Mothers are angels, by parenthood wrought,
And unsung saints, whether they know it or not.
Their job is to lead through each giggle and tear
And make angels too of the rascals they rear.
They’re makers of breakfast and takers of guff
And mentors who know when enough is enough.
They’re huggers or kissers, though all aren’t the same,
Who take it in stride when kids think it a shame.
When needed the most, they’re a wide-open door,
The builders of life starting at the ground floor.
All this mothers are, or should be by design,
All worthy of honor, and why I love mine.
MPAA rating: PG
Happy Mother’s Day to all! I have no idea why it’s taken me this long to review the film that placed #6 on my Top 12 Anime List, but Mother’s Day seemed like the perfect opportunity to review this affectionate tribute to a mother’s love. After strong films like The Girl Who Leapt through Time and Summer Wars, I think Mamoru Hosoda clinched his growing reputation as the next Hayao Miyazaki with Wolf Children, a favorite of many anime fans.
As a college student, Hana meets and gradually falls in love with a young man she meets in class, a strong, silent type with a kind heart. Her love for this unnamed man is not diminished when he reveals that he is part wolf, able to transform at will but choosing to live as a human. What follows is a warmhearted montage of domestic bliss to rival the beginning of Up, along with an equally tragic end when Hana is left alone to care for their two wolf children Yuki and Ame.
While an early scene implies the uncomfortable idea of interspecies romance, almost everything else about this film is sweet and tender in the most appealing way. The usual stresses of raising children are given a unique spin with the werewolf aspect (should she take them to a pediatrician or a vet?). Hana knows nothing about raising kids on her own, let alone the half-wolf variety, but she learns and loves through every sleepless night, cranky tantrum, and potential emergency. While she keeps Ame and Yuki away from the world for the most part to protect them, she is a superlative example of the hard-working, underappreciated single mother.
When the two kids begin to outgrow their small apartment, she decides to move to the distant countryside, where they will have the freedom to choose whether to be wolves or humans. The move to a large dilapidated home (reminiscent of the beginning of My Neighbor Totoro) only means more work for Hana and more opportunities for both fun and danger for assertive Yuki and timid Ame. Hana’s tenacity is tested and affirmed, as is the good will of her charitable neighbors. The lush, hilly setting offers some gorgeous scenery, which captivates one of the children more than the other. In particular, two scenes of natural splendor are the epitome of animated beauty, and the family’s frolic through the snow is accompanied by a winsomely elegant score that always gives me chills.
The unfortunate drawback to Wolf Children’s appeal is a semi-unsatisfying ending. With time to consider both perspectives, I’ve come to forgive the bittersweet climax, which is like the reverse of The Jungle Book’s ending, if that makes sense. Even so, everything Hana did for her children is worthy of the deepest love and appreciation, and the end smacks of adolescent ingratitude. Despite that caveat for the climax, Wolf Children, for me, is not a film to simply like or dislike but to be fond of. My fondness for this film runs deep, and it will forever rank among my favorite depictions of maternal love.
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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