Yeah Studio Ghibli is cool and all, but they’re so obsessed with cats; Mamoru Hosoda knows the truth – that dogs 100% deserve the spotlight.
After welcoming the arrival of his baby sister, the spoiled 4 year old, Kun, stumbles upon a magical garden for which allows him to travel through time and space to visit members of his family tree, including the older version of his baby sister, Mirai.
From genius anime director, Mamoru Hosoda, a tale of ancestry, acceptance and coming-of-age wades through the filmmaker’s newest, creative title, Mirai. A culmination of Hosoda’s greatest thematics such as family and time, Mirai is one of 2018’s sweetest and most sentimental releases, directly tying into concepts enlightening our pasts, present and future.
Truthfully, I saw this film a few days ago now and have just been waiting for the right time to write this review. Hosoda is one of my favourite directors and his work continues to enthrall me with each entry into his fantastical filmography. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time I have identified countless times as my favourite of his, with Wolf Children being what I consider as his most ‘perfect’ and The Boy and the Beast as a classic in the making. Though with the release of Mirai, I wanted to be sure what my exact thoughts and feelings were of this film before completely documenting them. I wanted to know, deep down in my heart that I loved this film… and honestly, I think now, I do.
The best way to describe Hosoda’s Mirai is that it is like a cherished lullaby; a nostalgic serenade so fantastical it feels like a distant memory from your childhood imagination. The execution amounts to the film having an almost timeless appeal as Mirai does not exactly tap into one’s memories of reality but instead memories of the surreal. Think about it; when you grow up, you begin to forget your memories of your years as a toddler and are only truly reminded of such a time through the catalogued photo albums your mum will occasionally break out, in tears, when you turn 18 or 21 – but those are forgotten memories of reality. What is even harder for you to remember when you come of age is the sheer wide-minded imagination of your youth (i.e. the imaginary friends and colourful worlds you create in your mind as an itty-bitty kid) – those are forgotten memories of the surreal. And so as many filmmakers will work to have you nostalgically callback to memories of reality, Hosoda, in Mirai, will have you throwback to the more hidden and adored memories of the surreal.
And that is where this film stands distinctive.
People forget that when you grow up the world can never truly be taken as literal. You make up stories and fantastical characters and settings to deal with the larger than life occurrences pulsating around you. Mirai, at its core, tells a rather simple story of a toddler dealing with the arrival of his baby sister who basically requires his parent’s full attention. Though it is how Mirai tells this story, through the eyes of a visionary and creative youth like the child, Kun, that makes this story so endearing and fulfilling from a thematic sense.
Hosoda continues divulging his trademark themes of time and family as both concepts are wedged in together through new and inventive ways for which previously appeared unseen in other Hosoda films. The rather literal inclusion of a family tree and the character’s exploration of such, comments on how pivotal Hosoda believes legacy and heritage truly builds character from a young age and onward. Mirai rapidly jumps back and forth between past, present and future, correlating in a complete piece that replicates a family photo album.
The ties to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is also prevalent here as the lead, Kun, not only spends the majority of the film in wacky time and space adventures with his time-travelling sister, but also comes into contact with far more interesting members of his family. These moments of Kun interacting with a distant grandfather, following the Second World War, to his play date with the toddler version of his mother result in some of the most visually inventive and cinematically rich sequences in the entire film. Honestly I felt like at points, with the dreamy imagery and meditative music, I was experiencing an animation upholding the spirit of my favourite film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is a great honour in my books.
Mirai is also comedically golden. The humour shines in this film, greater than any of Hosoda’s previous efforts. As I said before, the music is meditative, but also just so highly CUTE! CUTE! And man, can I just call out the animation again? My gosh, is this a beautiful looking film. From moments set ambiguously underwater to characters riding trains, motorbikes and horses set against a dying sun… this is just, I mean, like, well – animation porn (but not in a dirty way).
Honestly though, like I said, it did take me a while to write this review. I wanted to sit and allow my mind to soak in the addictive juices of this film before running my mouth on it, and that’s because, at first, I didn’t really know what to think of Mirai. Sure I loved the aesthetic and thematics this film was portraying, but I could not be certain on whether I loved it or not. For some of this film I did sit and wonder where it was going or what it was actually doing, but I could not pinpoint my general feelings on it. I left the cinema still a bit curious.
Though Mirai, to me, was a film that needed time to expand in my conscious. I always knew it was special but I was not sure how I could explain it or say it, because honestly, I did not think the film was flawless by any stretch. I would not say Mirai is close to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time or Wolf Children levels of brilliance, but I would say its around the same level as The Boy and the Beast and better than Hosoda’s Summer Wars. I would still 100% recommend Mirai as I will certainly be watching it again, but yeah, it’s just not exactly top shelf Hosoda…
… but it is top shelf anime. Mirai is one of those rare reasonings I give to people who are rather ambivalent to anime or not “into” the concept of alien Japanese cinema to just give the artform a try. Yes, anime is a heavily different and bizarre experience but some of the best things in life are a heavily different and bizarre experience; like welcoming a new baby sibling into your family and, consequently, the world.
Mirai is, in fact… LOST ART.
- PrincessFairy 2018, ‘Mirai of the Future images Mirai of the Future Poster wallpaper and background’, Fanpop, Hadron, viewed 30 August 2018, http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/mirai-of-the-future/images/41274205/title/mirai-future-poster-photo (Featured Image)
- Tokyo Otaku Mode 2018, ‘Hosoda Mamoru’s Mirai of the Future Releases New Trailer!’, Tokyo Otaku Mode News, Tokyo Otaku Mode (TOM), viewed 30 August 2018, https://otakumode.com/news/5a98fd95d136df4119b6a12c/Hosoda-Mamoru-s-Mirai-of-the-Future-Releases-New-Trailer!