We've been discovering some amazing Japanese animations this month which we would love to share with you! All of these animations are connected in some way to Studio Ghibli. First up we have two movies from Studio Chizu, directed by Mamoru Hosoda, which have key themes of childhood, and what it's like to feel on the outside. Both exquisitely drawn, slice of life anime, and each incorporating a generous twist of total fantasy.
Wolf Children Ame and Yuki
おおかみこどもの雨と雪 Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki (2012).
Wolf Children is such a heart-warming movie.
It's a gently paced slice-of-life anime with a wild plot twist straight out of Japanese folktale. This is a tale of Ōkami, the wilder cousins of kitsune.
Ōkami (wolf) and kitsune (fox)
It's a story about being who you are, the joys and hardships of growing up, and how deep a mother's love runs for her children.
In many ways, the scenes of the children's growing up are ordinary and familiar. They contrast exquisitely with the secret the reserved family are compelled to keep - Yuki and Ame's father was a werewolf!
These children can turn into wolves at will, and they are adorable when they do it. But, at the same time it serves as a deeper-running metaphor for any child who has any sort of hardship to overcome. The care and worry of the mother for her children as they grow is easy to empathise with.
This movie is beautifully drawn. The scenic backdrops of the mountains and forests burst with nature: crashing waterfalls and misty ravines envelop us in the wilderness.
The children are delightfully playful when they are young in the same exuberant way that Satsuki and her little sister Mei are in Ghibli's My Neighbour Totoro. And just as Miyazaki draws out time in his movie to focus on a raindrop as it falls into a puddle, in Mamoru Hosoda's anime the play time is drawn out like a long summer's day. It's so reminiscent of the way summer holidays seem to last forever when you're small :) I love the way that time extends for all the minutiae in a little child's day.
The Director, Mamoru Hosoda
The director of this wonderful movie, Mamoru Hosoda, is an alumni of Studio Ghibli, and was inspired to become an animator having watched Miyazaki's first anime The Castle of Cagliostro. His first position as an artist was at Toei Animation where he worked on the first two films in the Digimon Adventure series.
Although his work for Studio Ghibli didn't work out owing to creative differences, it is clear that Miyazaki has been an influence on the heart-warming films of Mamoru Hosoda.
Mamoru Hosoda's clear artistic vision has enabled him to release the most beautiful anime under the name of his own production company, Studio Chizu. The movie that we're going to look at next is Mirai no Mirai from 2018, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.
Mirai no Mirai
Kun meets his little sister for the first time
It's interesting that sandwiched between Wolf Children (2012?) and Mirai no Mirai (2018) is the ground-breaking hit Your Name (2016) by Makoto Shinkai. Where Makoto Shinkai incorporates huge cosmic themes as well as body swaps in Your Name in order to incorporate time travel, in Mamoru Hosoda's Mirai no Mirai the film is entirely centred within the 5-storey architect-designed home where the little boy's world is. The only time our protagonist, Kun, steps outside his little world of home is when his tantrums propel him into an alternative world that is either in the past or the future.
Kun's strange new reality cannot be seen by grownups, but he can be joined there by an older version of his new baby sister. Her name is Mirai, which lends itself to the title of the film, because mirai means 'future' in Japanese.
In earlier Zusetsu blogs we've seen many Japanese tales dating back over a thousand years which enjoy the use of anthromorphism: a beloved flower turns into an aristocrat; or a spurned lover turns into a dragon; or a woman turns into a white fox.
Kun is introduced to his alternative reality by way of the family pet dog, who becomes human. Kun learns to understand the little dog's needs through the sequence where he magically becomes the dog - it's a lovely nod to Mamoru Hosoda's earlier anime Wolf Children, which we looked at earlier!
Kun's parents notice the change in him. It's where he begins his path to understanding that he is an important part of his family :)
The camera work that follows this little boy as he unsteadily makes his way from floor to floor in his designer home is astonishing. And it's intriguing, that while he does walk to the front door, he never really steps beyond it. All of his 4-year old world is within the walls of home. The garden is central to the intriguingly built house, and it is here that his fantasies occur. By carefully showing us Kun within his day-to-day world of toys and parents and pet at home, we can appreciate the immense impact that the little baby makes when she arrives into his safe and ordered world.
It is an amazing film. It is drawn with such empathy for the little boy who cannot express his feelings when his mum and dad are preoccupied with his new baby sister.
Kun meets his mother as a little girl
There is an episode where Kun is told off by his mum for not clearing away his toys. Kun's tantrum propels him to another time where he meets his mother as a little girl the same age. They go back to her house, and have a riotously joyous time throwing clothes and toys all over the house: we get to see how his mum was reprimanded as a child, and how she repeats the same words to her little boy. It is so easy to forget what it is to be small and full of fun.
The contrast of the safety of home, with the adventures Kun shares when he travels to meet a loved-one at a different point in time really does emphasise the space between being small, and being grown up and independent. It's a wonderful way to portray the way Kun begins to grow to not only accept his little sister, but to care for her too.
It really is a beautiful piece of work, and the art is just wonderful. The little boy is absolutely adorable. We would absolutely recommend watching this film!
Porco Rosso is one of the latest Ghibli films that Yukki watched and she really enjoyed it! The film revolves around Porco Rosso, an ex-fighter in World War I who turned into a pig and is now a bounty hunter. Despite the setting being the World War, the movie did not feel like your typical war film at all. There are many heart-warming scenes and strong female characters, a common trait spotted in many Miyazaki Hayao films. You can also really sense Miyazaki's love for airplanes, not too dissimilar to The Wind Rises!
We hope you have enjoyed reading about these amazing anime and that we have inspired you to take a look at them too! We'd love to know what you think of them :)
If you've enjoyed reading this article, you may like Zusetsu's Favourite Japanese TV Shows!
We'll see you next time - thank you for reading,
Cathy and Yukki
Mamoru Hosoda, (Studio Chizu), Wolf Children
Mamoru Hosoda, (Studio Chizu), Mirai no Mirai
Hayao Miyazaki, (Studio Ghibli), Porco Rosso