Just watched it at LFF, so review time. Trying to avoid spoliers (excepting what was in the 1 paragraph blurb)
First off, it was a 35 mm print, with noticeable judder. Strikes me as a bit odd for a digital film with such background detail but there you go.
The basic premise is that Hana, a 19 year old student, becomes interested in a mysterious attendee to one of her University courses. They start a relationship, he reveals to her that he is half-wolf daemon of some sort, they have two children, he then dies following the second's birth. She can't cope with hiding the children's wolfish tendencies within city life, and resolves to move to the countryside their father came from.
Film is in 3 clear acts, with time progressing throughout.
Act 1 boy meets girl (until children 2/3)
Brilliant, classic example of show don't tell. Almost no dialogue, until the children learn to talk. Covers until they leave Tokyo. Very detailed city, plenty of crowd scenes without resorting to lower detail or static "extras".
Act 2 girl learns restoring a derelict farm is hard (until children 5/6)
Somewhat conservative, focus on strong work ethic in getting the farm off the ground.
The children at play is great fun to watch, Yuki's tantrums seem somewhat familiar to me, from my sister at that age. Amazing fluid scene in the snow, leading to one of the films key points.
Act 3 elementary school (until children 10/11)
The children becoming independent of Hana. They also progress as characters. Far less action (but not less animation, think Clannad), far more use of traditional cinema technique.
Criticisms in that it needs you to accept the premise, and that it could be construed as allegory for an inter-class relationship. With the promising student falling for the vagrant who then runs off, leaving her with the kids and the story he seduced her with, and that his vagrancy is passed onto the children. That is a very conservative viewpoint and one I wouldn't want to impart on children or impressionable adults.
Animation was fantastic, very busy scenes, tons of motion. Backgrounds approaching photorealism, with plenty of reflections, realistic water etc. Score could do with improvement, not memorable, despite large sections of montage.
Overall: loved it, it made my laugh, cry (well tear up), smile and sit back and think. I can ask for nothing more of a 2 hour film.
I await to see how Hosoda's work develops in the future, and if he'll lose his conservative idealised communities. At least this portrayed single parenthood, and had Hana deal with the rural communities suspicion of her position .
Animation: As good as it gets 10/10
Music: All right 7/10
Characters: Hana and the children are well portrayed 8/10
Direction: A bit classical, it's no Akiyuki Shinbo production, but very solid 9/10
Plot: fine, if conservative in places 8/10