Wolf Children (Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki) (おおかみこどもの雨と雪)
Original Story by Mamoru Hosoda
Art by Yu
Published by Young Press, Yen Press from 2012 to 2013
Genres: [Seinen] Fantasy, Drama, Slice of Life
Status of manga: Completed*
My rating for the anime: 7/10
*Review based on entire manga series
4 Stars, Completed August 7, 2016
– SPOILER free –
Wolf Children essentially begins as a love story between a young university student named Hana and an enigmatic man who attends her college but isn’t exactly a student there. As they begin to fall deeply in love, he reveals that he’s not human and transforms into a wolf. Unwavering, Hana still accepts the “wolf man” into her life. They happily get married and have two healthy children: Yuki born on a snowy day and Ame during heavy rain. All is well until Hana’s husband is tragically taken away from the family (this is not a spoiler-I checked and it was in the book’s cover flap as well as Goodreads’ synopsis), and subsequently she becomes a single mother. Unable to keep her wild and expressive children away from the prying eyes of the people in a densely populated city, she soon makes the decision to move to the countryside. And there she and her family will have to face other plights but also many joys as well.
It seems like Hosoda had two goals in mind with this series: readers get a coming of age story with Yuki and Ame, but they also witness the troubles and hardships Hana endures as a single mother of two wolf children. This type of dual storytelling was achieved splendidly. Wolf Children also has such a touching narrative because at its heart are themes like the power of love and the perseverance and strength an individual can gain after experiencing loss. Furthermore, it manages to include other important motifs such as change and self-discovery as well.
Also, Hosoda uses a completely unique take on young parenting by using a dash of fantasy without overwhelming the very simplistic storyline. There’s no mythology or background shared about wolf people and absolutely no world building. Instead, Wolf Children remains as a lighthearted, slice of life series throughout. And I found that taking this approach worked in the series’ favor-mainly because Wolf Children takes a very character driven course.
I adore Yuki and Ame so much. Like most siblings, they’re totally different from each other. It was also refreshing that they didn’t follow usual gender stereotypes. Yuki grew up more as a rowdy tomboy and Ame a delicate and sensitive child. And as they grew older, both kids go through a lot of unexpected changes that will lead to their eventual divergence in path. And when that separation does happen, it occurs so naturally and realistic. I also really loved how the moment of self discovery for each kid were executed in such a paradoxical manner. Ame was born during the rainfall and he discovered his true calling in the winter, and Yuki born during snowfall decidedly wanted to live among humans when spring rolled around. Small details like this made this series even more incredible.
Hana is an admirable maternal figure. She handles young motherhood without ease, which is to be expected, but there’s never any doubt that she loves her children. The sacrifices and commitments she makes are always with Yuki and Ame in mind. I enjoyed her presence throughout the series immensely. However, my only problem was during the end of Ame’s arc, towards the conclusion of the series, Hana makes a rash and silly decision that will lead to several conflicts that could have been easily avoided if she chose the more obvious choice. It was so frustrating to witness that scene because it downright contradicted her earlier character. Other than that inconsistency, I was so fond of Hana and her loving nature.
In both the animation and manga, Yuki is the narrator; I found this clever decision to be very effective and efficient. Yuki can subjectively describe the strains her mother encounters while raising her and her brother, but she’s also able to recount the struggles she and Ame face as they choose between identifying with a wolf or a human. And, more importantly, it’s the reason that explains the ambiguity and obscurity of the wolf man’s arc. If her mother was the narrator, it couldn’t be justified why readers weren’t given more elaboration on the wolf man or the mythology on wolf people. And if it was in Ame’s perspective, readers wouldn’t get a true reflection on Yuki’s birth (since she’s the firstborn) or what yearning to be part of human society would be like (seeing as we get that only with Yuki in the later half).
And I actually believe the manga is even better than the corresponding film, which came as a huge shock seeing as the animation is the original work. I think this was due to the fact I wasn’t thoroughly enchanted by the movie’s soundtrack, which is a significant component that adds to my enjoyment of any anime. I also thought some scenes moved way too fast to draw an emotional response from me and found other parts to drag. Since the manga is divided into three volumes, I was able to set my own pace.
The art in Wolf Children is also nice and crisp. Yu’s illustrations really captures Mamoru Hosoda’s story, and I loved that the manga remained close to the original film’s plot-it didn’t miss a single scene. And, to my utter delight, the graphic novel included so many colored pages.
Overall, Wolf Children is certainly not as depressing as other readers have pointed out. Rather, it’s a lighthearted manga loaded with subtle humor and charm. Its ability in including significant themes and values with simplicity should be something to commend. And, once again, the characters are so sweet and memorable. The art is breathtaking and matches with the original animation perfectly. Wolf Children is a heartwarming story I really can’t recommend enough.