Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki

18170149Based on the critically-acclaimed feature film, the manga adaptation of Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki is every bit as stunning and complex as the movie. Taking place over thirteen years, this is the bittersweet tale of a mother who gives up everything for her children, without regret.

Hana is a hardworking college student with a positive outlook. Her simple life changes when she falls in love with the last descendant of the extinct Japanese wolf clan, and together they have two half-human, half-wolf children. After a fatal accident claims their father’s life, Hana is left raising Ame and Yuki alone. Hana’s motto has always been to smile through sadness, and with this in mind, she rises to the challenge. Cramped city life is not the best environment for rambunctious wolf children, so Hana, Ame, and Yuki move to the country where there is plenty of open space and fewer people who might ask complicated questions. With the help of the local villagers—and plenty of hard work—Hana successfully lives off the land.

As Ame and Yuki get older, they begin to find their own paths. Yuki, once fearless and confident in her wolf form, wants nothing more than to be a normal girl who wears dresses, attends school, and makes friends. When a new student makes Yuki angry and she harms him, she becomes even more determined not to become a wolf again. Conversely, Ame was always timid. But after he meets a wild wolf who offers to train him, he decides he wants to be a wolf forever and assumes the role of protector of the forest after his teacher dies. Hana never expected her children to leave her at such a young age, but after having a dream in which she is reunited with her husband, she realizes that she has done all she could for Ame and Yuki, successfully raising them to an early adulthood.

Oftentimes, manga adaptations that are based on television series or movies seem lacking when compared to manga titles that preceded their film adaptations. This is not the case with Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki. Fans of the movie will find that this is a faithful adaptation and uninitiated readers will not be confused or feel that they are missing something. The pacing and flow work perfectly in the manga; the story is broken up into three parts, each beginning with full color pages and ending with author and artist notes, as well as bonus sketches. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous and it is surprising that this is Yu’s first published book. The characters are gentle and the backgrounds are intricate.

Wolf Children: Ame and Yuki is an essential purchase for any collection. As with its film counterpart, the manga is a true masterpiece. Readers will laugh, cry, and root for its characters—especially the resilient Hana.

Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki
by Mamoru Hosoda
Art by Yu
ISBN: 9780316401654
Yen Press, 2014

Wolf Children

wolfchildren
  Wolf Children is a beautiful film about the struggles of a mother raising two kids by herself. Stories about single mothers are not new, but what distinguishes this movie from the rest are the children who have inherited the ability to transform into wolves from their father. The concept may sound silly, and under an inexperienced director, it could have been an unsympathetic mess. Mamoru Hosoda’s fantastic direction, a strong emotional resonance, and gorgeous animation make Wolf Children an essential addition to any anime collection.

As a young girl, Hana lives an unsuspecting life: going to college, working a part time job, then coming home to cook herself a meal and do a little reading before bedtime. During class, her attention is drawn toward a mysterious young man and before long they fall for one another and begin a relationship. When Hana expresses her love for him, a great secret is revealed: he is a Wolfman, a shapeshifter and the last of his kind. Despite demonstrating his ability to transform into a wolf, Hana is undeterred and their love grows stronger and deeper. Living happily together, Hana eventually gives birth to a girl, Yuki, and a boy, Ame, who inherit their father’s ability to transform into wolves.

Life takes a tragic turn when Father goes missing. While looking for him, Hana is horrified to see the corpse of her husband in wolf form lying in a riverbed. In the film’s most heartbreaking scene, Hana is forced to watch as sanitation workers put the wolf carcass in a bag and toss him into a trash truck. Interestingly, Father’s death is treated rather callously and the film offers very little explanation as to the cause of his demise. The how and why are ultimately not important. Instead, the weight of the scene comes from the realization that Hana must raise two precocious wolf children alone. When their animal antics cause problems with the neighbors and child support services investigates them, Hana takes her kids to the rural countryside where they can live free from scrutiny.

