Wolf Children Ame & Yuki Review

I won’t say my expectations for Wolf Children were high, though I will say that considering director Mamoru Hosoda’s track record, I was prepared to watch something well… good. And while said expectations were met, I couldn’t help but think there still remained some untapped potential in this latest work.

Wolf Children Ame & Yuki poster

Wolf Children tells the story of Hana, a woman who unknowingly falls for a werewolf. The story begins with the two of them meeting at college—Hana working hard to balance classes and part-time jobs to pay off rent and the like. Meanwhile, the Wolfman spends his days performing manual labor while occasionally finding the time to sneak into college lectures, where Hana takes a sudden interest in him. While the whole idea of werewolf on human ackshun is a rather difficult pill to swallow, the film does do a fine job of at the least making the love between them endearing and the Wolfman’s untimely death that much more tragic all in the span of the first 20 minutes.

What follows after such Disney-levels of trauma is Hana’s journey in raising two wolf children as a single mother. Not only must she hide her children’s secret from the public (the film takes the Japanese lore of werewolves into account, which can transform at will rather than just on full moons), but she must also be able to provide for them in a society that is arguably just not made for them. The fact that Hana is able to just smile through her problems when she is clearly suffering on the inside just makes you empathize with her that much more, even if you aren’t a parent yourself.

My only real problem with the film is its approach to the wolf children as they grow up. At least in older sister Yuki’s case, her exposure to both the human and wolf lifestyle seems even enough for her to make a sound decision as to who she chooses to define herself as. With younger brother Ame, though, he seems to have chosen the lone wolf lifestyle early on without too much of a struggle, making his decisions later in the movie to come off as more selfish than selfless. More of a clash between the human and wolf life throughout the movie rather than in select parts would have definitely helped raise the drama overall. Certain scenes like a toddler-aged Ame crying over the wolf being the antagonist in his picture book really brings home the idea of a clashing of cultures that I wish was better emphasized throughout, especially since when it comes down to things, life isn’t as simple as choosing one “culture” of lifestyle over another. On the contrary, culture should be what you make of it.

As a whole, Wolf Children is your standard Hosoda-directed movie, with plenty of poignant moments throughout. Though in comparison to his other works, it definitely doesn’t stand out as prominently.

Further Reading: Interview with Mamoru Hosoda on Wolf Children at kokidokum.net

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Episodic Review: Digimon Adventure 21

Happy Digimon Day!

It’s been a full 13 years since Taichi and the gang saw snow during summer camp and were eventually sucked into the digi-world… and what better way to celebrate than with a throwback episodic review?

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Hosoda Wars

(First off, lemme just give a shoutout to Jason of blogsuki for even introducing me to “Summer Wars” in the first place. If you wanna expand your knowledge of non-mainstream anime, definitely check out his stuff.)

As awesome as Mamoru Hosoda’s “Summer Wars” was, I couldn’t help but compare it to the first Digimon movie, “Our War Game.” Curious, I decided to do a background check on Hosoda and whaddya know… turns out he directed that special, too, as well as a good number of other works I thoroughly enjoyed but had no idea he was behind until know. Quite the dude.

So, with Hosoda behind both “Summer Wars” this year and “Our War Game” a whopping nine years prior, I thought it’d be pretty nifty to compare and contrast the two with a final verdict on which one you should check out.


Comparison 1: Opening Credits sequence


Whether it be in comics, animated form, or any other form, I think this should just be one of those things expected when comparing someone’s multiple works. It’s a style they’re used to if only for the sole reason that they’re good at pulling it off. Totally understandable.

In both works, we’re introduced to the everyday happenings of everyday people, as each blurb is cut off by a stylishly plain title credit. Simple, but it just works so well.

Comparison 2: The internet / OZ

A good chunk of the action and plot revolves around some kind of digital world. In “Our War Game,” it’s the internet; in “Summer Wars,” it’s OZ, the Second Life of this world.

For the former, the kids’ digimon are transported to the realm of the internet to take on the movie’s baddie, while “Summer Wars” has the fights go on between user’s avatars. Both the digimon and the avatars represent their real-life counterparts in some way or another and is essentially controlled by them.

Now wait a sec—can’t it be argued that digimon actually do have wills of their own, similar to a certain other kids’ anime with cute monsters used to fight other monsters? Well if we’re talking mainly about the TV series itself, I’d say you’re right, but in the case with “Our War Game,” when Taichi loses internet connection temporarily, we clearly see his digimon, WarGreymon literally freeze up in the middle of battle because of such. Somewhat inconsistent with the whole idea of digimon having wills of their own? Maybe. Then again, I’m sure someone could out-nerd me and make a perfectly feasible counter to that, so I’ll just stop there.

