Monday, May 26, 2014
Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki collects the manga of the same name, which adapted the 2012 animated movie Wolf Children. The manga was adapted by the manga-ka Yu from the movie script by director/writer Mamoru Hosoda, and the book credits the designs to Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, from the movie team. It is a sweet, simple story, and it's probably better told in moving pictures -- though this version is lovely.
College student Hana -- almost a parody of the Japanese young woman, smiling ever more intently no matter what happens to her and apologizing profusely when people are rude to her -- meets a strange and unnamed young man who is the last Japanese werewolf. They fall in love, and have two young children, but then the man dies in an way not clearly explained in the manga -- did he fall? was he shot? -- but is definitely Really Sad and not because he was doing something really stupid when he should be taking care of himself to watch over his family.
Anyway, Hana has to raise her two werewolf children -- girl Yuki and year-younger boy Ame -- all by herself. She soon moves them all to a remote rural house, so the kids can turn into wolf form, and the rest of the story unfolds just as episodically as the beginning. Yuki demands to go to school, and does so. She meets a new transfer-student boy, a few years later, and he eventually learns her secret. Ame skips school to learn the ways of the wild.
(You see, of course one child would follow the human path -- and that has to be the girl, because otherwise she wouldn't be neat and demure and Japanese -- and the other the wolf path -- equally required to be the boy -- because that's just how programmatic this story is.)
It ends with the children as teenagers: Yuki away at a boarding junior-high school, Ame watching over the woods because that's what apex predators do in simple-minded stories. And Hana is as much of a doormat as ever, thrilled that she's given up more than a decade of her life to children that have basically abandoned her as soon as they could. She also seems to have spent most of that time living on her savings -- probably the remnant of the money that was supposed to pay for her abandoned college education -- so she's left poor, alone, in her mid-thirties, half-educated and with no specific skills, in the middle of nowhere, with only grumpy standoffish locals around her. Yay -- happy ending!
Again, it's all very sweet, and probably even more lovely in color moving pictures. But it's very much on rails, and there's nothing at all surprising in it at all. It's probably not sexist on purpose. But you might find, as I did, that you want to poke Hana really hard -- and perhaps Yuki as well -- to get her to stand up for herself, and that you resent the very careful plotting to put her into this situation.
Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index