The movie’s single mother angle may not be completely original, but shapeshifting children add a host of new challenges. When Yuki eats a silica gel packet, Hana must decide whether to take her to a children’s hospital or a veterinarian. When throwing a temper tantrum, Yuki will often shift into her wolf form and wreak destruction across the house. Hana’s inexperience and frustrations are typically played as entertainment for the audience, though we don’t laugh at her, just at the situations in which she finds herself. Hana is a very sympathetic character and when she finds a way to rise above her trials it’s difficult to not celebrate with her. This is nowhere more apparent than when Yuki and Ame reach adolescence and begin their own personal journeys.

Complementing the overall heartwarming and charming spirit of Wolf Children is the gorgeous animation that borrows a page from Miyazaki’s visual style. Everything from character animation to layouts has been drawn with such care, and there is a high attention to detail and level of expression. The character designs for Yuki and Ame as toddlers are absolutely adorable, specifically when they turn into their wolf forms. I couldn’t watch the movie in complete silence as I frequently heard myself aww-ing because the kids are just so darn cute.

Heartwarming, sweet, and beautifully animated, Wolf Children should be required viewing. Fans of Miyazaki’s films will see a connection with his animated style without mimicking it too much, resulting in a work that can be appreciated for its own merits.

Wolf Children
FUNimation, 2013
directed by Mamoru Hosoda
117 minutes, Number of Discs: 3, DVD/Blu-ray Combo Set
Company Age Rating: 10+

The Wolf in Underpants

Are you afraid of the big bad wolf? Is he really as “bad” as others say he is? Nothing is as it seems in this short graphic novel. The Wolf in Underpants, written by Wilfrid Lupano and illustrated by Mayana Itoiz and Paul Cauuet, transforms the common wolf stereotype into a comedic folktale.

Local forest denizens prepare themselves every day for a possible wolf attack. Various traps and weapons are sold, nightly wolf lectures are held, newspapers print articles on recent wolf attacks, and the anti-wolf brigade are geared up and ready to defend. Everything is in place until the wolf is sighted. As everyone hides from the gruesome predator, they are surprised by who they see. It is indeed the wolf, but he is not scary at all. In fact, he is a nice guy who wears a pair of underpants to keep himself warm and shops at the supermarket. But with this revelation, what will the forest critters do now?

Itoiz and Cauuet use a cartoon style in their comic, which will appeal to young readers. The duo have created anthropomorphic characters of different professions and appearances, from moose professors to knitting owls. Fearful and surprised expressions are clearly shown in each character, especially before the wolf’s reveal. In fact, the titular wolf is far from his fairytale counterpart, with his stylish underpants, friendly smile, and clean grey fur. The use of color to denote danger, daytime, and nighttime adds to each scene’s atmosphere. The rest of the color palette is used very well to add small but noticeable features found in the forest and on each character.

The placement of the character’s dialogue and any other outside narration is different from the traditional graphic novel format. At first the story starts off with an unnamed first person narrator, describing the supposedly dangerous wolf that lives above the forest, but it then becomes a comic with the characters exchanging dialogue but without the use of speech bubbles or panels. This placement works well with Lupano’s story, allowing each character to voice their opinions one after another. The moral will teach children that it does not make sense to be afraid all the time, especially when your fear takes over your daily life.

The Wolf in Underpants is a great graphic novel for young readers who are looking for a short read or a comedy. Children in grades 2nd-4th will enjoy the fun story and be surprised with the wolf’s true identity. Public and school librarians should consider this title, especially if they are looking for something a little different for their collections or an easy, quick read for their patrons.

The Wolf in Underpants
By Wilfrid Lupano
Art by Mayana Itoiz Paul Cauuet
ISBN: 9781541528185
Lerner Publishing Group, 2019

BB Wolf and the Three LPs


   
I first came upon this title when researching the contemporary legend of blues musician Robert Johnson and his alleged meeting with the devil at the crossroads to obtain his musical talents and short-lived fame. And although neither Robert Johnson nor the meeting with the devil at the crossroads motif were referred to in this graphic novel for mature readers, there was a strong emotional identification with the Johnson story when reading about Barnabus Benjamin Wolf’s tragic adventures with the Littlepig family. BB Wolf, a Mississippi farmer, father, husband and innovative and pioneering blues man was not the ruthless and deranged killer the media and the general public thought him to be. This tale sets the record straight, relating the story of racism, murder, revenge, and the blues through the lens of a classic folk tale set in 1920 in the Mississippi delta. The Littlepigs set a terrifying force into motion when they decide to apply a minute legal loophole to seize the farms and lands of the oppressed wolf class.

