おおかみこどもの雨と雪 (Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki or The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki) is a movie by Hosoda Mamoru (Girl who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars), released July 21st in Japan this year. Owing to the fact that I actually went to a theatre and watched this (on a Monday afternoon in a non-central theatre, resulting in a showing with a grand total of 6 people in the audience), I am unable to provide screenshots.
Like his past works, Hosoda utilises a very simple drawing style for much of his animation, eschewing shadow work for a clean, muted look (some compare this with Takashi Murakami’s Superflat style, but the curves and colours are inherently different). What this means, however, is more budget for the background work and CG, which Hosoda brings to incredible levels with several breathtaking scenes set in the countryside. Character animation doesn’t suffer too much either, with characters in constant motion even in conversation scenes rather than simply sitting there with their mouths switching between three different frames. Character designer Sadamoto Yoshiyuki (Neon Genesis Evangelion) returns, providing crisp designs that are simple, realistic and yet easily differentiable within the movie.
Hosoda’s signature storytelling style is present as well, a kind of quiet kineticity that uses the dialogue as punctuation for what happens on the screen. As a result, the film as a whole possesses a very fluid nature with a build-up so effortless you barely notice it before the climax hits you, instead of the jittery this-is-one-scene-here’s-the-next problems that plague much anime in existence today.
The story itself, while fantastical in nature with the existence of the children themselves who are able to transform into wolves at will, is actually an extremely down-to-earth family drama about a young mother struggling to raise two children and the choices she has to make. Her childrens’ special nature makes it even harder, as it complicates common situations like falling sick (where do you go in these times, a hospital? Or should you rather a veterinary?) and going for walks, among others. The mother, who is undoubtedly the main character of the show (despite the title), shows incredible strength and resourcefulness, never breaking down and always facing adversity with a smile. Her answer to everything? Tenacity and books – after all, knowledge is power.
The second half focuses more on the children, who grow up and go on to assimilate into their respective societies of choice – one the human society, and the other the wild one. And as close siblings drift apart due to their separate paths, the mother’s worry becomes apparent – but having resolved to allow them to choose from the start, she comes around in the end, satisfied with the outcome of her many years of work.
As a conclusion to a short, simple review, let me just say that this film is like a two-in-one family drama – first, the struggle to raise the children by a lone mother, and second, the coming-of-age story of two siblings who grew up following two very different paths. It doesn’t bother to add anything else that it doesn’t have to be, and in the process delivers a refreshing experience that flows like a clear mountain stream and leaves one at the end with a quiet tranquility and a warm, albeit bittersweet afterglow.
Yes, I recommend this. It’s beautiful – in both story and visuals. What more could you ask for?