Comparison 3: The Protagonist(s) / Plot


Probably the only major difference between the two movies. Since “Our War Game” is part of the digimon universe, it pretty much just makes use of part of the main cast of season one characters. With most of the gang out of town, only Taichi, Koushiro, Yamato, and Takeru are left to handle a virus-type digimon when it makes its way onto the web. And for the shippers out there, Taichi seems to be having some lady troubles with Sora when she gets the wrong idea about a gift she gets from him on her birthday. Fun stuff all around.

But while “Our War Game” feeds off of a number of previously fleshed out characters and concepts from its TV series, “Summer Wars” gets the same plot using a bigger cast as well as a longer run-time. You’re introduced to Kenji, a math nerd but overall alright guy and love interest, Natsuki, who’s one year his senior. One day, she takes him to her family’s estate, introducing a good majority of her huge family, who’ve all gathered there in celebration of Natsuki’s great-grandmother who, despite her age, is still as spunky and take-charge as ever. Little does Kenji know that Natsuki actually lied to her family, telling them out of fear of her great-gran’s age (not exactly getting any younger, y’know), that he’s her boyfriend.

From there, the virus story-line does a good job of seamlessly making its way into the movie as well as connecting to the story-line of the great-grandmother’s birthday. And, of course, the love story between the two lead characters does a good job of tying up all loose ends as well. (A much better end than the one between Taichi and Sora, if I do say so myself.)

Comparison 4: The Baddie

In both movies, a deadly virus with quite the playful personality wreaks havoc in the digital world, having its own repercussions in the real world. At first, the real world changes aren’t all that bad, ranging from traffic jams to incorrect pricings on food (and in multicolor fanciness as depicted in the corresponding digital world, t’boot!).


But over time things just end up stacking on top of each other, and the virus just makes things worse by sending a nuke (“Our War Game”) / satellite (“Summer Wars”) hurdling into the Earth. Oh, right, and it doesn’t help that both objects’ coordinates are set for the exact location of our heroes. Ouch.


And if that weren’t enough of a similarity, the protagonists of both movies are low on time, as the virus has already set things in motion. What a jerkface.

Comparison 5: Symbolism

And what’s a countdown to doomsday without a little fancy-schmancy symbolism to mirror the larger plot at hand. With “Our War Game,” this would be lead character Taichi’s mom baking a cake as well as side character Joe taking an entrance exam—both ending at the exact time that the nuke should strike down in Tokyo. While Joe’s side story is done more for a comic effect, the bit with Mrs. Yagami’s cake being a disaster, due the virus ended up messing with the oven among other tech devices in the world, is just great for being so closely related to the movie’s enemy. As for “Our Summer Games,” one of the family’s many members is busy pitching in a baseball game, each of his actions uncannily relating to the battle at OZ in one way or another.

Really, both do a good job of acting as a cute little aside as a break from all the action.

Comparison 6: The Final Fight

Alright, so the gloves have finally been removed and our heroes are ready to fight f’real this time. As the screen’s filled with some of the most awesome animated fight scenes in the history of forever, though, a snag’s hit and our heroes are put up against a wall. But… what’s this?


Yeah, the upside to a worldwide fight between digital representations of your real self is that plenty of other people are actually willing to help you out since well… there’s no real physical harm on their part. So, a come from behind victory with peace signs and “yatta”s all around pretty much tie things up for not one, but two great Hosoda works.

***

So there you have it, proof that even the greats double dip when they’ve got a good concept to run with. But wait, which one’s the superior work? Well, if you don’t want to be associated with kiddie shows… back off and don’t watch either, since even in this day and age, anime of any kind gets a bad rep in that respect. Seriously, though, both works have a good number of ups and downs with each other. What “Our War Game” lacks in depth and length is made up in the fact that there’s an entire series filled with backstory for each of the characters and the world they live in. And well… I’d say something “Summer Wars” is lacking in, but it’s actually pretty solid and can be considered the better of the two, if I really had to be picky, what with the addition of family drama within an incredibly quirky family.

When you get down to things, though, you can’t deny the fact that Hosoda pretty much bit off himself… but with good reason, though. I mean, who doesn’t love a good story that puts the Y2K bug to shame?

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