Writer: Takayuki Takuma (script), Ikki Kajiwara (manga)
Starring: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Emi Takei, Takumi Saito, Sakura Ando, Ito Ono, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Kimiko Yo, Ken Maeda, Yo Hitoto, Masachika Ichimura
For Love’s Sake was the final film I saw during the 56th BFI London Film Festival. Despite my dislike for musicals I expected this film to be highly entertaining because it was directed by Takashi Miike.
Can he change how I view a genre? Definitely.
I love Takashi Miike’s sensibilities. Miike is the type of director who can take any genre and transform it into something uniquely his own. When he made The Happiness of the Katakuris I found a musical I could love what with its inventive designs, amusing song and dance numbers, cracked performances and black humour. For Love’s Sake is another musical I can embrace thanks to its ultra-stylish and gleefully over the top and energetic execution.
1972, Tokyo, Ai Satome (Takei) is an angelichigh school student who comes from a respectable family. She leads a charmed life until Makoto Taiga (Tsumabuki), the boy who stole Ai’s heart as a child and an ultra-delinquent, arrives in Tokyo to settle a score from his past. He soon gets arrested after a rumble with some local toughs and is sent to reform school. Ai is still in love with Makoto and manages to get him released. She brings him to Aobodai Prep School where she studies. Ai’s love for Makoto inspires jealousy in Iwashimizu (Saito), the President of the Student Council, who loves Ai. Soon Makoto is sent to Hanazono Trade School where girl gang leader Ango Gumko (Ando) and Yuki, a “sad chick”, soon develop feelings for him. With Makoto in the centre of this tangled web of love things get extremely complicated and melodramatic.
Ai to Makoto will be familiar for a Japanese audience as it originates from a massively popular manga written in 1973 by Ikki Kajiwara which has been adapted for film in 1974, 75, and 76, Takashi Miike’s live-action film adaptation being the fourth so far and with Miike’s unique vision this is a case of adapting the classic story of bad boy meets good girl who tries to redeem him and adding a megaton of spectacle.
This missy is downright crazy
For Love’s Sake is an entertaining romp through the popular school melodrama genre. While I haven’t read the original manga this feels like a parody of said genre thanks to the excessiveness of style and the combination of the musical genre. With the knowing lines, sudden bursts of dancing and the presence of plenty of pop music from the 1970’s laced with hilarious lyrics, it is too funny, melodramatic, ironic, and openly genre savvy to be anything else.
The mise-en-scene is perfect and points to the high degree of skill in putting the whole film together. The film starts off with animation, a ski sequence gone awry which is where Makoto and Ai first meet. Then, after the titles hit us, things get a bit normal (apart from one inventive sequence set on stage with props) and we are transported into 1970’s Tokyo, a place of loud shirts, flares and bad clothing in general (except for the classic school uniforms). The look is, to my eye, as convincing as the one seen in Norwegian Wood.
The locations vary from the ostentatious and gaudily decorated home of the Satome family to the post-apocalyptic Hanazono trade school. Each location is wonderful with plenty of details to bask in. One highlight, only used for a few minutes, is a maid café which is straight from a lurid fantasy like Strange Circus. It is full of creeps and creepy solid gold dancers, a place where the cute waitresses wear pink frilly outfits and red shoes.
All of it fits the melodramatic tone of the film and the musical sequences add to the atmosphere as they perfectly illustrate the emotions of the characters in the scenes.
Writer: Jun Kumagai (Script), Romeo Tanaka (Original Light Novel)
Starring: Kana Hanazawa (Ryōko Satō), Nobunaga Shimazaki (Ichirō Satō)
A promotional video for the big-screen anime adaptation of Romeo Tanaka’s 2008 light novel Aura: Maryūinkōga Saigo no Tatakai. It looks like any other high school fantasy anime but Romeo Tanaka is the man behind one of this year’s funniest anime TV series, Humanity has Declined.
This film centres on a high school freshman named Ichirō Satō who forgets his book at school and sneaks back in at night. There he encounters a beautiful girl who claims to be a witch from a parallel world. Is she real or just a delusion?
