Just got back in from a screening of Mirai, the latest masterpiece from anime auteur Mamoru Hosoda.
If Wolf Children represents the director’s statement on the joys and sorrows of motherhood and The Boy and the Beast is all about fatherhood, then Mirai is his full-blown celebration of family in general (a theme he previously tackled in Summer Wars, albeit in a comparatively minor capacity), from the sometimes fragile bonds between siblings to the challenges of holding a marriage together with each new milestone. His protagonist, Kun, is a four-year-old boy threatened by the arrival of his baby sister (the title character), who throws his familiar routine into disarray: suddenly, Dad is cooking and cleaning, Mom is scolding him whenever he tries to play, and nobody seems to be paying him any attention. Jealous and confused, the formerly good-natured child transforms into a petulant, monstrous brat… until, one fateful day, he encounters a mysterious girl in his garden: a teenage version of Mirai, visiting from the future.
Soon, he finds himself whisked away on a journey through time that teaches him many valuable lessons. For example, that his parents are human beings with their own desires, making countless sacrifices and compromises in order to raise him properly. And that the world does not and cannot revolve around him, and he must learn to be more empathetic. And, most importantly, that love is not a finite resource: it unites us across generations, allowing us to grow and pass it on to our descendants.
The result is a wonderful, whimsical coming-of-age story that beautifully showcases Hosoda’s penchant for blending the mundane with the fantastical… as well as his talent for blending traditional cel animation with modern digital techniques. He’s certainly come a long way since Wolf Children’s stiff, lifeless CGI crowds; here, there are flyover shots of urban and rural landscapes that border on photorealistic. Of course, Mirai’s true stylistic triumph is the lost and found clerk in Limbo’s labyrinthine, metaphysical train station, who resembles an expressionistic paper doll.
Sorry, did I forget to mention that the movie’s kind of weird?