This post includes a brief plot summary and an explanation about the ending of the film Wolf Children / Ookami kodomo no Ame to Yuki (2012). Beware of spoilers.
Directed by Mamoru Hosoda, the 2012 Japanese anime stars Aoi Miyazaki as Hana.
Wolf Children (2012) – Plot Summary
A young college student by the name of Hana meets a mysterious man during one of her classes. The two become acquainted and start seeing each more frequently.
One day, Hana’s crush reveals that he’s a wolf-man. She accepts the man’s true nature and the two become lovers. Shortly after, Hana becomes pregnant of her first child: a daughter (Yuki). The family continues to expand and the couple welcomes their second child: a boy (Ame). Both children are half-human and half-wolf.
A tragic accident leaves Hana alone with her two toddlers. The children’s father died while hunting for food. Meanwhile, Hana has a tough time adjusting to her new life as a single parent. Ame and Yuki are still too young to control their nature and they keep switching from human and wolf forms back and forth.
After receiving numerous complains from her neighbours, Hana decides to raise her children in the countryside. That way, Hana and her children don’t have to live under the scrutiny of other people. For that same reason, Hana decides to move into an old house without any neighbours nearby. However, reality hits hard and Hana soon realizes that she’s running out of financial resources.
With the help of a grumpy old man named Nirasaki, Hana learns how to farm. Later on, the single mother sells her produce to other locals, which enabled her to become self-sufficient and make some new friendships along the way.
During a cold winter day, Hana wanders into the woods to play with her children. Ame gets a little too excited while chasing a bird and almost drowns in a river. Fortunately, Yuki manages to save her little brother. This incident triggers a sad memory in Hana as it reminds her of how the children’s father died.
Time passes by and Yuki is already old enough to go to school. Hana is a bit hesitant about sending her daughter to school but eventually agrees to it. Nonetheless, the mother warns Yuki that she must keep her wolf nature hidden from others. While Yuki adjusts well to the school life, Ame has a harder time. The boy can’t fit in. As a result, Ame chooses to spend more time in the forest to escape school and eventually finds a mentor (an elderly fox) who teaches him about surviving in the wild.
Yuki meets a new classmate, a transfer student named Sohei. The boy notices that there is something different about Yuki and he decides to follow her around. Annoyed, Yuki transforms herself into a wolf and injures him. Although, Yuki did not mean to hurt Sohei, she did left a scar on his ear. During the parents’ meeting, Sohei says that a wolf attacked him. After the incident, Sohei decides to visit Yuki since she’s been missing school. The two eventually become friends.
After failing to reach an agreement whether they are human or wolf, Yuki and Ame get into a violent fight. The whole ordeal leaves the house in shambles.
A big storm hits the village and Hana heads out to pick her daughter from school. Right when she was about to leave the house, Hana notices her son’s absence. Ame went back to the forest to help his mentor. Desperate, Hana wanders into the forest to find her son.
Many already left the school, but Yuki and Sohei are still waiting for their mothers. Meanwhile, Sohei excuses himself for a moment. After noticing Sohei’s prolonged absence, Yuki wanders through the school looking for him. While they were talking about their personal problems, Yuki shows her wolf-side to Sohei and confesses that it was her who attacked him in that day. The revelation does not shock Sohei, in his heart, he always knew that it was Yuki. Nonetheless, the boy promises Yuki that he won’t tell her secret to others.
While Hana was searching for Ame, she slips and falls. During her unconscious state, Hana sees the children’s father again. The man tells Hana that she did a great job at raising their two children. In addition, he wanted Hana to know that both Ame and Yuki will find their own paths in life. Meanwhile, Ame finds her mother and carries Hana to a safe place.
After waking up, Hana cries at the sight of Ame leaving her. In order to comfort her mother, Ame runs to highest part of the mountains and howls. Seeing that Ame has found his place, Hana lets him be and accepts his departure.
An year later, Yuki leaves her house to move into a high school dormitory. Hana remains at the same house and every now and then, she catches Ame’s howls coming from the forest.
Wolf Children (2012) – Ending Explained
The ending of Wolf Children is rather bittersweet. It’s “sweet” because in the end both siblings were able to find their own path. However, it was also “bitter” to see Hana without her children in the house.
Ame’s farewell is one the most intriguing scenes in the whole film. The boy just left the house. There’s no other way to describe what he did. Now, is Ame a bad son for leaving Hana without a notice? By the way, why did Yuki decide to stay?
In order to answer the two previous questions, it’s important to discuss one of the film’s major themes: identity. Who or what are the siblings? Wolf or human?
IDENTITY AND “WOLF CHILDREN”
Hana knew from the very beginning that it was not up to her to decide whether she should raise her children as humans or wolves. Ame and Yuki are half-human and half-wolf.
