Stories that span a long time (i.e. more than 5 years) have the opportunity to express a change in the characters and in the world around them. It's something that makes great films great. Forrest Gump is a great example of this use. Wolf Children is not. What this film does is give us short anecdotes of Hana as she experiences what it's like to not only be a single mother but a single mother raising werewolf children. You'd think this means the film would have many interesting events that take place; you'd be wrong.
From the get go, the film feels like one long and arduous flashback. The narration makes this clear, but the pacing implies that it's not going to change anytime soon. That said, the pacing is this weird mix of flashback and actual narrative (an empty narrative full of fluff and good feelings with little dimension.) It goes on for the longest time, and we experience it for about an hour and a half. It's only then that we reach an interesting arc of character as the children are now old enough to think and be people.
I understand that the majority of the film is spent on how Hana cares for her children, but a lot of this is mini story arcs that have a problem that's solved in less than 10 minutes. This sort of narrative reaches a point where the second I see an issue arise, I instantly know it will be solved within a moments notice. With no surprises, I waited for a conflict that set itself apart from the previous ones, and that's where we reach the last 30-40 minutes.
This is when I felt more engaged. It's what I'd argue to be the real complicating incident. Yuki, Hana's daughter, ends up getting angry at a classmate and scratches his ear, nearly deafening him. Due to the previous conditioning I'd experienced (problem, then solution moments later) I was expecting this to be resolved very swiftly, so I was glad to notice that it became a primary event into her 'becoming of age.' ((This is not a spoiler because, in a way, it's the best 'complicating incident' this story has to offer))
Hana's son, Ame, goes through a 'becoming of age' conflict as well, and while I'm glad that the film is beginning to pick up, it's two different character arcs being jammed into the last third that could have been emphasized throughout the film. It too was a conflict I was expecting to find solved moments later, but at this point, I knew better.
Audio and Soundtrack:
Audio is fine. Nothing spectacular.
Soundtrack becomes boring and there was 1 song in particular that could have been titled "brain-rend." That said, it's this sort of soundtrack that disappoints me the most. Not because it's classical and primarily piano, but because every song sounds similar and is devoid of character theme. Not only that, the songs feel as though they were an after-thought. The films pacing paired with the music do not meld together.
The soundtrack in itself is one of two things:
1- The film was animated prior to the OST
2 - The songs were written prior to the storyboarding.
If they were in perfect sync during production, then they failed horribly to put them together convincingly.
It's beautiful, and that's the problem. Beauty erodes over time, and when the film shows countless landscapes that are hand-drawn with extreme care, it becomes stale. Outside of the setting, the characters move flawlessly and it feels fresh. That said, there are a few repeat scenes. This may be used for comedic effect, but to me, I've always considered this very lazy in animation. Other than that (and it's only in 3 or so scenes) there really aren't any complaints here. The animation here is top notch, and I really enjoyed it, despite the backgrounds growing unbelievably stale later on.
I have the same complaints with this film as I did with Haibane Renmei. Slow pacing with swift resolutions throughout, and an interesting ending arc that should have been elongated over the duration of it's long running time. Interestingly enough, both of these animated projects are relatively highly rated and both I've found to be a strenuous venture.
I wonder if I'm the error...
Just for reference:
A 4/10, in my book, is a rating I reserve for works that are just below the sufficient mark. They've shown that they can properly do some things but fail so much in others that all it would have taken is some more work to fix the kinks. It's also a grade I reserve for works that I feel didn't jell with me personally, but others have gravitated towards. It's an acceptance that I think it's bad, but it's not 3- bad. I don't feel like I should need to explain this, but someone spammed me a long and arduous message about how I didn't love my mother. Please don't send me a message about how I don't love my mother. If you do I'll show it to my friends and we'll make fun of you. We always need a good laugh.
If you want to discuss points of this work in a civil manner, feel free to send me a PM. While I didn't enjoy this work, I love talking about stories, no matter what kind.
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