0 Items | £0.00


Wolf Children and Families

Thursday 15th January 2015

Andrew Osmond goes in search of Mamoru Hosoda’s family ties

Wolf ChildrenThe Wolf Children is a family film about a family. This may help explain while Mamoru Hosoda’s movie was a hit in Japan, something that’s very unusual for a standalone cartoon film not linked to an entrenched brand. A well-rounded portrait of a family offers many ways in for different generations. The Wolf Children is the story of an unassuming ‘ordinary’ mum who must find reserves of superhuman strength; of a rambunctious girl and a troubled boy, each with different relationships to their animal sides; of a magic, mythic love between a human woman and a gentle werewolf; and of everyday, practical living away from city lights and mod-cons.

A good fictional family hits all sections of the audience. Look at America’s The Simpsons, and the different demographics catered to by naughty Bart, precocious Lisa, dunderheaded Homer and long-suffering Marge. In Japan, the gentler anime Sazae-san has done the same job for nearly twice as long (44 years and counting). Sazae-san has run so long that, as Jonathan Clements’ Anime: A History notes, the show’s large family is out of step with twenty-first demographics.

Speaking to the Capsule Computers website, Hosoda said “I guess a lot of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters and of course children went to see [Wolf Children] – as well as boyfriends and girlfriends who could possibly imagine what it would be like to get married, settle down and have kids… The main character is obviously Hana the mother, so that is one way of looking at it. But for younger audiences, I’d like them to see it as [Hana’s children] Ame and Yuki growing up and the choices they make…”

Wolf ChildrenAs Hosoda says, the main character is Hana, who falls for a wolfman at the start of the film. Mothers are often neglected as protagonists in film, though some directors – James Cameron, for example, and Hideo Nakata (Ringu) - recognise they make superb leads. In animated films, it’s even worse. We challenge you to think of any lead mother characters, or indeed many films when the mum isn’t dead and gone in the first ten minutes (hello Frozen). Fathers are far more popular (Bunny Drop, Finding Nemo…). By an extraordinary coincidence, Wolf Children opened in Japan the same day as Pixar’s Brave, which foregrounded the relationship between a mother and child. But Wolf Children beat Brave paws down, and deservedly.

“I think women's lives are way richer than males,” Hosoda claimed to the Twitch website. “Because women’s lives are very complex and have a lot of choices; whether you stay at home as a mother, (whether) you work, whether you have children or don’t have children. All those different options and choices that women have… Men’s lives are very black and white: You either win or lose… I think that female lives are way more suited to be the subject of movies.”

It’ll be interesting to see if this comment bears out in Hosoda’s future films. The Girl who Leapt Through Time was a teen love story, with a delightfully headstrong heroine, but it only scraped the Bechdel test for female independence. Summer Wars had a male viewpoint character, though admittedly there was a kick-ass potential granny-in-law. Even with Wolf Children, one could argue it’s really a conservative in ‘progressive’ clothing. In the same Twitch interview, Hosoda mentions he had a message that was hardly radical; to encourage Japanese people to have kids! But his foregrounding of a mother in an animated film remains startling and fresh.

It’s no surprise that it also reflects some deeply personal feelings of the director. “I lost my mother right before I completed Summer Wars,” Hosoda told Otaku USA. “She was in the hospital for eight years… After I completed Summer Wars, that kind of stayed with me, and that has some reflection in making (Wolf Children).”

Wolf Children represents a strand of anime which blends everyday life with very subtle fantasy, often through children’s eyes. The adult Hana has the film’s first fantastic encounter, as she falls in love; however, it’s her child Ame who becomes the ‘fantasy’ adventurer in later scenes. Hosoda has mentioned he was influenced in his filmmaking by the Spanish live-action classic Spirit of the Beehive (1973), a child’s-eye precursor to Totoro and Pan’s Labyrinth.

