Man, when it comes to the anime movie business, I sometimes get the impression that almost everybody’s ultimate goal is gunning for that Studio Ghibli mantle. It seems to taken over famed director Mamoru Hosoda, that’s for sure; his latest film, Mirai, isn’t even his first go at this kind of thing. This time, however, did end up better than the first.
Day 3 of the 12 Days of Anime 2018
Before getting to that, though, can I just give a shout-out to this here Fathom Events era of anime? Once upon a time, it felt like whatever Pokémon movie last had a movie premiere was the last hope for a not-Ghibli anime to ever hit American theaters. That was it. Zip. Nada. Anime was never going to show up on the big screen ever again; be ever resigned to your fate.
The past several years, however, have flipped that script somewhat. Thanks to services such as Fathom, we’ve been getting fairly regular ultra-limited releases of a fair number of anime movies. I got to see your name. that way last year. I got to witness Girls und goddamn Panzer Der Film the year before that by similar means. On an actual theater screen!! And that’s all without mentioning how surreal it still feels to see trailers for the likes of flicks like Ordinal Scale while settling in for the latest Marvel movie or some shit.
I dearly wish the limited release windows for these things were not as severely limited as they are, but having even the chance to see these things on something larger than a television is still something I’m very thankful for. Such were the circumstances that allowed my fiancée and I the chance to see Mamoru Hosoda’s Mirai on the big screen on Thursday November 29.
It wasn’t necessarily what I had been expecting, based on the trailers—the more fantastical parts were more humble and less prominent than it seemed would be the case, taking more of a backseat to a sibling coming-of-age tale—but I liked it! The strides at Ghibli were very much apparent, but it wasn’t so much towards Miyazaki’s turf like Hosoda’s previous The Boy and the Beast had been.
Not that I’m complaining; I tend to have a softer spot for many of Ghibli’s non-Miyazaki films anyway (psst, Whisper of the Heart is my absolute favorite), and it isn’t like The Boy and the Beast was especially strong, either. I think a more accurate Ghibli point of comparison for Mirai would be When Marnie Was There. Speaking of movies that I really ought to see again...hmm...
So, we have this little train-obsessed kid named Kun who has just newly become the big brother to his newborn sister, Mirai. Little does he realize, however, that her arrival means life as he knew it is about to change in some major ways. Often in rather unpleasant ways, like how he is suddenly no longer the sole benefactor of his parents’ attention, since they have to tend to a fresh baby child and all.
Kun takes to this shakeup of the status quo about as well as expected. Which is to say, not happily at all. Part of me has to wonder how much of this had to have been autobiographical in some sense, as if showing all of Kun’s selfish (sometimes outright harmful) antics were either some kind of indirect apology for being a less than ideal older sibling. That, or maybe it comes from the dealings of a parent who experienced this firsthand.
But Kun does eventually grow somewhat! Often with lots of aid from a little outdoor area—one maybe all in his imagination? maybe not?—that inexplicably acts like a temporal hub to times both past and present. Through these short excursions, he meets different versions of his family members, including a teenaged Mirai from the future, and he ends up learning bits and pieces about himself and his family.
A grand adventure, this is not, basically. I am of mixed minds about this. On the one hand, I felt a sense of deflation upon realizing that this wasn’t going to be some Coco-like romp through trippiness; maybe it would have been more of a grand old time had there been more sweeping pizzazz. On the other hand, though, Hosoda still isn’t wholly deft at the whimsical dreamlike fantasy metaphor that is trademark Ghibli, so maybe it was instead ultimately for the best that those things were a bit more secondary in the grand scheme of things.
Besides, even if the ambition isn’t as strong, it’s still plenty cute with a dash of funny, and visually quite the looker, too. Hosoda does some pretty cool things with the camera and staging as well from time to time. There’s one scene in particular that’s sort of like Wolf Children’s single-take passage-of-time-at-school scene but on steroids, using the peculiar architecture of Kun’s home to fun and clever effect.
Mirai is not up there with Mamoru Hosoda’s absolute best works, but it was a fun little treat that I am overall happy to have seen. And even got to witness on the big screen at that!