Be wary, there are spoilers ahead!
Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children centers on the character Hana, a young college student who falls in love with a mysterious and aloof man. As their love develops, Hana discovers that the man she cherishes is actually half wolf. But Hana, being the caring person that she is, accepts this side of him, eventually giving birth to a beautiful baby girl named Yuki.
Not long after the birth of their son Ame, the father dies in an accident. His animal instincts got the better of him, and he ends up getting caught in a storm drain. This scene in particular is really sad, as Hana is forced to watch the love of her life’s corpse be treated, well, like an animal.
Wolf Children resonated with me in ways that I would have never expected. At its core, Wolf Children is the story of a single mother doing her best to raise two kids after the passing of their father. And depending on each viewer’s individual upbringings, this type of story could have varying levels of emotional impact.
After the death of the father, the film’s next major turning point is Hana’s decision to move her family into the mountains, as attempting to raise two half wolf children in the city is quite the challenge. You see, the name Wolf Children isn’t just some cute title, the kids literally behave like human children and wolf cubs. The same way that they make messes during dinner time and leave their toys out, they also chew up furniture, have accidents in the house and howl deep into the night.
At no point during the early parts of the film does Hana ever attempt to force her children to behave more like humans than wolves, or vice versa. She fully understands and accepts that they are equal parts human and animal, and her decision to move into the mountains highlights this belief.
Hana believes that by moving Yuki and Ame into the mountains, she is giving them to freedom to be whatever they want to be. This is best demonstrated by Yuki’s excitement at being able to freely roam the forest in her wolf form, and Ame’s reluctance to leave the safety of his new home.
To briefly talk about Ame’s character development, some of the best scenes in the film are when Ame is learning more and more about his wolf heritage. The two best examples are his questioning of why the wolf is always the bad guy in the stories, and his encounters with an elderly wolf at a local animal habitat.
The Struggles Of Being A Single Parent
While I don’t have any experience with being a parent, single or otherwise, I do know what it’s like to grow up in a single parent household. I know what it’s like to see someone work tirelessly to provide her kids with everything they want and need, and this is why Hana’s character resonates so well with me. I can relate to her struggle, and seeing the sacrifices she was willing to make for Yuki and Ame really made me feel connected to her.
Being a parent in general is no easy feat, but how does one go about raising children who are just as much animal as they are human? What type of care do you provide for them that fits the needs of both parts them? These are things that Hana is forced to learn throughout the course of the film. As I stated before, her main goal is to give Yuki and Ame the choice to embrace whatever side of them they so choose. But this also means that Hana is forced to deal with her own set of expectations for her children.
While Yuki chooses to hide her wolf heritage and become a normal human girl, Ame is the exact opposite. Ame fully embraces his animal side, and this presents a huge moral dilemma to Hana. At one point in the film, Ame makes a decision to abandon his human family, and become the guardian of the mountain and the forest. As Hana is pleading with her son to reconsider, she stops herself right before she can finish telling him that he’s not an animal, he’s just a little boy.
This is the first time where we see Hana really break down. Up until this point, she has always tried to appeal to both sides of her children, and give them the freedom of choice. But having to deal with her son leaving and placing himself in danger is more than enough to want to force him be human, resulting in perhaps the film’s most poignant scene
Yuki and Ame
One thing that Wolf Children does that I find really clever is the way in which it twists our expectations for Yuki and Ame. During the early parts of their childhood, it seems clear which parts of themselves each child is choosing to embrace. Yuki is very obviously in love with being a wolf, and Ame simply wants to be a normal boy, as the animal lifestyle is too overwhelming for him.
This all changes when the children start school. While Yuki easily makes friends with the girls in her class, they are a bit turned off by her wild side. Yuki loves playing in the dirt and scavenging for bugs, something the other girls aren’t fond of (it should be noted that the other girls are never mean to her, they just find her a bit strange).
Yuki’s inability to fit in with the other girls causes her to forget her animal side, and become a normal school age girl. She goes from chasing rabbits in the forest, to asking Hana to make her skirts and dresses.
As previously mentioned, Ame is initially scared of being an animal, as the big bad wolf always gets killed by the farmer at the end of the story. But when he starts school, he is constantly picked on by the other boys (usually resulting in Yuki coming to his rescue). The bullying in conjunction with his frequent treks through the forest with his sensei result in a completely different Ame, one that more closely parallels his father’s stoic nature.
To Each Their Own Path
In the end, each child takes control of their future, in spite of the fact that they must leave their mother behind to do so. Yuki chooses to take her school studies abroad, while Ame leaves behind his human life to protect the mountain.
While it’s sad to see Hana left alone in her mountain home, it’s hard to stay that way for long when you see how happy she is. Every parent’s goal is to see their children grow up healthy and strong, and pursue their dreams wholeheartedly. At the end of the day, Hana is able to listen to her son’s howls from the mountaintop and know that she did her job, and was an excellent, nurturing mother.