Alternative Title: Mirai no Mirai, 未来のミライ
Release Date: July 20, 2018
Studio: Studio Chizu
Genre: Adventure, Drama & Fantasy
Theme: Time Travel
Length: 1 hour 38 minutes.
Mamoru Hosoda might not personally care much for comparisons to legends in his industry, but his consistent filmography inevitably leads to those comparisons. While Hosoda’s first two projects were contributing to massive franchises in Digimon and One Piece, his 2006 film The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is where Hosoda introduced his own brand of imagination and whimsy to the big screen. Since then Hosoda has released fan favorites including Summer Wars (2009) and Wolf Children (2012).
Mirai of the Future Review
Last summer’s release Mirai no Mirai (“Mirai of the Future”) is particularly significant for Hosoda as it garnered him his first ever Oscar nomination. The Academy typically avoids any Japanese animations outside of any Ghibli film. It’s a serious nod of acknowledgement to Hosoda, however while I can easily say his other works deserve more exposure, Mirai of the Future may not the best one to start with Academy recognition.
It starts with a young family in Yokohama, a wife and husband as we are shown a series of images of them building their family. First they acquire a dog followed by the birth of a little boy named Kun, our main protagonist. The story picks up with the mother having just given birth to a girl, Mirai (“future” in Japanese). Kun is not fond of Mirai as she diverts attention away from him and changes the family’s dynamics.
Through various fantastical situations, Kun interacts with an older (or “future”) version of Mirai who scolds her brother for his unfair treatment towards her younger self. As he travels between past, present and future Kun comes to learn of his family’s history via exchanges with several members of his lineage.
Hosoda is no stranger to exploring the messy nature of familial relationships. Kun is frustrated that he no longer commands ultimate attention from his parents and goes through typical childish behavior to grab their attention whether it’s dumping all of his toys all over the house or hiding away in hopes of being sought after.
Meanwhile during one his several meltdowns, we see him playfully interacting with a human version of their dog Yukko, a self-proclaimed Prince who also laments Kun’s existence.
This interest in family relationships drives all of the film’s action, and it is through the character interactions and relations that Hosoda displays his creativity. Kun’s strategies at getting attention and how he reconciles his relationships are drive the plot as he’s propelled into each scenario that provides him with a lesson.
Simultaneously, the mother and father also learn how to deal with Kun’s behavior following each flashback, like how the dad realizes that he’s best off just supporting Kun in his bicycle riding and marveling at how determined and quick to learn things kids can be after Kun meets his great-grandfather.
The final sequence of the film is aimed at Kun, as each member of his household has come to reevaluate their relationship with him he must finally learn about the similarities he shares with his family. But what’s repetitive is how the audience is constantly being reminded that the family ultimately loves one another. Learning about Kun’s individual family members and watching them develop isn’t a problem; there are bigger issues with how the story is told.
At times the film loses touch between visual storytelling and verbal narrative.
Based on Kun’s discoveries as he interacts with his family members, the lessons he and the audience take away should be similar, yet the movie continuously explains a conclusion both parties could have drawn themselves. For example, at one point future Mirai and Kun are watching a past event with their mother where she’s holding a dead bird.
She explains that her affection for cats (displayed earlier in the film) was soiled that day after discovering the bird’s corpse. Here was a chance to show rather than tell.
Speaking of Mirai herself, for a film titled after her the future version has very little screen time. She’s relegated to being a spiritual guide for Kun, yet she’s hardly in any of the flashbacks Kun experiences. Baby Mirai and future Mirai not being able to simultaneously exist in the same space makes sense.
What doesn’t is a lack of older Mirai’s presence despite the title of the film. This lack of exposure might partly be due to the movie’s runtime of an hour and forty minutes. The film was brisk, and perhaps to its detriment. Extra time could have been dedicated to exploring more of Kun’s family’s past or having more interactions with his future self. At the very least, the title could have been altered to reflect the narrative more accurately.
While the screenwriting leaves something to be desired, there is some clever creativity at work with the visuals. Kun’s house was modeled after his father’s architectural designs and the camera seamlessly transitions from one part of the building to the next.
The oak tree in the front yard is the centerpiece for Kun’s fantastical transitions as the camera swings in a 180 degree angle to expose his visions. As usual, Hosoda’s character designs are distinctly stylized. Infant Mirai in particular is beautiful to look at. as newborns usually are.
Mirai of the Future is a fine film. Following Kun as he discovers his family’s history and learning to accept his role within it is enjoyable.
A longer run time and more focus on certain characters could have made this a sturdier character-driven experience. Hosoda missed an opportunity to show rather than tell in multiple instances and as a result the impact of the lessons were lessened. The Oscars are showcasing a decent family flick, but not one of Hosoda’s stronger pieces.