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DVD Review

DVD cover

Wolf Children


Starring (voice): Aoi Miyazaki and Takao Osawa
Distributor: Manga Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: PG
Release Date: 23 December 2013

It is unusual, when watching an anime film, to completely lose yourself in the story, as you are often distracted by the level of animation, for good or ill. This is even rarer in a film which contains fantasy elements. It’s not that full immersion into the film is impossible, as anyone who has watched a Miyazaki film or the best of Pixar Animation can attest. A great animated film will draw you in until you connect with the characters and forget you’re watching an animation.

Wolf Children (2012 - 1 hr, 52 min, 14 sec) is a fantasy film directed and co-written by Hosoda Mamoru. To say it’s a fantasy film may be doing the feature a disservice. Although it contains the central element of having two children who are the offspring of a human and a half-wolf, the film is more about growing up and the need to find acceptance, the need to never be alone, the desire to find your place in the world.

When shy student Hana meets a young man (who is never named) she finds first a kinship and then love with him, even though he reveals that he is the last surviving Grey Wolf, a race, half human, half wolf. Even with his secret the couple seem to be set for a happy life, Hanna gets a job and in time they have two children, Yuki and Ame.

Tragedy strikes when her husband is killed while out hunting in the city, leaving Hanna and her children alone. Because of their special natures, Hanna is frightened to expose Yuki and Ame to normal society, nor is she confident that she can teach them how to live with their wolf personas. When the authorities start to question why the children are not attending school Hanna flees the city for what she hopes is the relative obscurity of the countryside. Here she hopes her children will find the space to determine what sort of future they desire.

The children are very different. Yuki is a ball of energy and the happiest to transform into a wolf, running around the countryside, tangling with the local wildlife and collecting skulls. Ame, on the other hand, is shy to the point of being withdrawn. The film follows the tribulations of the family as the children grow, each choosing a particular path to adulthood.

Whilst the animation is gorgeous and occasionally breath-taking, it is the story and characters which draw you in, demanding the same level of concentration as a live action movie. Whether it is Hana’s on-going concern for her children to find their way and yet, at the same time, afraid that they will not choose wisely, the trio’s predicament will bring warmth to your heart.

It is not hard to see where the children’s natures will take them, the wild Yuki joins the human world, by going to school, her friends and in particular one boy becomes her pack. Ame on the other hand is drawn towards the wild beauty of the mountain and an old wolf who teaches him how to hunt. For Hana, she learns the value of community.

The film is presented across a two DVD set, not because, as we shall see, there is a large amount of extras, but because the film is a tad under two hours long, though while watching it you would never think so. Disc one has the film as well as a full length commentary from the English dub team. Now these are usually raucously vacuous affairs, but for once here is a commentary worth listening to. You also get the original English theatrical trailer (2 min, 25 sec).

Disc two has the majority of extras, which kicks off with Stage Greetings, of which there are five, from the Japanese premiere (16 min, 03 sec), the World Premiere in Paris (7 min, 04 sec), The Theme Song Premiere (9 min, 56 sec), Opening Day (17 min, 19 sec) and Hana’s Day (6 min, 39 sec). All include the director and cast and, apart from the premier of the song, consists of them talking about the film - generally more interesting than the usual gushing seen in such pieces.

PR Video Directors Version 1 (2 min, 53 sec) and Version 2 (2 min, 54 sec) are extended trailers for the film, which overlays shots from the film, set to the theme tune. There is the Promotional Trailer (16 min, 12 sec), which is actually an interesting interview with the director and the disc wraps up with the Original Trailer (1 min, 28 sec) and the Original Teaser (31 sec). Not a bad amount of extras, made better for not being the usual gushing nonsense.

The film is presented with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and the choice of either the original Japanese 5.1 audio track or the English 5.1 dub track. Both are evocative and moving.

This really is a special anime film, beautifully bitter sweet, a real treat of a film.


Charles Packer

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