Anime Review: Mirai

By Drew Hurley 27.08.2019

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Mirai (UK Rating: PG)

Mamoru Hosoda has been responsible for some of the most memorable anime movies in recent years. He has a huge footprint on the industry and at one point he was tapped to actually direct Howl's Moving Castle. While that never happened, Hosoda-sensei went on to achieve some amazing things, with titles like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars, Wolf Children, and The Boy and the Beast. Anyone who has seen any from this impressive catalogue will understandably be excited at the prospect of a new addition. Now Hosoda-sensei's seventh film, and one that earned him an Oscar nomination, is arriving in the UK on July 15th, and it's coming courtesy of All the Anime.
Mirai opens with a glimpse at an idyllic little family in Yokohama, with the star of this story not being the titular Mirai, but a young boy named Kun. Kun is four years old, and when the movie begins he is waiting with his grandmother in his eclectic home - his father is an architect, and the unique design looks like a wonderful place to live. Kun is waiting for his parents to return from the hospital and to bring with them a new addition to their family. Kun is getting a little sister, and like most big brothers, he's excited at the prospect - but when the baby arrives he realises the reality is far away from what he hoped
The situation itself is going to be a familiar one to many in the audience, as are the subsequent developments. As mum and dad struggle to adapt to the chaos a baby introduces in your life, Kun finds his parents' attention and love are suddenly shared - he's no longer the centre of attention and he acts out. Even worse when he realises the baby can't play with him or do much of anything really other than sleep, eat, and cry.
The parents need to change their roles too as when they had Kun Dad was able to work full-time while Mum stayed at home, now Mum has to go to work while Dad has to work from home and pick up the slack on the housework. Meaning Kun gets even less time with his Mum. All of this makes Kun act out and in one particular tantrum, he belts his sister with a toy train.
This tantrum manages to enrage his mum to a level he's never seen before, and after he's screamed at, he plans to run away, just making it to his garden manages to be enough. As he steps near the grand tree at the heart of the centre he is whisked away to a magical land where a proud man calling himself the Prince of the House is waiting for him. This Prince tells Kun that Kun deserves to lose his parents attention because Kun once stole his parents' attention away from the Prince. This Prince is Yukko. The family dog.

Hosoda-sensei has long mixed the magical with the mundane and Mirai is no different. Made up of heart-warming moments of the everyday magic that babies and toddlers bring, intermixed with these magical journeys Kun embarks on with characters from his bloodline. Past, present and future. These trips usually occurring when he has had a particularly bad argument with his parents. The next sees his little garden magically transforming into a verdant, overgrown forest, and in it is "Mirai no Mirai." Mirai is what his parents dub the baby, and in Japanese, Mirai means "future."  "Mirai no Mirai" is actually the Japanese title. Meaning "The Future Mirai" or "Mira's future," and standing before Kun is "Mirai no Mirai," it's his little baby sister towering above him. She's a teenager. This Mirai no Mirai has a message for him but is also after his help, trying to avert an ancient Japanese superstition that could end up ruining her love life. It takes Mirai no Mirai, human form Yukko, and Kun working together to accomplish this simple task.
As many parents of kids this age can guess, there are many more arguments between Kun and his parents, and many more magical trips for him. He gets to travel back and meet up with his mother back when she was his age. Learning a little bit more about her and bond over their problematic siblings. A stressful day learning to ride his bike sees him transported back to his great grandfather's hay day. Then in a grand finale, Kun finds himself in a place and Train loving Tokyo kid would adore. Tokyo Station. A Tokyo station of the future.
This collection contains both the original Japanese dub and the new English dub. The Japanese dub is headed up by a familiar voice from starring roles in Hosoda's other works. Moka Kamishiraishi who previously voiced Keno in Wolf Children and Mitsuha from Your Name. Meanwhile, the English has some surprising additions including John Cho as the Dad, Rebecca Hall as the Dad (MCU fans with recognise as Maya in Iron Man 3), and Daniel Dae Kim as the Great Grandfather. Outside of the dubs, there are no real bonus features here sadly, just a pair of trailers for the film. Very disappointing.
All of Hosoda-sensei's works have delivered beautiful moments, and while this doesn't quite live up to some of its predecessors, it makes up for it by grounding the story in a much more personal story. It's a reality many families have lived through, and one Hosoda-sensei himself had recently experienced as a new dad. Even without the grand, bombastic scenes, the direction of the film is still absolutely top tier. With plenty of memorable moments, that shines even brighter when complemented by Masakatsu Takagi's wonderful score. The slice-of-life moments are glowing with warmth, but this looks its very best when the perspective switches to show the world through the eyes of Kun, especially in the conclusion where Kun gets to see the magical train station.
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
Bundling the mundane with the magical, Mirai feels like a truly personal story, and one that will resonate with many. It's easy to see why this one managed to net an Academy Award nomination. This tale tugs at the heartstrings and has plenty of heart-warming moments that will leave parents in the audience teary-eyed. Easily worthy of standing alongside Hosoda-sensei's other works, and considering the quality of its contemporaries, there is little higher praise.

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