‘Wolves or People?’

Lupine Loss and the Liquidation of the Nuclear Family in Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children (2012)


  • David John Boyd University of Glasgow




3/11 manga, becoming-wolf, Mamoru Hosoda, Wolf Children, making kin, anime


This essay examines an alternative eco-familial reading of Mamoru Hosoda’s manga film, Wolf Children (2012) through an analysis of Japanese extinction anxieties further exacerbated by 3/11. By reading the film through a minor history of the extinction of the Honshu wolf as a metaphor for 3/11, I argue that an examination of the degradation of Japanese preindustrial “stem family” and the fabulative expression of species cooperation and hybridity can more effectively be framed by the popular Japanese imaginary as a lupine apocalypse. In a reading of Deleuze and Guattari on becoming-animal, the omnipresence of lupine loss in the institutions of the home, work, and schools of contemporary Japan, interrogated in many manga, anime, and video game series like Wolf Children, further reveals the ambivalence of post-3/11 artists as they approach family and the State in seeking out more nonhuman depictions of Japan. In this reading of becoming-wolf, Hosoda’s resituates the family/fairy-tale film as a complex critique of the millennial revival of a nuclear Japan in the age of economic and environmental precarity and collapse. I hope to explore the nuances and contradictions of Hosoda’s recapitulation of family through a celebration of Deleuzo-Guattarian pack affects and an introduction of the possibilities of “making kin,” as Donna Haraway explains, at the ends of the Anthropocene.


Allison, Anne. Precarious Japan. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013).

Berardi, Franco. After the Future, ed. by Gary Genosko and Nicholas Thoburn. (Oakland: AK Press, 2011).

Berndt, Jaqueline. “The Intercultural Challenge of the ‘Mangaesque’: Reorienting Manga Studies after 3/11.” Manga's Cultural Crossroads, edited by Jaqueline Berndt and Bettina Kulmmerling-Meibauer. (New York: Routledge, 2016). pp. 65–84.

Dasgupta, Rogit. “Salaryman Anxieties in Tokyo Sonata Shifting Discourses of State, Family and Masculinity in Post-Bubble.” Gender, Nation and State in Modern Japan, ed. by Andrea Germer et al. (New York: Routledge, 2017). pp. 255–272.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. by Brian Massumi. (London: Continuum, 2008).

“Extinct Wolf a Symbol of What Japan Has Lost.” The Asahi Shimbun, 20 June 2004, www.asahi.com/english/vox/TKY200406300120.html

Gottfried, Heidi. Reproductive Bargain: Deciphering the Enigma of Japanese Capitalism. (Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2016). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004291485

Hanley, Susan B. Everyday Things in Premodern Japan: The Hidden Legacy of Material Culture

(ACLS History E-Book Project, 2005).

Haraway, Donna. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016). DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv11cw25q

Hosoda, Mamoru. Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki / Wolf Children. Studio Chizu, 2012.

“Japan’s Single Women a Burden on the State, MP Says.” BBC News (11 May 2018): www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-44083106

Knight, John. “On the Extinction of the Japanese Wolf,” Asian Folklore Studies, vol. 56, no. 1 (1997). pp. 129–159. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/1178791

Murata, Tomoyasu. Okinamai / Forest This Flower Bloom. GALLERY MoMo. 2015.


Nobumoto, Keiko. Urufuzu Rein / Wolf’s Rain. Bones Studio. Funimation: 2003-2004.

Ohara, Atsushi. “Showcase of Artist’s Puppet Anime Focuses on 2011 Disaster.” The Asahi Shimbun (15 March 2018): www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201803150008.html

Rosenbaum, Roman. “Towards an Introduction: Japan's Literature of Precarity.” Visions of Precarity in Japanese Popular Culture and Literature, ed. by Roman Rosenbaum and Kristina Iwata-Weickgenannt. (New York: Routledge, 2017). pp. 1–23.

Sand, Jordan. “Diary: In Tokyo.” London Review of Books, (28 April 2011). pp. 31–35.

Ueno, Chizuko. “Collapse of “Japanese Mothers,” U.S.-Japan Women's Journal, English

Supplement, no. 10 (1996), pp. 3-19.

Ueno, Toshiya. “Wolf Head in Phoenix.” Mechademia, vol. 8, no. 1 (2013). pp. 322–335. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/mec.2013.0015

Walker, Brett L. Lost Wolves of Japan. (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2009).

“Wolves of the World: Asia-Japan.” Wolf Print: The Magazine of The UK Conservation Trust, ed. Denise Taylor, Special Portugal Volume, Issue 20, 2004, p. 19.

Wong, Yoke-Sum. “A Presence of a Constant End: Contemporary Art and Popular Culture in Japan.” The Ends of History: Questioning the Stakes of Historical Reason, ed. by Amy Swiffen and Joshua Nichols (New York: Routledge, 2014). pp. 84–102.

Yoda, Tomiko. “The Rise and Fall of Maternal Society: Gender, Labor, and Capital in Contemporary Japan.” Japan after Japan: Social and Cultural Life from the Recessionary 1990s to the Present, edited by Tomiko Yoda and Harry D. Harootunian. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006). pp. 239–274. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822388609-011

Zielenziger, Michael. Shutting out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation. (New York: Doubleday, 2007).