Directed and Story by Mamoru Hosoda
Production by Studio Chizu and Madhouse
Recently, my friend Torie and I were having a discussion at an IHOP, while having some delicious breakfast food for dinner. It centered around how much we both love anime, and how unappreciated the medium still is. This is not the first talk we have had on the matter, we usually sneak a conversation about animation every couple months, but she has yet to see this masterpiece, when I just re-watched it, more than once today. TORIE GET ON THIS MOVIE PLEASE!!!
As magical as I have heard people describe it, the story’s beauty does not lie on the magical realism, but on the day-to-day and the mundane of the plot. It follows the life of Hana, a student and worker who becomes enamoured with a man. They both share a love with reading, and slowly they come to love each other, which leads to him revealing a secret he was told to not ever tell anyone, he is a werewolf, a descendant of a long line of people that can morph into wolves but that have died out. Together they have two beautiful, half-wolf children, Ame and Yuki. But happiness does not last too long, as tragedy strikes and Hana is forced to care for her children, not only with the pressure of being a first-time mother, but also the mother of children that are not “natural,” who need even more protection than others.
This is not an action packed anime about werewolves versus humans, it is the story of a single mother trying to raise her children to be proud of both their heritages, while trying to protect them, and living in fear of them being discovered. It is also the story of the children, of Yuki and her love for school and her human life, and Ame’s closeness to his animal form. It is an emotional film exploring the duality of people, a deep understanding of family and love, and even goes so far as to slightly glimpse at to what identity to some is. Therefore, it is extremely emotional, and much like Grave of The Fireflies, tears will be shed.
The attention to detail in the art is quite beautiful. As the animation of the characters themselves doesn’t seem to be drawn to present anything special ( which might just be made to show the people as simple as they are ), the true wonder lies on the background scenes. The structure and design of the buildings, and the background people and their movements, alongside the breathtaking forest scenes, make the art some of best to have come out recently. It is not too smooth and computer-made, it looks hand-drawn, and that makes all of the difference.
Reading other reviews for this film, the comparison made between Hosoda and Miyazaki is not lost to me. It seems that after Miyazaki’s retirement, fans are desperate for someone to fill in as his “heir,” and even though many scenes in this film come quite close to some of the magic of Miyazaki’s works, Hosoda’s style is not the same charm of Studio Ghibli. Perhaps coming into this movie with those expectations will make the movie appear less than what it is. Do not let those expectations diminish the beauty and gentleness of the movie. Enjoy one of the best things to have come out of the medium in the past thirty years.