Mirai / Mirai no Mirai (2018)
Dir: Mamoru Hosoda
I wasn’t the biggest fan of my baby sister when she was born, mainly because I thought I would prefer a little brother, but I imagine if she had visited me from the future it would have helped me adjust quicker too and realise that we’d be really close when we were older.
A young boy, Kun, struggles to adjust to having a new baby sister, Mirai, until he starts getting visits from her from the future, as well as an anthropomorphic version of the family dog and other family members.
Fantastical in its execution though it may be, this is an excellent observation of a changing family as it grows. Parents and siblings will be able to relate to the way that first children sometimes struggle to adjust to having a younger sibling and how parents find themselves balancing giving attention to multiple children at different ages as well as having work and housework responsibilities as well. Those fundamental issues are international and will strike a chord with so many people.
It also draws on Japanese culture and tradition. There’s a strong focus on the importance of family, respect for ancestors and the ways parents are building for their children’s futures, and the effects all actions can have on later generations. To do this is brings in some elements that are fantasy (more than science fiction) in which the main character, a young boy, connects with an older, future version, of his little sister, whose name means future, as well as his ancestors, learning valuable lessons from them. This type of time travel is a feature of Hosoda’s work, as he found great success with ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ a number of years ago. The editing uses frequent short time jumps, cutting down long actions into brief shots, which works with the story very well, conveys a passage of time that’s very different to the larger jumps into the past, or future.
The film has a really beautiful animation style, very colourful and charming with lots of flourishes and some stunning detail. A few scenes use different animation styles and techniques to very good effect, often to highlight something unusual, so there are moments of particularly striking visuals, some quite abstract. There’s also a wonderful use of motion in many scenes, usual perspectives and moving from one place or part of a building to another, also tied in with the inventive grasp on time. There are a couple of shots that are a little more disturbing, where Kun imagines a ‘hag’ character from a storybook, those didn’t work so well for me as they were a little off-putting, I realise that’s partly the point but still, I didn’t like them.
I saw the film in the original Japanese language version so I can’t comment on the English language voice casting which includes Rebecca Hall, John Cho and Daniel Dae Kim. Generally, I prefer to see Japanese films in their original version, unless I’m really tired and reading the subtitles is too much for my eyes, but I didn’t have an option when I saw this so I was happy enough to do my best to appreciate the Japanese voice acting.
Even though I was tired when I watched the film it held my attention and interest, there’s such a heartwarming idea at the core of the story and the way the concept ties into themes of family, ancestry and legacy are wonderful. I found the payoff in the last act was really rewarding and I appreciated the way it develops the characters, never losing grip on those themes even though it expresses them through such fantastical elements.
‘Mirai’ is nominated for the Best Animated Feature Academy Award, it’s not going to win but I don’t think this is the last time we will see one of Hosoda’s films nominated for that award, his work is building him a fantastic international reputation.