Mamoru Hosoda has used his own personal and major life events as a leaping off point for his glorious animation with the theme of family a common thread throughout his body of work. Wolf Children acted as a tribute to his mother and The Boy & The Beast dealt with the importance of passing knowledge to a younger generation – a film he made after his son was born. With Mirai, Hosoda tells the story of a young boy who becomes jealous after the arrival of a baby sister. Again, this reflects his own life as he wrote the film after watching his own son interacting with his daughter. It’s a beautifully observed and very funny animation about the struggles of family life told through the eyes of a four-year-old boy named Kun.
In the middle of Kun’s garden a magical family tree grows and from it sprouts his teenage sister from the future. She’s here to ask for his help and teach him about empathy. As Kun wanders around in his luscious green surroundings his cute dog turns into a prince to have a chat with him, and, one after another, his relatives at different ages appear to him to impart wisdom. Hosoda turns life lessons into an exuberant and enriching story full of intriguing ideas.
From the very start Hosoda nails the chaos and pure joy of family life. Every time Kun gets scolded for taunting his baby sister, manic arguments begin, and he imagines his mother turning into a red-faced Onibaba. Retreating into his imagination Kun’s adventures are creatively composed especially a grand, dark finale set in a painstakingly recreated Tokyo train station where a beastly vehicle appears and people with clocks for faces conjure a surreal Salvador Dali ambience.
By melding impressively designed fantasy and reality together there’s always something surprising around the corner in this Japanese anime. Progressive ideas about the sharing out of household chores and caregiving means there’s even plenty for parents to mull on with the kids being able to enjoy the sparkling and often awe-inspiring animation.