Cast: Moka Kamishiraishi, Haru Kuroki, Gen Hoshino, Kumiko Aso
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Fathom Events and GKIDS bring MIRAI, a daringly original story of love passed down through generations from acclaimed director Mamoru Hosoda and Japan’s Studio Chizu, to select theaters on November 29, December 5 and 8. When four-year-old Kun meets his new baby sister, his world is turned upside down. Named Mirai (meaning “future”), the baby quickly wins the hearts of Kun’s entire family. As his mother returns to work, and his father struggles to run the household, Kun becomes increasingly jealous of baby Mirai… until one day he storms off into the garden, where he encounters strange guests from the past and future — including his sister Mirai, as a teenager. Together, Kun and teenage Mirai go on a journey through time and space, uncovering their family’s incredible story. The epic capstone of director Mamoru Hosoda’s career, Mirai is a sumptuous, magical, and emotionally soaring adventure about the ties that bring families together and make us who we are.
Being 100% honest, I do not have the most extensive background with foreign animated films. I have seen a few of the more critically acclaimed Studio Ghibli films, but outside of that my experiences with foreign animated films has been few and far between. With Mirai, viewers from all nations get an intimate look into family life in Japan and the unique customs that are attached to it. Seeing as we do not get these releases quite as often as Asian countries, anytime a good release happens, it becomes an almost much-watch experience. Luckily for anyone who was able to catch one of the limited releases of this film, they were able to immerse themselves in a movie that was emotional, intimate, and beautiful in all the ways we can ask for.
The film follows Kun (voiced by Kamishiraishi), a young boy who lives with his loving family in modern-day Japan. When his mother brings home his baby sister Mirai (voiced by Kaede Hondo), Kun must learn to share his family with his new sibling. While he struggles at first, he copes with these changes by going out into his family garden and communicating with family members from the past and the future. The things that make this movie so amazing to watch are the emotional connection we have to the family and the way the animation style looks. Starting the with emotional connection, the main point that the film tries to make is that we are all connected to one another in some way. The actions of someone 70 years ago make an impact on the people being born today because if something had gone differently, you would not be the person you are today and maybe would not even have been born. Now we have seen these ideas communicated in the past, some movies like It’s A Wonderful Life nailing the idea in almost perfect execution while others like Life Itself completely bastardizing the idea to the point of unrecognizability, but thankfully we get something closer to It’s A Wonderful Life. The fact that this idea is conveyed through the perspective of a small child helps drive the point home and seeing someone’s life truly change before our eyes is always a pleasant sight. Outside of the story the animation is some of the most appealing of the year and helps drive home the above point. There is a sequence towards the end of the movie at a train station that shows you the true power of hand drawn animation. Not only do these scenes capture the scale of the environment that Kun has placed himself in, but it can almost showcase his emotional attachment and fear with some of the scariest imagery of the year. You can see just how much the people who worked on this film cared about it by the way that each frame shows us how important it is for the development of the movie. The animation in particular helps improve the film’s only real flaw; the characters. Kun and his father (voiced by Hoshino), get very grating at times. Kun is a small child so naturally he has moments that are immature, but his father is completely incompetent for most of the movie. I get that we are supposed to watch as these characters grow over time, but there had to be a different way to write these characters. I get the idea of showing how they are flawed, but making them too unlikable means the payoff has to be that much better at the end.
Overall, Mirai is not something I expected to be able to watch, but I am certainly glad that I did. In an age where computer-generated animation dominates the industry, seeing a movie go in a different direction and succeed is always something I will root for. Mirai is the type of movie that may not attract people because of its foreign language element, but those who do make the effort to watch it will probably love what they see.
Overall Score: 8.5/10