So, I'll start off with a text review.
After a long and drawn out narrowing down, I've chosen The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki (Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki) as my first review/recommendation.
This wonderful little film is feature length, and covers the slice-of-life, supernatural, drama and comedy genres quite nicely. It is mostly shown in the standard style, with brief narrations by Yuki.
It starts with an all too brief retelling of the meeting of Hana, a then 19 year old college student and an unnamed man, who she soon falls in love with. After an undisclosed amount of time has passed, he tells, or rather shows, her that he is in fact a werewolf.
The story then skips ahead several months, showing us the progression of Hana's pregnancy and birth of her first child, Yuki, who was born on a snowy day.
Not too long after a boy, Ame, follows, being born on a rainy day.
Sadly, the father dies shortly after the birth of his second child, though the cause is somewhat confusing.
The children grow to toddlers, with Yuki being the 'wilder' of the two, prone to switching from wolf to human at the least provocation and Ame being calmer and generally keeping human form.
After several years of difficulties related to having two very young children who just so happen to be half wolf themselves, Hana decides to relocate. The new home is a very large but run down home in a rural area, which needs quite a bit of fixing to be livable.
With finances being stretched to the limit, Hana decides to attempt growing her own food, an effort that repeatedly fails. Soon, however, a neighborhood elder begins to lend grudging assistance, drawing the rest of the neighbors into friendly relations with the young mother and her sometimes oblivious children.
After a very welcome bumpercrop results, goods are exchanged throughout the small community, deepening the family's ties with their neighbors, though none are privy to the children's secret.
As winter arrives, a near-fatal accident for Ame makes Hana aware that her new life still holds many dangers for her young children, dangers that are only partly due to their animal nature.
When spring arrives, outgoing Yuki is determined to enter school, promising to keep her secret safe from the other children. After much deliberations, Hana allows her to attend the school, but teaches her a small "charm" to remind her not to transform.
Meanwhile, Hana pursues a job as a park ranger in a nearby town, after Ame points out a picture of a captive wolf there. After accepting the job, Hana tries to question the wolf about his own life in the wild, but receives no answer. She then discovers that the wolf had been a pet, and was born in a zoo. She decides to keep the job, to learn various mountain lore and other things that she hopes will help in the raising of her children.
Yuki is having her own issues with school, learning that most girls are not interested in the things she is, and resolves herself to being more 'girly' in order to fit in with her peers.
Ame, however, is much less enthusiastic about school, though initially he seemed to fear his wolfish nature and wish to remain fully human.
A transfer student randomly remarks that Yuki has a 'doggy' smell, and asks if she has one at home, prompting her to avoid him until he corners her, demanding to know why she hates him. She lashes out, cutting his ear with her claws, and is then ostracized by the other children until the boy convinces her to return to school. He tells the teachers that it was 'a wolf' that injured him, not Yuki.
Ame has begun skipping school regularly, and has befriended a large fox, whom he refers to as 'Sensei', telling his mother that he is in charge of the neighboring mountain area. Hana goes to meet the fox, thanking him for teaching Ame and leaves him some food. The fox teaches him to hunt, and to blend in with the surrounding wildlife, lessons that Ame takes too with much more pleasure than he had previously shown with school.
He confronts Yuki, telling her that she should also be learning from the fox, but she refuses, declaring that she is human, and demands that Ame return to school. He refuses and the two fight, destroying much of the house. Afterwards, Yuki and Ame keep to their seperate ways, with Ame spending much more time in the mountains than before.
After the fox sustains a serious injury, Ame tells his mother that someone must take his place, and she pleads with him, asking him not to go to the mountains again.
Shortly afterwards, a series of rainstorms hit the area, and Hana is called to pick Yuki up from school. As she prepares to leave, Ame leaves the house, heading for the mountains. Leaving Yuki waiting at the school, Hana chases after him, but cannot find him in the heavy rains.
At the school, Yuki is left with the boy she'd injured, and ends up telling him that she is the wolf that injured him. He tells her that he knew, but had never told anyone.
Hana is still in the woods, having fallen down a hill and knocking herself out. She has a vision of the children's father, who tells her that she has raised their children well, and that Ame is now an adult wolf. Ame finds her and carries her to the road, then disappears into the mountains, leaving her behind.
The movie concludes with Yuki saying that she moved to the middle school dorms, and that her mother still lived in the old house near the mountains.
Apparently it is common in Japan for 12 year old children to leave home and never return :-/
And also for 11 year olds to simply vanish and never be enquired after by the local authorities. o0
But all in all, this movie was very interesting, at times humorous and dramatic, with a bit of tearjerker thrown in to round things out. Unlike most supernatural films, there is no show of superhuman abilities, or over-the-top titanic battles, but simply a gradual formation of story that leaves the watcher satisfied with the overall effect.
The animation style of the film is very like Momo e no Tegami (A Letter To Momo) or Hotarubi no Mori e (Into the Forest of Fireflies` Light), and the colors are almost watercolor pale compared to the standard Studio Ghibli films like Spirited Away and The Cat Returns. The soundtrack is somewhat relaxing, with very little in the way of sound effects, rather making use of soft vocal and instrumental tracks.
I would recommend this film to fans of the older Ghibli movies, or films like Miyori no Mori (Miyori's Forest), or series' like Natsume Yuujinchou. I don't think many people would regret taking the time to watch this, and personally I think it will be worth a rewatch in the near future