers)

It’s not long before their first child is on the way and little Yuki is born, followed by Ame not long after. For a short time they are the happiest of families and it’s downright upsetting that it doesn’t last very long. While Ame is still a baby and Yuki barely a toddler, the father meets a sudden end. The death is so devastating you will almost be angry at the film for putting you through it.

This is where Hana’s struggles truly begin. With the father gone, Hana has no guide for how she is supposed to raise children that spend half of their time as wolves. Yuki especially proves to be a handful, tearing the apartment to pieces and getting into mischief.

After deciding that she wants them to be able to have the choice whether they live as wolves or humans, Hana moves her family to the country. The location isn’t romanticised and life is hard as they are forced to grow their own food to survive. But it’s clear that it is what the wolf children needed, space to make their own decisions.

As the children grow a little older Yuki joins the local school followed by Ame the year after. It’s around this point in the film that the pair go through an interesting transition as they sort of trade places in regards to who is more “wolf like”. Seeing Ame and Yuki grow in to themselves is a unique experience that’s as uplifting as it is heartbreaking.

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The ending especially is bittersweet. It’s not quite the typical happy ending and yet we know that everyone is where they belong. Unlike a Disney movie, you very quickly realise that it just feels very true to life. Sometimes families do grow apart and every kid has to grow up eventually.

The artwork in this film is flawless and some of the scenes are just breathtaking. A stand-out moment is a scene where the family wake up to discover the entire countryside covered in snow. The children slide and jump their way down the mountain, laughing the entire time. The landscapes and environments are like water-coloured paintings.

Every scene is filled with beauty, accentuated by an equally gorgeous soundtrack. The music and light-hearted singing bring a real sense of joy. Wolf Children might take place over the course of over 11 years but it still takes its time when it can, allowing you to enjoy even the smallest of moments.

The voice acting in both languages is excellent so take your pick. Colleen Clinkenbeard as Hana has the most work to do, not just in terms of line count but also because she matures from young student to wise mother over the course of the film. It’s a tricky transition that’s handled well.

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 14.28.57The voice acting for the wolf children is split amongst four actors, with a pair taking the child voices and another pair taking the older versions. Lara Woodull as the young Yuki is especially adorable, performing cute little laughs and giggles.

Ame is the trickier character to get a hold on. He’s a quiet introverted boy and so has to purvey intense emotions without going too over the top with it, something that Micah Solusod performs exceptionally well.

There aren’t enough good things that can be said about Wolf Children. It’s a gorgeous film that takes an unusual premise and treats it like a slice-of-life drama. You’ll fall in love with the film’s characters and while it might break your heart from time to time, you’ll not regret it.


At first glance it looks like the extras aren’t anything special. There’s a selection of interviews taken from the various premieres around the world but thankfully they go in to more detail than the usual promotional guff.

Then there’s an entertaining commentary from the American dubbing team with the voice actors answering questions from the producer. The question and answer format isn’t quite as natural as a regular movie commentary but it’s still worth listening to.

No behind-the-scenes stuff sadly but there’s enough here to keep you occupied for a couple of hours.

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