Following MIT’s launch party for Professor Ian Condry‘s new book The Soul of Anime, there was a screening of director Mamoru Hosoda’s third full-length anime feature Wolf Children (2012). Hosoda’s first two features The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006) and Summer Wars (2009) established him as a top animator, but Wolf Children (2012) won the academy award for best Anime Feature in Japan for 2013. This event was thrilling for anime enthusiasts not only because it was the New England premiere, but because the director was there for Q&A after the show.
The story begins with a young college student, Hana, who takes up with a shapeshifter – her new boyfriend can change into a wolf at will. Before long he reveals his secret. Hana, in love, wont be without him, and they make the best of things. Eventually, they have two children, Yuki (Snow), and Ame (Rain). The girl is rambunctious, and the boy is cautious. They are half wolf as well, and growing up in the city is difficult for the young family. When the father doesn’t come back from hunting, Hana takes the children out to find him, when she sees a dead wolf being fished out of the river with a King Fisher in it’s mouth – she knows it’s him. Things go from bad to worse and she decides they must leave the city. They settle in a remote village, and the rest of the film is about the children growing up and what happens to them and Hana becoming a valued member of the community. Stunningly beautiful rotoscoping and layering bring the landscape to life and the characters grow with genuine feeling as the film progresses – a heart-felt fable of finding one’s way in the world when one feels outcast.
Mr. Hosada received a standing ovation as he took the stage. During the first half of the Q & A, Professor Condry asked Mr. Hosada questions about the motivation for making Wolf Children (2012), and about the themes that run throughout his work. Professor Condry translated Mr. Hosada’s answers into English for the audience.
Part of the motivation for Wolf Children (2012) Mr. Hosada said, was that he and his wife were having trouble trying to have children when they first married. They now have a daughter of five, but at the time, Mr. Hosada was interested in the relationship and bonding that happened between a child and its mother. All of his friends were having kids, and it looked like a tiring, yet fun adventure to Hosada and his wife. “When you have children…you can’t sleep and you lose your free time and I could see …it was difficult and troublesome, but at the same time, it seemed kinda really beautiful and cool. And it made us want to aspire to that kind of experience ourselves. It was kind of a prayer or blessing to see other people with children and to see them grow and to raise them, but also watch them become more independent and go their own ways. It was a really wonderful and remarkable thing to watch,” Hosada said.
The film allowed him to explore the themes of adaptability, acceptance, growth and change as he does in all of his films, but unlike Summer Wars, which was exciting and showed “the highs and lows within the film” Wolf Children (2012) was quieter. “With this film, I really wanted to make something where it showed a lot of respect and care in the way it represented raising children. And also the experience of being a child and the experience of being a parent. So more than trying to make people laugh or trying to make people cry, I was really trying to find the truth of what it meant to be a parent, and be a child and experience that.” The themes of struggle and how people face challenges was of interest to Hosada.“So, really, my concern here was to try to take the changes in people’s lives seriously, and to really show how people grow and how people change,” Hosada said.
The setting for the second half of the film was in the country similar to the area Mr. Hosada grew up in. It made it easier for him to create realistic adventures for the children since the setting was familiar territory that he remembered from his own childhood. He noted that this is an unusual film because the journey is through an entire thirteen years in two hours. “If you think of how long it takes to raise a child, well it’s easy to think, like thirteen years, ah, from babyhood and becoming, ya’ know, close to a young adult. Although there are a lot of films that are showing that relationship between parents and children, there are very few and maybe no examples that show that entire time frame.” When asked to discuss the imagery, Hosada said, “I was hoping to really give people the experience of what it was like to raise a child. But of course no one has the experience of raising wolf children.“ The audience laughed and reflected the exuberance that Hosada brings to his films. The evening was well received by all.