This is not a tale for the faint of heart or for those looking for a friendly reworking of a traditional children’s tale. For example, in one explosive page, BB Wolf, angered beyond control with the beating and callous treatment of one of his friends, makes his way to the office of one of the LittlePig brothers where he softly utters the well-known refrain “Little Pig, Little Pig, Let me in…” before he screeches “… cus I’m gonna take off your head right at your chinny, chin, chin!” And he does.

BB is first presented with some empathy. Yes, he is a heavy drinker and stays away from his family at night so he and Molly, his guitar, can sing the blues, but he is a loving husband and father at the same time. It is only when the LittlePig family creates chaos and condones murder that the nasty side of the Big Bad Wolf rears its head permanently. His need for revenge and his actions in obtaining it are less sympathetic but, at the same time, very comprehensible.

The story is divided into three separate sections corresponding to the three houses of the traditional tale that this story is so effectively reworking. Each section is introduced by a small sketch of each of the houses, accompanied by an appropriate quote from song lyrics: InMemory’s “Our House of Straw,” Led Zeppelin’s “Four Sticks,” and “Brick House” by The Commodores. The three miniature black and white drawings of the houses and the accompanied quotes in white are situated on a stark black page, successfully defining a change of scene and tone. All of the other illustrations, surrounded by black frames, are also rendered in black, white and grey tones, effectively echoing the sombre tones of the tale, the era and the misery of the blues material, if not the music. The illustrations do not shirk from the bloody violence but do not glorify it either. All of the animal characters are individualized and easily to recognize while at peace or angry. The illustrations are filled with power, pathos and some humor. There is great variety in perspective, viewpoints, panels, and poignant close-ups that combine with the text to deliver a satisfying, but not comfortable, read.

Musical and popular culture references are scattered throughout adding a supplementary delight on further readings – too much happening for this reviewer to take everything in at one reading. The narrator changes at the end of the tale, offering details that BB could no longer provide and JD Arnold’s afterword provides even more information enabling the reader to understand the miscarriage of justice that surrounded the legend that BB Wolf became in subsequent years. Also included are the lyrics to three songs that were considered “lost” until the publication of this book. Accompanying my reviewing copy was a cd of the lost recordings done both by BB Wolf (1919) and contemporary blues musicians (2010), aptly demonstrating the variances in musical tastes and interpretations in the intervening years. The lost songs offer further retellings of the traditional folktale as Delta blues magic. Three drink blotters (coasters), each one representing one title of the songs recorded by BB Wolf and the Howlers, rounded out the package.

Well researched and effectively told in text and illustrations, this graphic novel is highly recommended for young adult and adult readers interested in American history, blues music, issues of racism and corruption, and darn good storytelling. Nominated for FOUR Glyph Comics Awards and now available in digital format and in a limited exclusive BB Wolf Box Set which includes: the BB Wolf and the Three LPs graphic novel; the BB Wolf & The Howlers cd with 7 original songs; 2 shot glasses; 3 coasters, and a signed and framed BB Wolf print!

And for my initial connection to Robert Johnson? I suggest one mosey on over to the website and watch the book trailer.

BB Wolf and the Three LPs
by JD Arnold
Art by Richard Koslowski
ISBN: 9781603090292
top shelf, 2010
Publisher Age Rating: Young Adult

Tanya

Tanya work as a librarian at a maximum security prison in Northern California. She runs a weekly book club which changes themes and genres on a quarterly basis. Her favorite book club moment was watching her book club members perform a play in front of an audience and getting a warm ovation. Tanya is a long-time lover of Manga and animes. Her favorites include anything by Clamp, Fullmetal Alchemist, Wolf Children, Pandora Hearts and Dawn of the Arcana. In her spare time enjoys trying out new recipes from Pinterest.