Director Mamoru Hosoda has many wonderful films to his name, but there is one in particular that I’m incredibly fond of – Wolf Children. Although the film has been out since 2012, the recent boom in light novels has led to publisher Yen Press licensing the novel adaption for the West. Today I’m here to find out if the book is as captivating as the movie.
Wolf Children tells the story of college student Hana, who falls in love with a man who can transform into a wolf. Together they have two children: Yuki and Ame (named after the Japanese words for snow and rain), but when their father suddenly passes Hana is left to raise the half human/wolf children on her own. With no one to turn to for advice and a fear of the children’s secret being found out, Hana struggles to decide how best to live her life to protect the two. So begins a story of motherhood, of coming of age and finding your path in life.
What I love about Wolf Children is how it follows Hana, Yuki and Ame for many years. We see the kids from birth right up to the start of high school and it’s a journey packed full of emotion. After Hana receives complaints about ‘howling in the night’ from her neighbours not long after Ame is born, she moves her family out of the city and into the countryside. This move is difficult for her, being in the middle of nowhere and only having herself to rely on, but it gives Yuki and Ame the chance to decide how they want to live their lives: as wolves or humans.
As much as this story is about Hana and her struggles as a single mother, it’s also about the kids choosing how to live their lives. Throughout the course of the story, we see the children change in personality and develop differently. From a young age, Yuki is fearless, often in wolf form, taunting local wildlife and bringing bugs home to Hana. However, when she attends school for the first time she begins to see that the way she acts isn’t the same as those around her and she starts to behave as a human first and foremost.
Ame, on the other hand, has been a weak child since birth; his early years are spent clinging to Hana and quietly reading books or lost in thought. As he grows older however, he begins to spend more time as a wolf learning about nature all around their home. He’s still quiet, but it’s more an unspoken confidence and aloofness than the sickly, scared child he was before.
Hana for her part just wants what’s best for Yuki and Ame. She doesn’t really change over the course of the tale, but she still has a great deal of depth to her. Always cheerful, unwilling to give up, and supportive – she’s a brilliant mother. She misses her husband and wishes she had asked him more about his own upbringing, but she makes the best of what she has.
I quite like that Wolf Children is so versatile in its storytelling. It appeals to different audiences with its small cast. Older readers will appreciate Hana’s story and all that she does for her children, while younger readers will be absorbed in the antics of Yuki and Ame. It’s perfectly balanced so that everyone should find something to like here.
The only minor concern I have is that the book (written by Mamoru Hosoda himself) doesn’t offer anything different to the film. I was hoping for a bit more insight into the thoughts of Hana, but the book is completely faithful to the movie and doesn’t add or remove anything. This is a shame because it’s hard to recommend the book to newcomers when the film is so good and is easily accessible, while returning fans won’t be getting anything new out of the experience. Arguably the manga (also licensed by Yen Press), is a better addition to a fan’s collection, given the wonderful artwork on show.
Having said that, if you love Wolf Children as much as I do and are looking for a new way to experience the story again, then this does the job. It’s well written and being less than 200 pages makes it a fairly quick read too. If you’re someone who wants to own everything to do with a property then there is no reason not to pick this novel up.
As previously mentioned Wolf Children comes to the West in an attractive hardcover edition thanks to Yen Press. The book has been translated by Winifred Bird and the translation reads well.
Overall Wolf Children offers an emotional look at motherhood and growing up. While this novelisation may not be for everyone, Wolf Children is certainly a story worth experiencing and if you decide to try this version, you’ll enjoy your time with it.