On March 9, 2013, I went to the New York International Children’s Film Festival (NYICFF) to see a new animated film, WOLF CHILDREN (2012), by Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda, who appeared after the screening for a Q&A with the audience. I had seen Mr. Hosoda’s previous animated film, SUMMER WARS (2009), when it had premiered at the NYICFF on the night of a blizzard in February 2010 and Mr. Hosoda had appeared and done a Q&A there also. Before these two films, Hosoda had directed THE GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME (2006) and the first two movies spun off from the Digimon animated series, DIGIMON ADVENTURE: BORN OF KOROMON (1999) and DIGIMON ADVENTURE: OUR WAR GAME (2000).
Hosoda’s films recall the animated masterpieces of Hayao Miyazaki (MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, PRINCESS MONONOKE, SPIRITED AWAY, et al) in the way they mix sharply etched young protagonists with supernatural elements and ample doses of humor to tell powerful humanistic stories of families coping with the traditional Japanese conflict between tradition and modernity. WOLF CHILDREN may be his most emotionally mature work yet as it focuses on a young widowed mother and her two young children, the offspring of a liaison with a mysterious stranger who revealed himself to be a wolf with the capacity to turn human. After the wolf dies a sudden, unexplained death, the mother, Hana, struggles to care for the children while shielding them from neighbors who might not welcome children with the habit of turning into wolves at inopportune moments. In the course of the story, Hana moves to a remote mountain farming village to try and raise daughter Yuki and son Ame far from prying eyes. As young children, Yuki had been more aggressive and wolf-like and Ame more sensitive and hesitant to display his animal tendencies. As they get older, however, Yuki strives to fit in at school, tone down the wolf behavior, and assimilate with her human classmates, while Ame hears the call of the wild and begins venturing deeper and deeper into the forest, making for a very unusual coming-of-age story.
While Mr. Hosoda was in town for the NYICFF, I got the opportunity to interview him for Otaku USA, a print magazine devoted to anime and Japanese pop culture in America. The August 2013 edition of the magazine contains the interview and is now on sale at comic book stores and Japanese bookstores.
The Otaku USA website includes three related pieces of mine: the complete transcript of the interview; coverage of the Q&A on March 9; and a review of the film. Here are the links:
Also, my coverage of NYICFF in 2010 included remarks on SUMMER WARS, found in this link:
Following the Q&A on March 9, Mr. Hosoda agreed to sign Wolf Children posters with little character drawings for the hundreds of fans who’d attended the screening:
Which made for a lot of very happy fans.
The anime distributor, FUNimation, has the rights to WOLF CHILDREN in the U.S. and will release the film in theaters later this year and eventually on home video.
In a related note, back on Feb. 24, I devoted an entry here to four Japanese yakuza movies, including one called IRON GEISHA, which co-starred Bunta Sugawara and Junko Fuji, pictured here on the video cover:
Hosoda has used both performers as voice actors. Ms. Fuji played the pivotal role of Granny in SUMMER WARS, while Sugawara played the role of Grandpa Nirasaki in WOLF CHILDREN, a local farmer who gives Hana some crucial farming advice, as depicted here:
I asked Hosoda to comment on these casting choices and he does so in the interview linked above.