Back in November of last year, I was so caught up with school work that I forgot to write my thoughts about the latest anime film I had seen. To make things worse, it happened to be a particularly great anime film that I neglected to give more attention to. Well, today I’m going to right that wrong by talking about what might just be my new favorite Mamoru Hosoda film: Mirai.
Mamoru Hosoda has already admitted the inspiration for his film in several interviews, but just watching Mirai alone should tell you all you need to know about where his ideas came from. This movie is about a mundane family, living in a typical home, with an average middle-class lifestyle. The core conflict here is the age-old story of an only child dealing with the introduction of a new family member. Kun-chan goes through the motions of jealousy and frustration due to his parents shift in attention—because losing a great deal of attention can feel like losing a great deal love, especially to a child.
This is the humble premise of the story, and it clearly comes from a very real place: actual parenthood. What doesn’t come from a very real place, however, is the mystical time-traveling aspects that are thrown into the movie. The garden in the family’s home acts as a passageway for Kun-chan to visit members of his family lineage, which allows us to explore familial history in a lighthearted, virtually stakes-free environment. There aren’t any worries about timeline confusion or butterfly-effects, instead we just watch Kun-chan jump into neat vignettes of the lives of his family. Mirai does something that I don’t see very often in time-travel fiction: it simply indulges in the moment—creating a scenario such as spending a day with a motorcycle-fixing, war veteran great-grandfather in their adulthood, and then moving on to the next family member and time period—perhaps learning a bit from the experience but never encountering any conflict.
Half the movie feels grounded in reality, showcasing the difficult and beautiful moments in parenthood like teaching your child to ride a bike. The other half is a grounded fantasy, exploring very casual and innocuous thoughts of what it would be like if your dog could talk, or if you could meet your mother when she was a child. I love these kinds of slice of life stories that have only one added fantasy element that doesn’t get out of hand or control the show too heavily. In the end it’s just normal people reacting to something abnormal and handling it well.
One last thing I wanted to point was not about the movie, but of the marketing of the movie. This movie is about Kun-chan, the older brother to Mirai. The fact that they marketed it as being about the teenage girl that is barely relevant in the movie (in comparison to Kun) tells a lot about demographics and perception the industry has of its viewers…though perhaps it may be a correct perception. Most anime take place in high school for a reason, but I just found it interesting that clearly this movie was marketed because people thought there wouldn’t be as much interest in an animated film about a little boy. I, for one, found it to be a pleasant surprise to get such a perspective, even despite my usual distaste for small children. While I like anime high school settings, I find it fun and bold when studios go with different setting and direction. So, props to Mamoru for consistently doing that.
Thanks for reading. I know this week’s post was a short one, I’ve just been in kind of weird mood recently. Also, I wanted to let you know that I’m still working on my Your Name post to be ready before the end of February. Again, thank you for your patience.