Hosoda’s work here is generally delightful, but it is perhaps too slick and flashy to overcome its sometimes laboured storytelling about family and lineage.
Dir. Mamoru Hosoda
2018 | Japan | Animation/Drama/Fantasy | 98 mins | 1.85:1 | Japanese
PG (passed clean) for thematic elements including some scary images
Cast: Moka Kamishiraishi, Haru Kuroki, Gen Hoshino, Kumiko Aso
Plot: When four-year-old Kun meets Mirai, his new baby sister, his world is turned upside down. Kun becomes increasingly jealous of baby Mirai… until one day he storms off into the garden, where he encounters strange guests from the past and future – including his sister Mirai, as a teenager.
Awards: Nom. for Best Animated Feature (Oscars); Official Selection – Directors’ Fortnight (Cannes)
International Sales: Charades
Subject Matter: Light – Family; Lineage
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Mirai could be Mamoru Hosoda’s most personal work, but I found it sometimes difficult to connect, not to its story, but its style, which could be described as flashy.
A film about Kun, a boy who is left neglected and frustrated when his baby sister becomes the center of attention of his parents, Mirai follows his wild exploits through time as he encounters a secret garden that could bring him into the past or the future.
He meets a few family members from different eras, including his great grandfather who served in WWII, but most prominently, his sister from the future, now a young girl who advises him to act on some scenarios in the present.
While generally delightful, Mirai takes a while to get us into the rhythm of things. It doesn’t really hook you unlike the very best of anime, and as such, I find Hosoda’s Wolf Children (2012) and Belle (2021) to be more compelling movies.
“You have to be gentle with her.”
The first half of the film occasionally feels laboured but things do pick up and get more interesting along the way, even though the stakes remain low for its protagonist despite some outlandish flights of fantasy.
Exploring the theme of family and lineage, Mirai’s slick and attention-seeking style might have intended to mirror Kun’s bratty personality, but I wished the film was more nuanced and relied less on whimsy, so that we get to feel for the characters as we follow their adventures through time.
Mirai had the distinction of being the first Japanese anime produced outside of Studio Ghibli to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. It was probably good exposure for Hosoda, but he has done better than this.
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