Oct 22, 2012
MerelyPlayers (All reviews)
I saw this film yesterday and, having enjoyed it immensely, was pleased to read that it has won the award for Best Animated Feature Film at the 45th annual Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival (a Spanish film festival). This perhaps comes as little surprise given that it is the work of Mamoru Hosoda, acclaimed director of "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time" and "Summer Wars" (both of which also won the same award at previous Sitges festivals). I dare say that Mamoru has exceeded himself with this film, taking observations and musings from his own life - the film supposedly being based on thoughts he had when, at one point in his life, he was 'surrounded by all these women who suddenly became pregnant' - and translating them into a beautiful tale of young parenthood, unusual childhood, and the powerful changes self-discovery incurs on adolescent life.

The story is both simple and elegant, with a well constructed plot that follows the above mentioned periods of a young family in a emotionally dynamic and charming manner, evoking joy and humour in equal measure, and just the right amount of melancholy and distress. This is helped by the endearing, often cute - in a fashion non-stereotypical of modern anime trends, and thus refreshing - and naturalistic characters (again, no ridiculous anime archetypes to be seen here really, and the one 'expy' in the film is a rather respectful and very amusing pastiche of Clint Eastwood). Indeed, despite the fact that the eponymous kids are indeed wolf-children, their stories are those of many a young person - the desires to fit in with society and conversely to take ones own path through life are explored in a counterbalanced fashion between the two siblings, which adds great depth to their intertwining tales. Even if we are too young to have experienced the hardships and joys of parenthood, or fortunate enough not to have experienced the loss of a spouse or parent at a young age, most of us will still likely relate in some way to the young lives of Ame and Yuki.

The elegance of the plot and tone of the story are complemented perfectly by the exquisite animation, which was in fact created in 3D and then augmented with 2D (apparently the opposite of the anime film norm). The effect is that the simple, familiar art style one might associate with a Ghibli production or Mamoru's other works is given that extra bit of depth, that touch more of aesthetic richness, and so when a scene that makes full use of the visuals comes along, one is treated to breath-taking feats of visual artistry, thus augmenting the whole experience as a whole. Underpinning all this is an equally impressive soundtrack, as well as superb sound design - I felt that the subtle crescendo of the rain in the first sequence in which Hana searches for a missing loved one was almost harrowing in its evocation of her growing despair. As a composer myself, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the effective use of interesting metres and rich textures throughout the movie, and thought the music did a great job emphasising and revealing the emotive nature of the film.

I saw the film in Edinburgh as part the Scotland Loves Anime festival, but because it had already aired in London last week, it was ineligible for that particular festival's award. If it had been, there is no doubt in my mind that it would have taken that home as well, for as a film (read: piece of visual art, as opposed to Otaku fan service) it was invariably better than all the others on offer. Indeed, it is without doubt one of the best animated films I have ever seen, on par with if not better than many of Ghibli's best efforts. I thus implore anyone who has read this and not seen it to go watch it at the first available and convenient opportunity. I'd be greatly surprised, and even perhaps worried, if it fails to warm you heart to at least half the degree that it did mine.