While I love films that feature characters going on journeys or fighting the forces of evil, I’ve begun to enjoy slice of life films within the past few years. I’m not sure how I stumbled across Wolf Children Ame and Yuki. It was my first time watching a film by Mamoru Hosoda, who directed films such as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars. From the score and Yuki’s narration starting the movie, I could tell I was going to enjoy it.
Ame and Yuki tells the story of a young woman named Hana who falls in love with a young man in college. That sounds normal, but there’s a catch: the man can transform into a wolf. After the reveal, Hana still loved him and they fell harder for each other and had two children, Yuki and Ame. Like their father, they could also morph into wolves. Sadly, the wolf man died in a tragic accident in his wolf form and Hana was left to take care of the children herself. The rest of the film deals with Hana raising the kids.
It’s hard to talk about the movie without touching on the animation. Hosoda has stated that one of his favorite directors was Hayao Miyazaki. Before Miyazaki was slated to direct the film, Hosoda was commissioned by Studio Ghibli to direct Howl’s Moving Castle. I can see how he almost got the job. There are moments in the film reminiscent of Miyazaki’s nature scenes from My Neighbor Totoro or Princess Mononoke.
One of the things that I loved about the movie is how they handled Hana’s lover being a wolf man as well as her raising wolf children. I especially love how they reveal the wolf man’s secret. Another movie would probably play eerie or suspenseful music while Hana runs away in fear. Instead, the music shows a sense of wonder. Not only does Hana stay with him, they spend their first night together.
An interesting thing to point out is a question the movie raises where Hana’s at conflict with her children’s other feature. In one moment in the movie, young Yuki swallows silica gel and gets sick. Thankfully, she gets better but the movie brought up a difficult situation: if Yuki’s condition was worse, where would Hana take her: the hospital or the vet? They show Hana trying to figure out if she should take her to either location. Hana decides to call both buildings and get their opinion as to what to do with Yuki’s sickness. Ame and Yuki shows other instances where the children’s wolf heritage proved hard to deal with. Going by their wolf instincts, the children would sometimes howl or make other loud noises in the cramped apartment. This leads to growing suspicions from Hana’s landlady that Hana had pets, which she obviously didn’t. Another factor that worried Hana about her environment was the growing concerns of child services. Worried that her kids may change into their wolf forms during a doctor’s visit, Hana never took the kids to get vaccinated.
Another aspect that’s wonderful about the film is Hana’s dedication to her kids. Despite the tragic death of her lover, she continues to raise her children with a positive attitude. As a result of the apartment’s growing concerns about her stay there, Hana decides to move into the country so that her children can choose how they want to live their lives. Of course, moving into the country doesn’t make her life easier. The family struggled with floorboards and stubborn crops. With time, they’re able to manage and live a nice life in their new home.
One of my personal favorite scenes in the movie is where Hana and the kids are playing in the snow. The musical piece that plays throughout that scene as well as the animation makes for the occasion so triumphant. Besides the music and visuals, I also love the scene because it’s so nice to see the family have a genuinely fun time together after so much heartache and struggles.
Although the time they spent together didn’t last long, seeing the interactions between Hana and the wolf man were extremely sweet. Despite some scenes where dialogue isn’t used, it’s clear to see how much they loved each other. From the tiny gestures to scenes such as wolf man looking after Hana during her pregnancy with Yuki, the movie does a great job portraying a young couple starting a family together.
Before I watched the movie, I already knew that I wanted to direct and screen write films, but I mainly thought about making them live action despite being influenced by many animated films from Disney and such. After I watched the movie, all I could think about was creating stories using animation. I still find it interesting that out of all the animated movies that I’ve seen over the years, this is the film that made me rethink what style I want to make movies in. Even though this decision happened the summer going into my senior year in college, I’m glad I saw this movie when I did.
5 out of 5 stars
Janelle Smith is a TV & Film Writer at Girls in Capes. She is a senior at Ohio State University majoring in film studies and minoring in studio art.