Caught Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki, or simply Wolf Children by the way of the NYICFF, from FUNimation. The sold-out showings today also came with a side of Mamoru Hosoda presenting his works to the crowds. He was much more affable this time around than last I saw him for Summer Wars three years ago. I guess he is receiving things well, having won a Japan Academy Prize just a couple days ago.
I’m going to just dive in to the Q&A-related material, because it explains the film very well. Unfortunately it probably won’t make a lot of sense if you have not seen the movie. To that end, let’s just say it’s a great film and you should watch it.
But yes, Hosoda did a great job explaining the film. One of the very first questions during the after-film Q&A was like this:
Q: Why did you make the film so depressing?
*Everyone basically laughs*
Hosoda: How old are you?
Q: I’m 8 years old.
Hosoda: Well, people at different ages might see things differently. While you might think the film is depressing now, when you watch it again when you are 15 or 20 years old, you may no longer think it’s depressing.
There were a few more notes from that question but I don’t remember exactly what they were. What I do remember was that one question/answer lit the lightbulb in my head and it helped me “get it.” I’ll just paraphrase the rest. Basically the idea behind Wolf Children is that he wanted to do a film from the parents’ point of view, and carry it across to the audience (who might very well be children). In fact one of the questions point out exactly how rare it is to have the mother’s point of view throughout the entire film, for the for-the-family, children-friendly animation genre.
The thing with the parents’ point of view is that it is a perspective that is incredibly foreign to children. I don’t really think kids can possibly appreciate it. They might see the film for what it is–which is kind of the story about a single mom raising a pair of wolf-kids. It’s not much for show, and in a lot of ways it’s also not obvious as to how the film’s plot ties in thematically towards the end. But I think if we speak about themes, it’s a truck load of parent-angst. I think that’s one of the most brilliant thing you can do for this genre of films, coming from the “something for the parents and something for the kids” point of view.
Another important theme to the film has to do with how people change as they grow up, much like how Yuki was much more like a wolf but went with humans, and Ame was much more like a human but went wolf. It’s another thing Hosoda explained to another curious actual-kid. On that point I thought Ame’s call of the wild was especially well-done.
At least if you find your dad dead in a ditch after him not coming home one day, you now have something to couch your feelings in. And yes, this was one of the more subtle commentaries Hosoda raised at one point to explain the reason behind that scene.
Lastly, 2 more notes:
It took Hosoda and his team three years to make the movie. Before beginning he and his wife was trying to have a kid. After post-production, he became a dad. It’s a pretty cool coincidence given the nature of this film.
The rain animation was top notch. It’s not CG but it’s definitely the miracle of some quality digital composition. The whole dream-land-flowerscape stuff, just visually wonderful. Shinkai’s new rain anime might not even top the rain animation here, although it will have to come down to a side-by-side comparison to make a final call.