The film is directed by Seiji Kishi who was the director of Humanity has Declined, a gentle if surreal anime released this summer which I liked a lot and Persona 4 The Animation, a cool adaptation of the videogame.The script has been written by Makoto Uezu (Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka?) and Jun Kumagai (Persona 4, Humanity has Declined).
Steins;Gate was an anime I had difficulty watching last year. I felt it was a little to dry and dull. I persevered and eventually got into the twisting and intelligent psychological time travel story and by the time the final episode rolled by I was won over and it became my second favourite anime of 2011. Then a movie was announced and it was back to mixed feelings for me because the final episode of the TV series was perfect, the sequence when the credits rolled was beautiful. Here is the trailer for the forthcoming movie. The TV anime had the perfect ending, what is going on here? It looks apocalyptic!
Alas, there is no synopsis which is quite frustrating.
The film has the vocal talents of Mamoru Miyano (Fuse: A Gun Girl’s Detective Story) who voiced Okabe and the incredibly beautiful Kana Hanazawa who voiced Mayuri, a character who won me over with her incredible cuteness. They are supported by the equally wonderful Halko Momoi who voices Faris and who lent her voiced Maromi in the excellent Paranoia Agent. She also composed and performed the awesome song MailMe which was used in Suicide Club. I CANNOT GET ENOUGH OF THE SONG!!!! Anyway…
This big screen adaptation is directed by Kanji Wakabayashi (Jomungand) with Takuya Satō and Hiroshi Kamasaki acting as chief director. Between Satō and Kamasaki they have worked on a number of titles I love like Armitage III, Kino’s Journey, Spriggan, Perfect Blue and Paranoia Agent. The film has been written by Jukki Hanada, the man who handled series composition on the TV anime as well as the highly regarded Robotics;Notes and the hilarious Nichijou.
This week I started writing my submission for an art prize and I started my Christmas shopping… Two gifts for other people and I just ordered an awesome movie collection as highlighted by Goregirl! I also know when the Christmas party for Japanese class is going to be and I know that the restaurant sells green tea ice cream (lovely!). As far as blogging goes I started this week with two trailers for two major anime titles in the form of Berserk Golden Age Arc III: Descentand One Piece Film Z. I then followed up with a review for Key of Life, an excellent comedy with great performances that I saw at the 56th BFI London Film Festival and news on the UK release of Mystical Laws, an anime movie I was not taking too seriously during its original Japanese release due to its backers but I am eager to hear whether it is any good.
When writing the previews for the latest Eva movie I mentioned it being the type of anime that is a licence to print money. Here is the proof. Since its opening last week, the movie has accrued about $19,183,750. According to Anime News Network, the film’s opening box office weekend was $13,913,200, the highest earnings in Japan this year. Incredible. The other new entry from last week was Ninkyo Helper, a movie adaptation of a television series. Far more importantly is the return of Takashi Miike… actually he’s so prolific he never really goes away… with the brilliant looking Lesson of the Evil where a psychotic teacher takes out pupils, parents and teachers played by half the cast of Himizu.
Enough about last week! What is released in Japan today? And yesterday!?
I have to admit that I did crack a smile with this. The antics of the cute Mao Inoue (My Darling is a Foreigner, Kaidan) caught me off-guard. She is joined by Keiko Matsuzaka (Instant Swamp), Tetsuji Tamayama (Norwegian Wood), Naomi Nishida (Train Man, Swing Girls, A Man with Style, The Happiness of the Katakuri’s) and Takashi Sasano (Thermae Romae, Insight into the Universe). The director is Nobuo Mizuta who is the chap who helmed Maiko haaaan!!!, a very influential comedy, the writer is Daisuke Habara who wrote Hula Girls and the Suicide Song, two films I hope to review sometime in the new year. Anyway… This looks like it could be fun.
