I honestly should have reviewed this movie on Mother’s Day. It is the most fitting time of year for it. Alas, I ordered this movie now, and it arrived when it did. If there was ever a film that will make you appreciate your mother more than this, I can’t honestly think of it. Especially if she was a single mother. Of course, it is from the visionary director of Summer Wars, a movie that made a big family feel like real people. It is not only my favorite film by Mamoro Hasoda, but also one of my favorite films of all time. While this isn’t as good as that, it is still a feel-good film that will touch your heart. Take my word for it.
Just like Summer Wars, this is a film that combines surreal elements with very realistic family ones. It tells the story of a girl who meets a boy. The two fall in love, but the boy has a secret. One that he passes on to their very special children. But then he is gone, and now the mother is on her own to raise these two pups and try to maintain a normal life. What follows is the tale of her very, very difficult life with these two young ones. Not a complicated story, but it is ALL in the execution.
Talking about the animation in this film is a complete waste of time. Anime films are almost-uniformly beautiful, and this one is no exception. It is a gorgeous film to look at and every shot is near-perfect. The voice-acting is top-notch as well. The stand-out role is the mother. I just love how subdued her performance is. All of her best moments are subtle, and you have to be paying attention to find them. Like where she is with her daughter and just has a line about wishing their father had taught her how to deal with things. It’s powerful because it conveys how powerless and lonely she feels, having to stay away from all life except that of her two special children. But that’s not to say that the rest of the cast isn’t fantastic.
Summer Wars was about family and staying connected. Wolf Children is about community. And the rest of the community are fantastic. Just like the family in the other film, they all have their own personalities and getting to know them is part of the fun. Plus, it helps show the growth of the mother as she comes to accept that there is a place in the world for her special family. My favorite of the neighbors is the asshole old man. He’s such a cliche, but man is it in how you execute it. He’s such an asshole, but as you peel away the layers you find that there is a man with compassion like you’ve never seen.
Thing was, I never really got to know what this sort of life was like. I grew up in a place where pretty much everyone around me was family. For most of my childhood, I would go from one family member to the next. My favorite one to hang with was my grandma. Maybe that’s why I love Summer Wars so much. But I have wondered what tight-knight communities are like. When I get out of this state, perhaps I’ll find out. City life is so damn lonely. The jobs are here, but there’s no sense of belonging. This city is such a poor place. Jobs are here, but they don’t pay well, and poverty is rampant. It sucks, and I honestly am growing to hate it more and more. Once I am out of here, the goal is some little seaside community, hopefully on the west coast. Man, there was a digression.
As I said, the biggest character you grow to like is the mother. Everything about her character, from the animation to the voice acting portrays a woman trying so damn hard and having life often be very unkind to her and her tiny tag-alongs. While we’re at it, let’s talk about the kids. Child characters in anime often annoy. And I’m not gonna lie, these kids do too. But here’s the thing about these kids annoying me that other kids don’t – it’s because they feel like real kids. And I don’t like children. Don’t want any of my own, and it’s looking like I will get my wish on that end, since my personal life is a dead heap of broken dreams. I actually dislike these characters because they feel like the kinds of kids who would be bothering me when I am hanging with the adults. Kids like me. It’s strange. Maybe because I am a giant. Yeah, I get the feeling that’s it.
All things considered, I do love this movie. It isn’t one of my favorite anime films, but it is a movie that I can just put on to feel good with. This movie will make you smile. It will make you cry. It will also make you want to call your mother and be nice to her. Hopefully you all love it too.
9 out of 10