The mother always taught her children not to show their wolf-side in the presence of other people. However, Hana doesn’t do it because she’s ashamed of her children, she fears what others might do to them once they find out about their true nature. That’s why Hana decided to move to countryside.
In that old abandoned house, Hana found a place where Ame and Yuki could explore what they want to be. Despite of wanting to shield them a little longer, Hana decides to send Ame and Yuki to school, which gave the siblings a better insight of what life amongst humans looks like. That experience definitely shaped the siblings and their life choices.
Yuki and Ame are very different people. One is an extrovert, while the other is an introvert. That alone already dictates a lot about their ability to adapt into society. While Yuki is very out going and makes friends easily, her brother Ame is the complete opposite. The boy likes to hang out in the mountains and has a hard time in school. He doesn’t know how to fit in nor to make friends. Therefore, Ame never felt like he belonged in the human world, hence his decision to move into the mountains and live as wolf.
WAS AME A BAD SON FOR LEAVING?
From a human perspective, Ame should have given a heads up to his mother. However, even if Ame discussed his decision to leave beforehand, it’s very doubtful that Hana would just let him go. As a mother, Hana’s wish is to protect her children as long as she can. That’s why she went after Ame during the storm.
In Hana’s eyes, Ame is still a little boy who needs her help. However, that’s not really the case. As a matter of fact, when Hana tripped and fell, it was Ame who saved her and brought her to safety. Despite of being a young boy in the human world, Ame is already an adult in the wolf world.
When Hana sees Ame leaving, she cries. At that point, Hana felt that she didn’t do enough for Ame. However, that was not true and Ame ran to the highest part of the mountain to prove his mother wrong. Ame wanted to show Hana that none of it would have been possible without his mother’s love and patience while she was raising him. That was the only gift that Ame ever needed from his mother.
While growing up, Ame wasn’t as brave or adventurous as Yuki. The boy struggled to make friends, which made him an easy target for school bullies. Confused about his own identity, Ame grew up feeling ashamed of his wolf-side. However, living as a human, did not bring Ame the sense of belonging that he was looking for. Despite of Ame’s personal struggles while growing up, Hana always stood by his side and showed him how to embrace his wolf-side.
Ame’s final decision to leave the human world was heavily influenced by his mentor (the fox). After learning more about the wild life, Ame realized that he wants to spend the rest of this life as a wolf. Despite of leaving the house, Ame is still around, as Hana hears his howls from time to time.
WHY DID YUKI DECIDE TO STAY?
The two siblings chose completely different life paths. While Ame decided to leave the human world, Yuki decided to stay in it. Their decisions reflect how much the two have changed while growing up. As mentioned before, Ame wanted to be only human while growing up, while Yuki was pretty comfortable with her wolf-side. However, everything changed for Yuki, the moment she attacked Sohei out of fear and scarred his ear for life. Having said that, why did Yuki decide to stay?
Turns out, Sohei always knew about Yuki’s wolf-side. He saw who his attacker was. Nonetheless, it never occurred to Sohei telling other people about Yuki’s true nature. Seeing that Sohei kept her “secret” all these years, made Yuki realize that she doesn’t need to be ashamed or afraid of her wolf-side. While not everyone will accept her as she is, some will, just like her friend Sohei. In addition, Yuki’s social nature is stronger than Ame’s. The girl has friends and feels loved by them. Therefore, leaving everything behind was not an option that would make sense for someone like Yuki.
As I said before, the ending of Wolf Children can bring a lot of conflicting emotions. However, I believe the debate whether Ame should have stayed (or not) is what makes the film so interesting to watch.
The most tragic scene in Wolf Children wasn’t Ame leaving his mother. In my opinion, the most upsetting scene in the entire film was the sudden death of the children’s father. Seeing Hana completely helpless in that situation was heartbreaking. So, not only her partner was dead but Hana had to watch the garbage men dump the dead body into the trunk, which took away Hana’s right of giving a proper burial to her man.
The second most tragic scene in Wolf Children was hearing Hana say she didn’t do enough for Ame. That only proves what a great mother Hana is. Taking the children to the countryside was definitely the best for them. Away from other humans, Ame and Yuki had plenty of space to let their wolf-side out. There was never a single moment where Hana repressed her children and forced them to make a choice. She always made it very clear that it was up to them to choose whatever they want to be.
One of the things that I really enjoyed about Wolf Children was its balance between dramatic and light-hearted scenes. Although, the film has some pretty sad and emotional scenes, there are also some pretty funny moments, especially when the kids are growing up. The film definitely has scenes that warm up the viewer’s heart. Having said that, the right balance, made the story more realistic and relatable. If the film was just sad all the way through, then, it would’ve been a very dreadful watch.
Overall, Wolf Children is a very interesting film because it deals with sensitive themes such as identity, single parenthood and grief. Last but not least, the soundtrack is beautiful and it really helps to cement the story in people’s heads.