While on a flight this past year, I watched this film sitting snugly between my now husband and a complete stranger. I used to I still feel self conscious about watching anime in public, but all the flights I’ve taken the past couple of years have chipped at my caring exterior–that and the fact that submersion into a series or movie makes time fly faster than almost anything else I can do on a plane. I could feel my neighbors eyes now and then on my screen, and if it wouldn’t have been completely rude to everyone else, I might have unplugged my earbuds so he could watch along. Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki (i.e. Wolf Children) is a film I think almost anyone can appreciate, exploring age-old topics of romance, parenthood, and identity.
Wolf Children is a 2012 film that focuses on a mother and her two wolf children. When we first meet her, Hana is a college student living on her own in Tokyo. She meets a young man from her classes and we watch them fall in love. He eventually reveals the secret of his werewolf ancestry, and the two of them start a family together. It’s at this point that the hopeful beginning takes a sudden turn. Her husband’s tragic death leaves Hana to raise their two half-human, half-wolf children alone. Unable to reconcile the difficulties of raising werewolves and living in the city, they move to a home in the country where the children can run free.
So begins a new life where Hana can focus on raising her children in an environment that allows them to choose their own paths. Yuki and Ame grow up strong and healthy, and eventually confront their ancestry and future. I reveled in their joy and hard work; I cried more than once. I hold Hana in high esteem due to her inner and outer beauty, as well as her vigor.
Balancing Motherhood in Old and New Worlds
The theme that stands prominent to my viewing experience is that of parenthood, particularly that from the mother’s point of view. Mothers tend to get the spotlight, regardless, so that aspect alone is not remarkable. What impresses me is Hana’s resilience in her isolation, both physical and emotional. There is a good period of time where she is alone in raising Yuki and Ame. She must hide their werewolf identities from a society that might exploit them, which means no medical examinations, public schooling, or home assistance. Her husband has left her alone not only in a physical capacity, but also in the knowledge, or lack thereof, of werewolves.
There’s a particularly frightening scene when Social Services comes to check on the children, who have no record of vaccinations. A similar fear arises when Yuki ingests toxins and Hana stands frozen between a hospital and an animal clinic. Her daughter’s life hangs in the balance, but revealing her identity to the public could mean equally threatening consequences. These obstacles the family hurdle together are many and high, but each successful clearance feels more rewarding as a result.
Another theme is a familiar one to any Ghibli fan that compares the old world to the new, and in a connected manner, nature versus mankind. The legend of the werewolf is an old one that spans multiple cultures across several generations. The wolf symbolizes the wild, while also representing the birth of an ancient civilization like Rome. As humans and wolves, Ame and Yuki must confront dueling desires to run free in a shrinking world, or to settle into an ever-growing one. The outcome seems clear at the start, but as people are wont to do, desires and convictions change.
I appreciate that instead of consigning the werewolf to a hopeless end, the movie opts to continue the bloodline in two capacities. One child goes to the wild, while the other chooses the human world after revealing the secret to a friend. There are some unsettling hints that staying too long as a wolf diminishes the human side, but with Hana as the mother, I don’t think that will happen anytime soon.
No doubt the trials this family faced will be experienced again by the next generation, and I can only hope that descendants will find a love as open and understanding as that of Hana for her husband and children. Her feelings for their father in the knowledge of his background remained constant. This unwavering support impacted the children, who grew up with the assurance that Hana would always look out for their best interests with a smile on her face. This unrelenting attitude took grief and fear and transformed them into joy and hope.
The story of Hana, Yuki, and Ame is one that will resonate not only with families, but with anyone who faces hardship. Maybe packing up and moving to the country isn’t the best plan for some of you, but we can still learn from Hana’s tenacity for life in all its ups and downs.
Rating: 3 dango
- 0 dango – average and forgettable.
- 1 dango – very good in its category.
- 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
- 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.