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Wolf Children (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 6, 2013 by  



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“Wolf Children” has turned out to be a magnificent, touching and gorgeous film on Blu-ray!  Mamoru Hosoda’s films have always been about quality, from its overall look but most importantly,  storytelling that is absolutely captivating.  If you are looking for an animated film on Blu-ray, “Wolf Children” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2013 FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Wolf Children

ANIME THEATRICAL RELEASE DATE: 2012

DURATION: 117 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), DolbyTrue HD 5.1, Japanese DolbyTrue HD 5.1, English subtitles

COMPANY: FUNimation

Release Date: November 26, 2013

Directed by Mamoru Hosoda

Screenplay by Mamoru Hosoda, Satoko Okudera

Music by Masakatsu Takagi

Animation Director: Takaaki Yamashita

Art Director: Hiroshi Ohno

Anime Production: Studio Chizu

Featuring the following voice talent:

Aoi Miyazaki/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Hana

Takao Osawa/David Matranga as Ookami/Wolf Man

Amon Kabe/Alison Viktorin as Ame (Child)

Haru Kuroki/Jad Saxton as Yuki

Momoka Ono/Lara Woodhull as Yuki (Child)

Takuma Hiraoka/Jason Liebrecht as Souhei

Yukito Nishii/Micah Solusod as Ame

Experience the latest masterpiece from the internationally-acclaimed, award-winning director of Summer Wars.

Hana was a student before she was a mother. She was bright and pretty, and her future held endless possibilities. Then she met a man, who turned out to be a wolf, and together they built a family.Hana loved her mate fiercely, but fate took him from her, leaving her alone with two unusual kids she didn’t know how to raise. Frightened of being discovered, Hana and her wolf children fled to the countryside to build a new life. Raising her little wild things was an adventure. It left Hana bruised, scratched, exhausted, and joyously overwhelmed as her pups grew stronger and wandered further every day. This is a mother’s journey. Teach your children to chase their dreams – and smile through the tears as they disappear into the world in search of who they will become. Hana wasn’t always a mother, but it was always what she was meant to be.

From filmmaker and animator Mamoru Hosoda, founder of Studio Chizu (“The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, “Summer Wars”) comes his latest film “Wolf Children”.

A box office success in Japan, the film would feature technical and star talent.

Directed by Mamoru Hosoda and co-written by Hosoda and Satoko Okudera (“Summer Wars”, “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”), character designs by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (“Evangelion”, “Gunbuster”, “.Hack” series, “FLCL”), background art by Hiroshi Ohno (“Akira”, “Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine”, “Kiki’s Delivery Service”) and animation direction by Takaaki Yamashita (“Digimon” films).

Talents of the Japanese version of the film would feature big screent alents Aoi Miyazaki (“Nana”, “Solanin, “Colorful”, “Honey and Clover”) and Takao Osawa (“Hoshi no Kinka”, “Utsukushi Hito”, “Dessin”).  The film would also feature first time voice talents Amon Kabe, Haru Kuroki, Momoka Ono, Takuma Hiraoka and Yukito Nishii.

The film was released on Blu-ray on November 2013 courtesy of FUNimation.

“Wolf Children” begins with a narration by a young woman named Yuki who tells a story about her mother Hana and how she fell in love with a man named Ookami who was actually a wolf and can transform to human or wolf form. And despite his appearance, Hana accepted him for the way he is and loved him unconditionally.

Yuki and Ookami would eventually have two children and like father, they can also transform into a wolf.

Ookami and Hana were proud parents of Yuki and a son named Ame.  Yuki was always mischievous as a child.  Each time she would get frustrated or upset, her wolf characteristics would always come out.  While young Ame, was a baby at the time.

Ookami would usually hunt for food to feed his family, but one day, Ookami never came home.  As Hana with her two children along with her, she goes to look for Ookami and in the middle of a street is a dead wolf, who happened to be Ookami in wolf form.

And as Hana struggled to keep her children’s wolf existence a secret, the Japanese child protection service wanted to see the children because Hana never had them receive their immunization shots or had them seen by a doctor.

And because Ame was a baby, his crying would lead to complaints from the neighbors and their howling would eventually lead the landlord to believe that Hana was illegally having dogs in her home.

Wanting to protect her children and to get away from any trouble for her children, Hana Yuki and Ame move away from the city to live in the rural countryside and takes an old, dilapidated home that would be rent-free but would require renovation.  And to make things even better for Hana, no one lives close to her home.

And as Hana tries to raise her two children by herself, she tries to learn about how to repair her home, how to grow vegetables in her yard.  But to her surprise, her vegetables die from disease.  But her neighbors eventually come to help her grow crops.  But as Yuki has come to love her new environment, Ame doesn’t really like it.

Seen as weak by her sister, Ame wants to toughen up and during a cold snowy winter, he decides to go after a fish but instead, loses his footing in the moving river and nearly drowns but is rescued by Yuki in wolf form.  Feared to be dead, Ame is fine from his accident but from that day forth, because of that incident, he has grown.

Meanwhile, as Hana is older, her mother wants both children to grow up normally and enlists them in school, as long as they can keep their wolf transformation a secret.  Something that Hana is really looking forward to, unlike Ame who is not too interested in school.

And as Hana tries to fit in with the other humans, Ame starts to develop a closeness towards the countryside.  But as Hana has given her children some freedom, what happens when Ame is tested to hide her wolf-side from her classmates and what happens when Ame is not interested in going to school and is inspired by something out in the wilderness?

This is a story about a mother and her children and a coming-of-age story for both children through their years living with their mother.