Chiaki Nishikawa (Inoue) helps handle the public relations department for Oita city. Oita is a city that has won the tug-of-war world championship three times in the past and so in order to promote the city the mayor has a bright idea: an all-girl tug-of-war team. Luckily Nishikawa is an enthusiast for the game and she is the perfect person to rope a few people in and make them pick up the rope!!!
Japanese Title: カラス の 親指
Romaji: Karasu no Oyayubi
ReleaseDate: 23rd November 2012 (Japan)
RunningTime: 160 mins.
Director: Tadafumi Ito
Writer: Tadafumi Ito (Script), Shusuke Michio (Original Novel)
Hiroshi Abe is insanely handsome, insanely successful and insanely talented as his
turns in Survive Style 5+, Summer of Ubume, and Still Walking showed me. He is also insanely popular as the 2012 mega-hit Thermae Romae revealed (as the trailer points out) so I am not alone in thinking he is great. Well now he is back and in a film called Crow’s Thumb which is based on Shusuke Michio’s 2008 novel of the same name. His co-stars are Satomi Ishihara (Sadako 3D), Bengal (Boiling Point), Yu Koyonagi (Tokyo Sonata), Shoji Murakami (Kaidan), Rena Nounen (Confessions). The trailer looks okay. I was with it through the funky opening until the dramatic music and crying child but then I was won over by the J-pop and sequences showing the elaborate con including Hiroshi Abe sporting silver hair and a mean stare.
Take (Abe) and Tetsu (Murakami) are two veteran conmen who live in an old house with two beautiful sisters named Yahiro (Ishihara) and Mahiro (Nounen) and Yahiro’s boyfriend Kantaro (Koyanagi) and a baby cat. When a girl is placed in the care of Take and Tetsu they decide to change their lives and so all five will take part in an elaborate con.
When I wrote about the anime movie The Mystical Lawsearlier this year I did not think it would get a UK release. I was wrong. According to Anime News Network, “it is being screened for a week at the Odeon Panton Street cinema near Piccadilly from Friday November November 23. The film will be shown daily at 2.30 p.m., 5.55 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. It is rated “15” on the cinema website, although it is not listed on the BBFC website.”
It is the year 201X… and the newly-formed Empire of Godom has been able to gain access to technology offered to them by Reika Chang (Fujimura), the president of a trading company. With this technology they plan to take over the world. Shou Shishimaru (Koyasu) is the only one who can stop them because he has access to mystical technology as well. The Empire know this and decide to hunt him down but thanks to the intervention of mysterious Indians, he evades capture and sets about trying to fulfil a prophecy about the second coming of a saviour.
The film is an adaptation of a book written by Ryuho Okawa, the founder of the Happy Science religious organisation. The organisation was founded in Japan on the 6th of October, 1986 by Ryuho Okawa who, according to Wikipedia, “claims to channel the spirits of Muhammad, Christ, Buddha and Confucious and claims to be the incarnation of the supreme spiritual being called El Centre.” According to Anime News Network, this anime film was produced in conjunction with another film called Final Judgement which featured in a trailer post earlier this year and left me severely unimpressed. The movie is directed by Isamu Imakake who has worked on Natsume’s Book of Friends and Captain Tsubasa. Seiyuu involved include some pretty well known ones like Takehito Koyasu who voiced Ilpalazzo in the awesome Excel Saga, Daisuke Hirakawa (Franz d’Epinay in Gankutsuou), Ayumi Fujimura (Miwa in Bartender, Raimei in Nabai no Ou, Takashi Natsume in Natsume’s Book of Friends).
This was the second film I saw at the 56th BFI London Film Festival after The Wolf Children. While I was familiar with the actors involved I had little knowledge about the director or his past works other than the fact that they are considered extremely funny. I selected this as one of my festival picks because I was willing to bet that with its excellent cast it was going to be extremely funny. Thankfully I was right!
