Blu-ray Review: Wolf Children

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Mamoru Hosoda’s third feature length film, Wolf Children, is finally here within the UK but what exactly do we think of this UK Blu-ray Release by Manga Entertainment? Find out in our Blu-ray Review of Wolf Children.

Synopsis:

19-year-old Hana is studying at university when she falls in love with a mysterious classmate with a highly unusual secret – he is the last descendant of Japan’s now-extinct grey wolves, and possesses the ability to transform into a wolf. Not daunted by this, Hana and her wolf man lover start a family, with energetic daughter Yuki (‘Snow’) soon followed by her more timid little brother Ame (‘Rain’).

But when tragedy strikes and her wolf man suddenly dies, Hana is left to cope with the two young children on her own – and both Yuki and Ame have inherited their dad’s power to shift between human and wolf form. Moving to the countryside and the seclusion of an abandoned old house in the mountains, Hana hopes to raise her family away from prying eyes …but life’s not that simple.

Our View:

Wolf Children is one of those films that won’t appeal to everyone, but amusingly it is because of this that everyone should watch it at least once to experience what it has to offer, which interestingly is a unique story of how a single-mother raised two children through difficult, unthinkable, situations. Of course a “coming-of-age” story doesn’t sound interesting, but when the children are actually half-human and half-wolf that’s where the surprises come.

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As the synopsis highlights the film follows the daily activities of Hana, who after falling in love with Ookami (the wolfman) they begin a family and end up having two children, Yuki and Ame. It’s not long before disaster strikes the household and in turn causes Hana, Yuki & Ame to move away into the countryside for a more peaceful life and away from prying eyes. It’s here where the story picks-up as we see both Yuki and Ame grow into their own independent roles, with Yuki attending school in hopes of being a normal girl while her little brother Ame spends time out in the woods learning the ways of the wolf.

The film can easily be separated into three segments, with each having their own positive and negatives, for instance the first segment of the film (which sees Hana encounter Ookami and the children being born) is mostly told from a narrated perspective and acts more like a continuous flashback. Combine this with long musical set pieces with no voice-over makes it a rather slow and dreary movie experience, even though it is intended to be emotional for the people involved. The second segment of the film, which returns to a more natural movie presentation, sees Hana attempting to get their lives back on track by moving out into the countryside, growing her own food and getting friendly with the neighbours, but even this leads to its own problems for the family with Yuki demanding that she can go to school. The third and final segment of the film sees the children grow-up into their early teens and make their own decisions in life, whether it be to live life as a human or as a wolf, with Yuki attending class and making friends while Ame coming to terms with his true “wolf” nature.

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While Wolf Children is a traditional (start to finish) film it does have a “flashback” feel to it, as Hana’s daughter Yuki is constantly laying down the foundations of the story. Its like Yuki is telling the story of how she was raised by her mother to a friend, but instead she is telling it to the viewers. The overall presentation is like James Cameron’s Titanic movie, whereby the past is being told to the present, however in this instance we never see the present, only the past. I can only assume this ‘narrative’ direction was taken to speed the film up, as majority of the time the characters are just walking around looking cute doing various daily chores, that is until towards the end of the film when everything turns serious and a harsh, but emotional, reality is forced upon Hana.

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It seems my expectations of Wolf Children may have been too high as while I personally enjoyed the film I was left slightly disappointed, mostly by its presentation but additionally by its developing story as it doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Summer Wars and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time both had good solid storylines and I expected the same with this, however with Wolf Children it’s basically a flashback of someone’s unique life. Of course there are twists to the story and comical moments (mostly involving Yuki) but nothing that ultimately surprises the viewer and things that you expected to go further, such as the friendship between Yuki and Souhei or their secret being let out, never take place. There is no mystery or danger, just a charming story of how one mother raised her unique children.

Wolf Children is a good family film, although it does have its questionable moments (breast-feeding, mild violence and partial nudity) and while it will bring smiles to people’s faces I can’t help feel that the movie could have been better presented.

Extras:

While I may have mixed feelings on the film my opinions on the extra content are easily positive, as a lot of content is provided and has something for everyone.

Wolf_Children_Extras

As you can see the extras included far exceed any expectations and provide plenty of “after-movie” viewing. Notable content is the Stage Greetings for various different locations and events as well as a PR Video with Director. Of course for those just interested in the “promotional” material there is plenty of that included as well, in the form of Japanese and English trailers.

  • US Actor & Staff Commentary
  • Stage Greetings
    – June 18, 2012 Japan Premiere
    – June 25, World Premiere in Paris
    – July 16, 2012 Theme Song Premiere & Stage Greetings
    – July 21, 2012 Opening Day Stage Greetings
    – August 7, 2012 “Hana’s Day” Appreciation Stage Greetings
  • PR Video Director’s Version 1
  • PR Video Director’s Version 2
  • Promotional Video
  • Original Trailer
  • Original Teaser
  • US Trailer

The extras really do offer everything you could possibly want and it’s nice to see everything included on the disc, additionally majority of the content is provided in High Definition. It’s also worth mentioning that all of the content (excluding the US Trailer & US Actor Commentary) are provided in Japanese with English Subtitles.

Specs:

Media:  BD50 x1
Region: B
Running Time: 1:57:13
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio:  Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Aspect Ratio
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:

Just like with Mamoru Hosoda’s other productions, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars, Wolf Children is a film that brings a lot of emotion to the screen within a relatively short space of time – combine this with a realistic story and lovable characters you soon find yourself enjoying the next two hours of your life.

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The one thing I can’t praise enough with this release of Wolf Children is the extra content and its High Definition presentation. The film is presented in full high definition and looks absolutely beautiful, the animation is detailed and offers a nice blend between CGI and 2D animation – something which is noticeable during the early segments of the film. It’s a film that (in my opinion) should only be watched in High Definition (on Blu-ray) as anything else would ruin the experience.

Audio quality is also enjoyable, with both English & Japanese Audio tracks provided in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 as opposed to 5.1 Surround or Stereo. The voices are a lot quieter than you would expect, but seeing as there are no explosions (except the thunderstorm later in the film) this shouldn’t pose any issues with the audio being too high for the neighbours. Audio quality aside for the moment both English & Japanese Audio tracks are well presented, though I did enjoy the Japanese subtitled version more than the English Dubbed verison, Ookami’s voice actor just doesn’t sit right with me – even though he was probably best suited to the role.

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Overall Wolf Children brings a lot of mixed opinions and emotions, but at the end provides a satisfying film that everyone will enjoy, it’s a nice treat for Christmas and well worth watching with the family, though there is some “questionable” content such as mild violence and partial nudity.

Score: review-stars-4

Wolf Children will be available on Blu-ray and DVD from the 23rd December 2013.

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About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

One Response to Blu-ray Review: Wolf Children

  1. Pingback: Manga UK To Host Third Community Event This Wednesday with Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children | AnimeBlurayUK

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