Mamoru Hosoda is a globally celebrated animation director, known for his vibrant character animation and tales where reality meets the fantastic. Both these elements are on display in his latest title, Mirai.
Kun is the spoilt child of a Japanese couple. When his mother gives birth to his new baby sister named Mirai, Kun does not respond well to no longer being the centre of attention. Forced to rapidly step up as an older sibling he begins to mysteriously have magical encounters, including with a future teenage version of Mirai herself.
Siblings are an interesting dynamic. Those of us who have them can tell you of the highs and lows but perhaps the most unique case is how a single child reacts should they suddenly gain one. I’ll admit to being ignorant on the specifics of this because in my family I was that second child. None the less it’s easy to see why it would be a source of conflict and one both parents and children to have to address.
Mirai chooses to adopt a vignette style of story-telling to explore this concept. Kun will cause some kind of conflict determined by his immaturity, a magical encounter will occur and then the lesson learned from said encounter will allow partial resolution. The majority of said conflicts hinge on Kun’s annoyance as everyone fixates on his new sister but others, such as wanting to learn to ride his bike without stabilisers, allow some variety and communicate to the audience that Kun is simply a very young child and will over his lifetime explore his capacity to grow and mature. The encounters themselves are likewise varied. Given he meets the older Mirai you can rightly assume some time travel shenanigans are happening but I won’t say much more as the diversity of the encounters is a welcome joy once you’ve worked out the basic formula of the vignette narrative.
Although the focus is primarily on Kun, Hosoda does also explore his parents and grandparents to give older viewers something to relate to. The idea of the relationship between different generations in society is another staple of Hosoda’s works and here he uses it to explore simple truths of human nature we might forget as opposed to something with world ending stakes such as Summer Wars.
The animation itself is a joy. Hosoda’s visual trademark is emotive characters who pull off wild poses amongst beautiful locales. The result is characters who seemingly leap off the screen to make room for you being sucked in to the backgrounds. The colour palette is sumptuous with a hint of a water colour painting. This works well for what is a gentle film even in its louder moments. However, I will warn parents reading this that the final act of the film does get surprisingly intense and might prove too much for very young children. It’s here in particular that Hosoda uses CGI composition (used much more benignly across the film) to stoke an intentional nightmarish uncanny valley to proceedings. There’s even a mildly telegraphed jump scare.
Ultimately, whilst Mirai is a very enjoyable film I don’t think I can say it’s Hosoda’s best. Not that the gentleman needs to prove anything but I think this sits as a solid but not amazing film. The animation is great, the emotion is genuine and you will be invested in the story. It’s simply not in my opinion going to unseat the rest of Hosoda’s legendary body of work.
Mirai will play in selected cinemas across the UK and Ireland subtitled on 2nd November and English dubbed on 4th November. For available screenings and to book tickets, visit the official website.