VIDEO:

“Wolf Children” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1).  There are a few things that I must point out about this fantastic film when it comes to its look and character designs.  Despite having a Studio Ghibli flair, this is not a Studio Ghibli film.  This is a film that utilizes Mamoru Hosoda’s direction and writing, the character designs by Evangelion’s Yoshiyuki Sadamoto and a dedication to art especially backgrounds thanks to the crew of Studio Chizu.

The film is absolutely beautiful too look at.  Striving to have the same quality of Studio Ghibli films, the art background and detail of environments and objects is magnificent.

“Wolf Children” is colorful, vibrant and one can easily appreciate the film’s character designs but also its lush backgrounds with greenery of the countryside, blue skies or even the weather changes of the area outside of Hana’s home.

Contrast is strong, I detected no banding or artifacts.  “Wolf Children” looks amazing on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Wolf Children” is presented in English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and the lossless audio is quite impressive.  From the first half hour featuring the family in the city area and hearing cars passing by, there is good use of the surround channels for cars speeding by and the direction the audio pans for those scenes.  While the countryside captures the sounds of the streams, the wind, the rain and storm and more.  Dialogue and music is crystal clear and for both Japanese and English soundtracks, both are well-acted and I was quite pleased with the lossless audio soundtrack for both tracks.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Wolf Children” features the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary  – FUNimation ADR director Mike McFarland interviewing voice talent Colleen Clinkenbeard, David Matranga, Alison Viktorin, Jad Saxton, Lara Woodhull and more.
  • June 18, 2012 – Japan Premiere– (16:02) Featuring a premiere in Japan with director Mamoru Hosoda, Aoi Miyazaki(voice of Hana), Takao Osawa (voice of Wolf Man), Amon Kabe (Child Ame), Yukito Nishii (Ame), Haru Kuroki (Yuki) and Momoka Ona (Child Yuki).
  • June 25, 2012 – World Premiere in Paris – (7:04) Featuring the world premiere in France with director Mamoru Hosoda and actress Aoi Miyazaki.
  • July 16, 2012 Theme Song Premiere & Stage Greetings – (9:55) Ann Sally and composer, Masakatsu Takagi, Mamoru Hosoda and Aoi Miyazaki.
  • July 21, 2012 Opening Day Stage Greetings – (17:19) Featuring Opening Day in Japan with director Mamoru Hosoda, Aoi Miyazaki(voice of Hana), Takao Osawa (voice of Wolf Man), Amon Kabe (Child Ame), Yukito Nishii (Ame), Haru Kuroki (Yuki) and Momoka Ona (Child Yuki).
  • August 7, 2012 “Hana’s Day” Appreciation Stage Greetings – (6:40) Featuring “Hana’s Day” appreciation with Aoi Miyazaki, Takao Osawa and director Mamoru Hosoda.

EXTRAS:

“Wolf Children” Blu-ray also comes with the DVD version and a slipcover.

A beautiful film from Mamoru Hosoda and the crew of Studio Chizu, once again Hosoda manages to deliver another beautiful and brilliant film.

For longtime viewers of animated films, there are too many banal films that come out in Japan but what you want to see are films that can have the same quality in visual presentation but also when it comes to storytelling and as always,  Studio Ghibli is a company that many other films from different studios are often compared to.

Almost similar to the U.S. when there is a CG animated film and often a response is how it compares to a Disney Pixar film, the same can be said to any Japanese animated film with high production quality. Is it as good as a Ghibli film?  And I happen to like this type of push because it inspires creativity but also better storytelling.

We have seen fimmakers such as Hosoda and Makoto Shinkai, two men who are dedicated in having a balance of beautiful imagery but also storytelling.  In fact, for Hosoda, what he has been able to accomplish in films such as “The Girl Who Leaped Through Time” and “Summer Wars” is the ability to add sci-fi elements combined with dramatic themes.

Similar to Studio Ghibli films (albeit not getting into the more deeper subjects that affect humanity or the planet which Miyazaki was always going for in order to send a message), for “Wolf Children” it’s first and foremost a film about nurture and nature.

A mother wanting to protect her wolf children from harm, but learning to give them the freedom to choose what side of life they are most comfortable living.

Children who were born with wolf characteristics but must hide it from the public and for Yuki, she is one to accept humanity and to live the life of a normal girl while trying to maintain her secret.  While Ame is not like his sister, not too thrilled about life in the country, not to thrilled to be among the other kids and just not fitting in.

But for Yuki, life as a student is made much more difficult when a boy who has moved to the area, wants to get close to her.  Meanwhile, for Ame, since exposing himself to hunting for fish and feeling comfortable as a wolf than a human, he loves being part of the wild.

And this begins a conundrum as Mother wants her children with her but knows deep inside that her children see life differently from each other.  And for Yuki, it’s one thing to hide her secret but she wants her younger brother to be human, while Ame wants Yuki to accept her wolf-side and not try to be so human.

It’s a fascinating conundrum and to see how things begin to spiral out of control for the family especially as wolf years versus human years are much different.  And a mother who has protected them from the beginning, knowing that her children are growing older and the idea of losing her children is very difficult for her to bare.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality for this film is fantastic.  A vibrant, colorful film with amazing detail on painted art backgrounds and an interesting style of character design from Evangelion’s Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, the film has a taste of classic Ghibli but also seeing how Studio Chizu’s focus of maintaining quality, this is a beautiful animated film with amazing detail and clarity.  The lossless audio is also wonderful with crystal clear dialogue and soundtrack, both English and Japanese soundtracks are great and they are both well-acted.

You also get an insightful audio commentary for the English dub soundtrack and several screening events for “Wolf Children” in Japan.

Overall, “Wolf Children” has turned out to be a magnificent, touching and gorgeous film on Blu-ray.  Mamoru Hosoda’s work has always been about quality, from its look but most importantly, the storytelling.  If you are looking for an animated film on Blu-ray, “Wolf Children” is highly recommended!

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