The Hawaii International Festival has come to an end. But as I headed home after the last film I attended, I realized that HIFF was an amazing experience that has gained a lot of support. Long lines and passionate fans are evidence of the true success this film festival enjoys with both younger and older people. My main focus for this event was to attend films that appeared family friendly and could relate to any age group. It could be intimidating for any individual who has children or even older family members that would like to attend the film events.
Many of the Japanese animated films were a good start to observing the scope of age demographic. Obviously, in animation, or also popularly called anime, vivid colors and the cartoon presence would definitely captivate younger audience members. But would this be captivating for older audience members too?
“I brought my little sisters with me today. I’m not really into the movie, it seems like it’s more for children,” says movie-goer Jamie in line for Mamoru Hosoda’s The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki. Many other adults in line have also brought children with them to view these Japanese animated films. “It seems too childish, the main characters are two little girls,” says a mother of two waiting in line for Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro.
“I’m here with the kids,” says Pearl City resident father of four children. Phrases like this were exchanged in the long winding line for The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki. The crowd was filled with a diverse audience with different purposes for attending this film event. “There’s not a lot of films for children this year, so I just wanted to take the kids for this one. I’m not too interested in it though,” said the Pearl City father.
Attending both Japanese animation showcases, I noticed that both had a similar crowds: parents and children. But many younger audience members there shared what interested them in these animated films. “A young Japanese couple from Aiea spoke to each other while in line and one said, “I can’t wait, online reviews from Japan say that this film is just amazing.”
What I had discovered was that audience members of different age groups had different outlooks on what the film. Children were excited, adults seemed indifferent, and young teens were ecstatic. “I read the manga! It is so good! The movie will be great, I know it!” exclaims Jamie’s little sister.
As I left the theater after Hosoda’s film, the applause continued as I raced out to catch up with parents. “I just can’t believe how beautiful, thematic, and mature the story was,” explains the Pearl City resident. The echoes of clapping still linger in the theater as moviegoers pour out of the room. Smiles are on everyone’s faces.
“Ame and Yuki were adorable, but watching them grow and go through struggles seemed so realistic,” says Jamie. “Japanese animation is special. It is able to be so deep, yet it is still embracing the creative joy of cartoons. I’m pleasantly surprised.”
Although the films embraced fantastical story elements, such as a mystical forest creatures and half wolf children, the stories developed into maturity and thematic meaning that adults find, as Jamie put it, “riveting.” The forest creatures in Miyazaki’s film represented the constant flow of nature and its yearn to preserve itself. The wolf children in Hosoda’s film represented the different paths children take when they age into maturity.
So if you have children or have a little brother or sister and want to still attend HIFF screenings, I reccomend any fantastical and vibrant Japanese anime film. Although these films appear youthful and fictional, they still hold significant deeper meanings that any movie-goer would enjoy.