Writer: Osamu Suzuki (Script),Eiichiro Oda (original manga)
Starring: Mayumi Tanaka (Monkey D. Luffy), Cho (Brook), Kazuya Nakai (Roronoa Zoro), Akemi Okamura (Nami), Yuriko Yamaguchi (Nico Robin), Hiroaki Hirata (Sanji), Ikue Ohtani (Tony Tony Chopper), Kazuki Yao (Franky), Kappei Yamaguchi (Usopp), Teruyuki Kagawa (Bins)
A trailer has been released for the forthcoming big screen adaptation of Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece which gets a release next month.
With the Straw Hat Pirates in the New World they face having to save it and pirates everywhere since a legendary ex-Navy admiral named Zetto is leading a group who want to destroy all pirates. Monkey D. Luffy will have to rally his crew to defeat their most powerful enemy yet!
One Piece was an anime I could ignore when it came on UK television. I am not really a fan of shounen titles. Then I read the Thriller Bark arc of the manga and enjoyed it tremendously. The film will cover the “Saigo no Umi Shinsekai Hen” or New World Saga arc of the manga which was launched in October 2010. The trailer showcases the two songs, “Bad Reputation” and “How You Remind Me”, performed by Avril Lavigne who admitted to being a big One Piece fan herself. This admission lead to the production company approaching her to provide the theme songs for the film.
The film has been written by Eiichiro Oda, the creator of the original manga who is also producing the film. He has been helped with the screenplay by Osamu Suzuki. It is directed by Tatsuya Nagamine who has worked on massive franchise movies like Dragonball and the Pretty Cure.
The familiar One Piece seiyuu are back with Mayumi Tanaka (Krilin in Dragonball) voicing Monkey D. Luffy, Akemi Okamura (Asuka Kaminogi in Noein) voicing the sexy Nami and Hiroaki Hirata (Tatsuji in Another, Benny in Black Lagoon, Wild Tiger in Tiger and Bunny) voicing Sanji. They are joined by live-action actor Teruyuki Kagawa (Tokyo Sonata, Key of Life) and the singer Ryoko Shinohara (Kamikaze Girls, Summer of Ubume).
The film will be released on the 15th of December!
Starring: Hiroaki Iwanaga (Guts), Takahiro Sakurai (Griffith), Toa Yukinaru (Casca), Aki Toyosaki (Charlotte), Kenta Miyake (Nosferatu Zodd)
A new trailer for the third Berserk feature film has been released and it shows us part of the eclipse ceremony that comes at the very end of the Golden Age Arc. This is where the story becomes a full-blown horror movie. I found it genuinely disturbing what with the horrific landscape and human suffering. The trailer shows that all of the mayhem and carnage is present and correct and given the full CGI treatment – just a few glimpses made me remember the horrible feelings I went through at the end of the Berserk TV anime. Also released was a new poster for the film which can be seen above (the old one below). The first two films have played at UK film festivals like Scotland Loves Anime and are all guaranteed a UK DVD release at some point. Stay tuned for more information!
After Guts leaves the employ of the Band of the Hawk it all goes very wrong for Griffith and company. Casca does her best to hold the remnants of the mercenary army together but with Midland’s soldiers closing in on them their days seem numbered. Until Guts steps back into the picture. This, however, will lead him to the Eclipse Ceremony and the horror that will unleash Femto.
This week I started with a trailer for World War Z which looks like it will be a botched adaptation of the wonderful source novel. I then posted a rather late report about my experiences at the 56th BFI London Film Festival and I posted a review of The Wolf Childrenon Thursday after watching The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. Here’s a short version of my review of The Wolf Children – one of the best animated films I have ever seen. The reviews for the other films I saw at the festival will appear over the next week before I start off a new season.
The Floating Castle remains at number one for its second week and Takashi Miike menaces the charts with his latest him, The Lesson of Evil hitting number two after being released last week. Interestingly Tsunagu hangs on in the top ten after six weeks and rakes in the money. I did not think it would have the staying power…
What Japanese films are released today?
Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo
Japanese Title: エヴァンゲリヲン新 新劇場版:Q Quickening
Romaji: Evangelion Shin Gekijoban: Kyu
ReleaseDate: 17th November 2012 (Japan)
Director: Hideaki Anno, Masayuki, Kazuya Tsurumaki, Mahiro Maeda
Neon Genesis Evangelion makes an impact on the Japanese charts today! This seminal 90’s anime re-wrote the rules for the mecha genre as it was a post-modern take that combined mecha tropes with crazed religion, science and the twisted imagination and state of near depression of anime veteran Hideaki Anno. With Evangelion he did what Lars von Trier did with Melancholia and gave us a devastating visual view of depression and other psychological maladies. Watching the teen pilots navigate the hell that is adolescence and deal with the psycho-sexual nightmarish monsters and emotionally complex adults was gripping, disturbing but ultimately uplifting (although very apocalyptic).
Hideaki Anno claimed he was not happy with the way the series developed and released a number of films which tried to retell the ending of the show, ending on an even darker note. Since then Evangelion has been a merchandise machine and has retained its popularity which is why Anno has been given a chance to remake the TV series into a number of film which offer what he considers to be his ultimate vision. The first two films in the four-part series have been released in the west to rapturous reviews, this is the third. To celebrate the release of the film, numerous videos have been released including a music video for Hikaru Utada.
While the six-minute preview is not flashy it looks promising. The cast has the familiar seiyuu from the television shows including major stars like the prolific and wonderful voice actress Megumi Hayashibara (Paprika in Paprika – she also turned up in The Wolf Children) who voices Rei Ayanami and Pen Pen, Megumi Ogata who plays Shinji Ikari, Akira Ishida (Keiju Tabuki in Mawaru Penguindrum), Yuko Miyamura (Casca in Berserk – the girl in the training video in Battle Royale), Hiro Yuuki (Takaomi in Mysterious Girlfriend X), Miki Nagasawa (Mutio in Blue Submarine No.6), Maaya Sakamoto (Hitomi in Escaflowne). All of these anime listed I love which is just more reason to love the film.
Stage actor Masaaki Akahori makes his debut film by adapting one of his plays for the screen. It screened at this year’s BFI London Film Festival. The trailer looks good and it stars familiar names like Sakura Ando (Our Homeland, Love Exposure, For Love’s Sake), Denden (Cure, Cold Fish, Himizu), Hirofumi Arai (Blazing Famiglia, Helter Skelter), Takayuki Yamada (Thirteen Assassins, The Cat Returns, The Seaside Motel), Gou Ayano (Gantz, A Man with Style) and Masato Sakai who stars in Key of Life and I will have a review of that film ready for Monday!
Kenichi Nakamura (Masato Sakai) is the manager of a small ironworks who lost his wife (Maki Sakai) in a hit-and-run incident five years ago. Since then his life has become mundane. After the loutish driver Kijima (Yamada) who committed the crime is released from prison he receives threatening letters daily which state that both he and the anonymous writer will die on the anniversary of the incident. Kenichi’s friends and relatives try to stop him from embarking on his path of revenge but he is determined to avenge his wife.
The Cowards Who Looked to the Sky is based on a novel written by Misumi Kubo. It played at this year’s Toronto Film Festival and from this trailer and a review on the Japan Times it looks quite dramatic. It stars the beautiful Tomoko Tabata (Blood and Bones,TheHidden Blade), the handsome Kento Nagayama (Crime or Punishment?!?), the young Masataka Kubota (13 Assassins), Takahiro Miura (Tokyo Playboy Club), and Mieko Harada (Helter Skelter). This looks like a good realist drama.
Anzu (Tabata) is a depressed housewife who lives with a nagging mother-in-law and indifferent husband. When she attends an anime convention in cosplay she meets a teenager named Takumi (Nagayama). The two start an affair at Anzu’s home. At this point, those already in Takumi’s life go through emotional upheaval of their own as a classmate (Tanaka) confesses her love for him and his friend Fukuda (Kubota) finds himself at the mercy of a loan shark who has come to collect his mother’s debts. This is just the start of the emotional turmoil for all characters involved.
