Well, I’ve been delinquent, haven’t I? I find myself behind three posts due to a lack of inspiration for anything besides fiction. Conveniently, Wolf Children and Whisper of the Heart contain similar themes. And so, I shall briefly write about them in the same post.
Curiously, Wolf Children is a werewolf movie, but it’s does not fall in the horror genre. As a matter of fact, I should prefer to call the Wolfman an ookami no youkai. This story reminds me of a Japanese fairy tail about a kitsune no youkai (fox spirit, fairy, demon, whatever translation pleases you) who is saved by a certain peasant, marries him, and bears him several children by way of gratitude before returning to the wild during the man’s old age. Unfortunately, the demise of Ookami happens immediately after they have their second child. Ookami is most unceremoniously done away with, leaving Hana the care of their two children.
Before I talk about how beautifully animated the movie is and how much we cheer for the main characters, I just want to get a few things off my chest: 1) If one likes someone enough to have them bear their children, they should marry. You know, to prevent any social stigma from falling on their beloved in case one should die or something. 2) Once we have established that Hana fully accepts Ookami for who and what he is, having Ookami embrace Hana while in wolf form before they make love destroys any gravity the writer intended to convey in the said scene. 3) Despite being a single mother, Hana’s virtues, especially her cheerfulness, work ethic, kindness, and youth, ought to have gained her as many suitors as Penelope. The film doesn’t speak about this, though Hana obviously becomes very popular with her neighbors in the countryside. Admittedly, the film might have become less focused if they had included this matter, but it would have added more realism to the film unless Japanese men hold single mothers in utter disdain. 4) Snow is cold. One doesn’t roll around in snow while barefoot and in pajamas.
Besides those things, Wolf Children is a spectacular movie about self-sacrifice and finding your place in the world. I loved its portrayal of rural Japan in particular. There was both a spirit of self-reliance and community blossoming there, and the backgrounds were downright gorgeous. Hana leads an incredibly hard life, and we cheer for her as she raises children who need to be watched around the clock. Ame’s struggle to accept himself as more wolf than human was very compelling. An excellent film!
On the other hand, the only matter which I might complain about with Whisper in the Heart lies in its plot not being very imaginative: a high school girl struggles to find her dream and falls in love on the way. However, the artful way they crafted the story and characters within this ordinary scenario–such that the viewer is not bored for one moment–deserves great praise. The antique shop, Shizuku’s imagination, and the wandering cat, Moon, do succeed in adding that level of fantasy which we are used to seeing in Studio Ghibli films. One might say that they displayed remarkable restraint in giving us a story set in a very ordinary world, where one needs to examine it closely in order to perceive the magic within it and its people.
Indeed, the level of reality in the film is so impressive that one might find themselves in certain of the characters or even their own family in Shizuku’s. I especially enjoyed the way the film handled the conflict between Shizuku and her family over Shizuku’s dream, which conflicts with the ordinary path taken by Japanese children. One needs to watch this remarkable film!