Wolf Children: Film Review

This charming animated tale is both visually beautiful and movingly poetic.

A mother attempts to raise her half-human, half-wolf children in Mamoru Hosoda's animated film.

Despite its title, the new animated film by Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars) is not really for children. This lyrical and poetic effort about a single mother raising two children who happen to be half-human and half-wolf features the sort of metaphorical, sophisticated storyline that, with the exception of Pixar’s best efforts, is all too rare in American animated films. Suffering only from its overly leisurely pace and stilted English-language dubbing, Wolf Children is a moving and charming effort that is sadly unlikely to achieve much commercial traction with its limited theatrical release.

Narrated by the young Yuki (voiced by Lana Woodhull and Jad Saxton), it tells the story of her mother, Hana (Colleen Clinkenbeard), who when first seen is a college student who falls in love with a handsome fellow student, Ookami (David Matranga), who turns out to be a wolf man. Despite this seemingly daunting obstacle, they soon have two children, both of whom share their father’s unusual condition.

When Ookami is tragically killed, Hana finds herself raising her children, including her son, Ame (Alison Viktorin, Micah Solusod), on her own, facing such problems as having to decide whether to bring them to a pediatrician or a veterinarian when they get sick.

“I’m a good mother, but when it comes to raising wolf children I’m kind of in the dark,” Hana admits.

Since their transformations -- which in Yuki’s case, occur whenever she gets cranky -- threaten to attract suspicion in the city, she moves her family to the country, where they are befriended by sympathetic rural types apparently far more tolerant of such idiosyncrasies.

Spanning several years in which the titular characters go through both the usual and not so usual travails of adolescence, the film is a touching allegory about the difficulties of parenting and the search for one’s identity. Complementing the moving tale are the beautiful hand-drawn visuals, which offer a refreshing contrast to the frenetic computer animation that has come to dominate American films.  

Opened Sept. 27 (FUNimation Entertainment)

Production: NTV, Studio Chizu, Madhouse, Kadokawa Shoten, VAP, D.N. Dream Partners, YTV, Toho, Dentsu, Digital Fronteir, STV, MMT, SDT, CTV, HTV, FBS

Cast: Colleen Clinkenbeard, Lana Woodhull, Jad Saxton, David Matranga, Alison Viktorin, Micah Solusod

Director: Mamoru Hosoda

Screenwriters: Satoko Okudera, Mamoru Hosoda

Producers: Yuichiro Saito, Takuya Ito, Takashi Watanabe

Editor: Shigeru Nishiyama

Composer: Masakatsu Takagi

Not rated, 117 min.