When I saw the title Beautiful World I immediately thought of Kino’s Journey and I smiled… Then I read the details and my heart broke a little bit. Alas, this has no connection to the wonderful anime. This is a drama set in the real world and it is directed by Hiroshi Nishitani who has had a varied career but his most interesting film, for me, is Suspect X based on the decent crime thriller The Devotion of Suspect X written by Keigo Higashino. For Beautiful World, he adapts a TV series which stars SMAP member Tsuyoshi Kusanagi who was last seen on the big screen in Dearest. Tsuyoshi is supported by Teruyuki Kagawa (Key of Life, Tokyo Sonata), Narumi Yasuda (Time Traveller: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time), Kaho (Funky Forest: The First Contact), Meisa Kuroki (Who’s Camus Anyway, Vexille), Shunsuke Kazama (From Up on Poppy Hill), and Tetta Sugimoto (Outrage, Departures). The trailer seems to be leaning towards the sentimental but Tsuyoshi looks like he might be capable of giving a great performance.
Former gangster Hikoichi (Kusanagi) is trying to live a straight life and takes up work at a convenience store. One day an old man named Yuzo (Sakai) robs the store but when the police arrest Yuzo they also arrest Hikoichi. Yuzo tells him that when he is in trouble he should see a man named Asahina (Uzaki). When Hikoichi is released from prison he travels to Taikai city to meet Asahina where a local government official named Teruo Yashiro (Kagawa) is running a welfare project that will cause problems for a community. The paths of these men will collide as Hikoichi comes to the aid of the community.
The Wolf Children was the first film I saw at the 56th BFI London Film Festival and a film I had been eagerly tracking all year. Despite being left cold by the director’s last film I went into this with an open mind and was soon won over.
Maybe you’ll laugh and say it’s a fairy tale. Think it too preposterous to be true. But it is a true story about my mother.
The Wolf Children is a story about identity and love between parents and children that takes place over thirteen years. It starts when a university student named Hana falls in love with Ōkami who is a “wolf man”. The two have children named after the weather on the day they were born – Yuki (Snow) the older sister and Ame (Rain) the younger brother. The four live quietly in Tokyo concealing the true nature of their existence. Then Ōkami leaves and Hana is faced with the prospect of being a single mother with two children who are half wolf.
The film’s writer and director Mamoru Hosoda is frequently compared to Hayao Miyazaki but while his work shows a similar ease at mixing the fantastical with realism there was always something forced and, in the case of Summer Wars, bland. The Wolf Children is different. Despite providing a familiar coming-of-age tale it is executed with subtlety, realism, detail and humanity, leaving the film feeling refreshingly natural and meaningful.
Till the field
The synopsis, trailers and character design suggest heart-warming fantasy fun but the film’s direction is rooted in realism which is used to underline the struggles faced by characters and depth of feelings felt by the characters. By presenting us with such detail the film defines itself and makes itself original and gripping.
We are first introduced to Hana and through a few deft details like dialogue and a family picture we understand her independent character. We then witness the courtship between Hana and Ōkami and while the idea of a wolf man and a human woman having children sounds outrageous it is handled in a subdued and naturalistic way whether it’s seeing Ōkami’s day job or Hana’s pregnancy cycle, morning sickness and all. The early quarter of the film tracks the parents who sacrifice their own identities as they build a family life. It ensures that we understand that Hana’s acceptance of Ōkami and her children is based on love.
When Ōkami leaves it is Hana who emerges as the hero. She exists in a universe which can be quite indifferent and must dig deep into her character to create a family life for the rambunctious and cute Ame and Yuki.
The wolf children are quite a handful. The script sets up many charmingly cute scenes where they are a recognisable and exhausting combination of child and puppy. They burst with energy and desire to be as mobile as possible, constantly morphing into wolves. This has genuinely amusing consequences like Ame and Yuki’s teething troubles ruining furniture and tantrums usually involving screaming, tears and sprouting whiskers and pointy ears.
