Director Mamoru Hosoda has become known for delivering anime films where the fantasy is grounded is human emotion. His latest film is about a four-year-old boy, Kun, who is jealous of all the attention lavished upon his baby sister Mirai. The baby girl is named after the Japanese word for “future” and Kun’s life is turned upside down when he encounters a teenage version of Mirai from the future. Hosoda has had a long track record for delivering spectacular films. Does Mirai meet Hosoda’s high standards?
The plot has Kun get jealous of baby Mirai, then storm off and encounter a wacky character from his family’s past or future. It’s a good plot device but it gets a little repetitive. As with many slice of life stories, the film offers a series of short adventures or experiences rather than one big story arc.
Hosoda uses grounded character designs which work to help the family seem real. Gone are the big eyes and spiky hair– instead the children in the film are animated with a sense of realism. This was only accomplished by having animators reference Hosoda’s own children.
Due to the ever-changing animation landscape, Mirai is one of the last anime movies to use hand drawn animation. The level of textural beauty and craft given by the hand drawings is noticeable. There are also uses of 3D animation that add a layer of depth and perspective to the film. Hosoda is able to blend the best of both mediums in some really creative camera takes and editing sequences.
Mirai is Hosoda’s most childlike film. He’s able to capture the wonder and frustration of being a child or raising children. What is great about Hosoda’s films is that they are all different while maintaining artistic quality. The Boy and The Beast was epic, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was romantic, and Mirai is a beautiful daydream. Mirai manages to communicate character-driven humor and emotion without becoming saccharine. It’s a magical story that could only happen in anime.