In anime, Studio Ghibli often mixes real life with very small rations of fantasy. Kiki’s Delivery Service, for example, handles witches in much the way Wolf Children does werewolves. But other anime makers have gone into this territory; consider Sunao Katabuch’s nostalgic child’s time Mai Mai Miracle; Satoshi Kon’s playful, could-be-a-miracle Tokyo Godfathers; and Keiichi Hara’s metaphysical teen film, Colorful.

Hosoda talked about this side of his work to About.com. “I think the fantasy in The Wolf Children does seem unrealistic, it doesn’t seem ‘real,’” he said. “But within that fantasy there is always an element where it is close to the reality of your life, and it makes you realize what’s important in your life… I think that’s the same thing in kid’s tales, like [Hans Christian] Andersen’s. Within that story there’s always a real-life story.”

Hosoda works with fantasy and science-fiction, both stereotyped as escapist media with nothing to say on real human feelings. But, like the director Duncan Jones (Source Code), Hosoda believes these genres actually bring out feelings more clearly. “People easily ignore what the most important or cherished things are in their day-to-day lives,” Hosoda told Anime News Network. “By incorporating science fiction and fantasy elements, audiences are more likely to discover what they don’t notice normally. I hope audiences can see beyond spectacular visual effects and see what’s the most important value for themselves.” For him, it seems, it’s family.

Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

Buy Wolf Children


Wolf Children

was £19.99
Hana is a 19-year-old student who falls in a fairy-tale like love with a wolf man. Over the course of the 13-year story Hana gives birth to two children - older sister Yuki, and younger brother Ame, or Snow and Rain. At first the family quietly lives in the city trying to hide their wolf heritage, but when the wolf man suddenly dies Hana makes the decision to move to a rural town, far from their previous city life.



Wolf Children

Andrew Osmond on Mamoru Hosoda’s movie classic
It’s from the director of Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. For most readers, that’ll be enough to get you watching Mamoru Hosoda’s new film The Wolf Children, which has a limited cinema release before it comes to Blu-ray and DVD on December 23. If you don’t know who Hosoda is, then see his film anyway. It’s just as accessible and universal as his past work (and perhaps more so; it doesn’t have any virtual realities or alternate timelines to contend with).

Unboxed: Wolf Children

Jeremy Graves gets his claws on the new Manga Entertainment release
Wolf Children is out on UK DVD and Blu-ray on 23rd December.


Live-action remakes of classic anime titles are the subject of controversy and fan-rage in the anime community - Akira being a rather hot topic on that front, but could this be the saviour we’ve been looking for?

Gatchaman Crowds

Warning against surprise attacks by alien galaxies from beyond space
The colourfully mad Gatchaman Crowds is one of those anime which isn’t happy unless it’s doing umpteen things at once, all seeming completely different. It’s a campy, lowbrow action show and a thinky piece of SF and an otaku series with a taste for the meta and it’s anxious to engage with the real world. You can watch it just for the tangerine colours and the shouty panda. But if you want more pointers, read on…

A Brief History of Manga

Jasper Sharp reviews Helen McCarthy’s intro to Japanese comics
For curious dabblers and those wishing a glimpse of the bigger picture of how Japanese comics began and their key development points, the sheer size and diversity of the field can seem pretty daunting.
Charlotte visits the Himouto! Umaru-chan cafe in Tokyo.

Eureka Seven Ao

Kicking it old-school, with giant robots
Pacific Rim opened a new gateway to ’bot sagas for youngsters, and for oldsters too. They’ll see del Toro’s film, learn how much he was inspired by Japanese cartoons, and then check out the originals. If they choose Eureka Seven Ao, they’ll find elements also seen in Pacific Rim, embedded in a very different show.

Fairy Tail Music: Daisy x Daisy

Tom Smith on Fairy Tail Part 7’s opening theme
Little Mika still has a long way to go, but since signing to Pony Canyon she has managed to have a crack at the anime universe, featuring heavily in one series in particular; Fairy Tail.
Contact Us   |   Refund Policy   |   Delivery Times   |   Privacy statement   |   Terms & Conditions
Please note your card statement will show billing by MVM. Wolf Children and Families from the UK's best Anime Blog.