While the situations start off as amusing it is clearly difficult to handle in a crowded place like a city and soon there is a believable undercurrent of fear faced by Hana. Walks in the park are impossible and living in an apartment with a no-pets policy becomes stifling as she restricts her children’s natural exuberance. Most menacingly the child welfare agency appear. All the while Hana is making things up as she goes along but never wavering despite exhaustion. Soon she takes the gutsy decision of moving to the country which opens the film up visually and offers a celebration of family, community and nature.
You have to be stronger
When Hana moves to the country she is initially an outsider herself with locals whispering things like “She’s going to start missing convenience stores”.
She buys a ramshackle house which is lovingly detailed in all of its disrepair. In a montage we see her fixing the place up and engaging in back-breaking farming. These activities display the beautiful animation and speak volumes on Hana’s hope, belief and determination in providing a future for her children. These sequences are most like the Ghibli classic My Neighbour Totoro but what defines TheWolf Children is the observation on the struggles that Hana faces and the refusal to be sentimental which I appreciated immensely.
Eventually Hana and her children are accepted, albeit by hiding their odd forms. While the negativity they faced in the city remains in the memory, the countryside folks exhibit all of the good qualities of Japanese society and the message of the film becomes one of community spirit, as voiced by one of the elderly characters when she says “We have to help each other”.
There is a consistent theme of nature and traditional values and it is told with no fuss. The use of montage and succinct sequences providing vignettes of daily life continue to track the change in the characters, seasons and nature.
With the change in location the film truly comes alive with brilliantly animated sequences which are truly breathtaking and capture spectacular scenes of the natural world in Japan. Mist wreathed mountains, surging waterfalls, endless fields, and dense forests are all vividly brought to life with vibrant colours and deep levels of detail. Gone are the claustrophobic close-ups of the city and in come long-shots of the terrain with the bright pink and blue of Ame and Yuki moving through it. The film moves the action onto a larger canvass as the wolf children experiment with their abilities like being a wolf up against cats and snakes, dashing through tall grass up trees and discovering which part of the natural world’s eco-system they belong to. The best sequence is an exhilarating chase over a snowy landscape as it evokes feelings of youth, discovery, freedom and joy.
While the titular wolf children can morph between human and wolf in the blink of an eye they face the same difficulties of growing that are universal to everyone, mainly the need to be accepted and know their place in the world and define themselves in their journey to decide whether they will be human or wolf while Hana must also learn to change her character as she watches them mature. Their character arcs are not completely original but thanks to the realism, playfulness and sharp characterisation we are anchored in their struggle and root for them. Every funny use of wolf transformation draws laughter, every dangerous situation draws gasps of shock (one woman in the audience gave a gasp so loud I initially misinterpreted as being part of the soundtrack) and every moment of love and growth draws a smile and, for many in the audience, tears of happiness.
Be human or wolf
I cannot praise the visuals or script enough but on top of direction, script and images, Hosoda also gets pitch-perfect performances from the voice actors. I especially loved the performances of the younger voice actors of Ame and Yuki.
Momoka Oona who plays the youngest version of Yuki is brilliant. Her voice overflows with such tomboyish enthusiasm and energy when she does particularly unladylike things like chasing cats and bagging snakes. Every growl, shout and squeal contained a childish and admirable joy of life and the determination to face the world around them.
Amon Kabe who plays the youngest version of Ame adds such depth to the script’s characterisation with his shy voice full of searching questions and a need for certainty and reassurance. Typical childhood things like fairy tales become sources of pain as he discovers the wolf is always the bad guy. Through him you feel the precarious nature of their situation.
They have the lion’s share of the film and the comedy and they essay their characters so well they become an intrinsic part of the character and remained the way I chose to remember how the characters sounded.
The Wolf Children has to be one of the best films I have ever seen. Its intelligent script and assured direction justify Hosoda’s high critical regard and wash away any doubts about his abilities. Despite echoes of the finest of Ghibli’s output, The Wolf Children feels like its own beast thanks to a script which mixes fantasy with realism and humanity that makes the film have substance. It is a film that pays tribute to Japan and Japanese culture while remaining universal because of its trio of characters who will charm and be familiar to us all.