It isn’t unfamiliar to see young children grow jealous when their parents shift their attention to a new sibling. I know for a fact that when I was young, and my own younger brother had been born I was always jealous about him having gotten far more attention than myself at the time, but Mamoru Hosoda creates a whole other adventure from something that could have seemed so simple at first in order to create a perfect tale of coming of age, even while incredibly young. Admittedly, Mamoru Hosoda’s sentimentality was never something that had always worked for myself (even holding back films like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars from being truly great in my eyes), yet I’ve always admired the sweetness that he aims for in his work. With Mirai, what comes by is a perfect story for children – especially those who are still learning how to cope with jealousy amidst their families, but there’s a resounding sense of nostalgia that comes by for adult viewers which would allow its impact to stretch much further. As is, I had already found the film to be admirable enough even if I still found it slightly lacking in that same way I have always thought of Hosoda to be.
Mirai is the newborn sister of the young Kun, a boy born into a family of busy parents. Upon first encounter, Kun greets the infant Mirai with jealous eyes, now knowing that she has also stolen the heart of his parents away from him. This is of course where the story finds its own footing, because soon enough, Kun finds himself on yet another adventure when he wanders into the garden and eventually meets the family’s household pet, Yukko, appearing to him in human form – only then getting a chance to learn more about how he experienced a similar jealousy when Kun was born. But soon enough, he ends up meeting his many relatives in the forms of their many selves through different phases of time as he starts to get a better picture about the hardships that form the path that defines their life at its current state. There’s a lot to admire about how much can Hosoda tell within a simple premise of a child learning to love a new sibling and the effort that their parents put into raising them, because there’s an important lesson to be told from this film that will eventually be made to stick with audiences – even to that point it’d strike back a memory or two.
Watching Mirai, I was already thinking back to the times I spent together with my young cousins – oftentimes they were calling for my attention even when it was clear that I was busy. But that business is also seen as normal to a person’s life, sometimes it would even bring us towards a better future as we grow up, and Mamoru Hosoda keeps that message ever so simple. Yet it’s that simplicity that allows such a message to work, because it’s something that would easily stick within the minds of its young audience, but even resonate like a memory that’s sure to define your existence. But it also did catch me, like my cousins, Kun did get on my nerves, especially when the film started, so it wasn’t easy to find myself wanting to spend more time with him. Though the sweetness that came along the way in seeing Kun grow a sense of respect for others around him, by allowing him to enter a world that he could understand thanks to the grown-up Mirai and her own ability to travel through time, only made for a viewing that was all the more endearing.
I feel like keeping everything within such a childlike perspective is also what made the impact of this experience feel so limiting for myself; not to say that it keeps me from admiring even the imagination present in every frame of animation coming alive, but it also keeps me from connecting with the film. But I think therein lies the problem that I’ve had with Mamoru Hosoda’s films, his characters don’t quite latch onto the viewers in the same sense that his other competitors like Hayao Miyazaki or Satoshi Kon would do so, but there’s a lot to admire about the animation if there’s anything else to be said from the get go. It all starts to improve in its second half when the more imaginative moments come in, but while I was in the face of beautiful animation, I also found myself more annoyed than not at Kun. I suppose that would be the point, but he also never rang as a compelling character to stick around with because only his worst qualities came alive more often so than his own journey to grow into a much more loving child.
While I have yet to truly fall in love with the work of Mamoru Hosoda, I feel like it would be easy enough for me to say that there’s still a lot more that audiences are sure to be captivated by in here. From the first sequence where Kun enters the garden to his first encounter with Mirai’s future self, the imagination only ever finds itself on full display here as we also grow to see a tale of how a child’s decisions can shape the sort of person they grow up to become. It doesn’t always deliver, but where Mirai lands, I’ve no doubt that its message is sure to resonate with many viewers – because it truly is important for children who are only getting used to what it feels like to have a completely new experience coming their way. It can be scary, it can be maddening, knowing you won’t get what you want, but there’s a chance that must be given out and perhaps it could be for the better.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Toho.
Directed by Mamoru Hosoda
Screenplay by Mamoru Hosoda
Produced by Nozomu Takahashi, Yûichirô Saitô, Takuya Itô, Yûichi Adachi, Genki Kawamura
Starring Moka Kamishiraishi, Haru Kuroki, Gen Hoshino, Kumiko Aso, Mitsuo Yoshihara, Yoshiko Miyazaki, Koji Yakusho, Masaharu Fukuyama
Running Time: 98 minutes
Release Date: July 20, 2018