The Future’s Past
Movie in a Sentence
Kun, a young boy struggling to cope with the diminished attention he receives from his parents thanks to his new baby sister Mirai, magically meets family members from the past and learns what it means to be a brother.
What I liked
A brief disclaimer: Mamoru Hosoda is my favorite anime movie director. While I admit that “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” might be remembered as a better movie than it actually was, “Summer Wars” remains one of my favorite movies of all time, “Wolf Children” was a heartfelt tale of motherhood, and “The Boy and the Beast” was a gripping tale of fatherhood. Mirai follows Hosoda’s family-theming, focusing on brotherhood, but in reality the movie is more than that and presents its themes in a different way than any of his other movies. Yes, the movie is all about Kun’s experience, but it is also about his mom and dad growing as parents and how Mirai fits into it all. In a way, the completeness in the look into the family actions feels like a culmination of every other Hosoda movie. Of course, these looks into family life are gorgeously animated: I’m not ashamed to say that Studio Chizu puts out some of my favorite character designs and settings.
Presentation-wise, this movie greatly deviates from Hosoda’s prior works. Instead of one flowing film, Mirai is set up as a series of vignettes focusing on Kun meeting a different family member and a different theme. Yes, there is one general plot, but that plot is really just a guide to how the characters are going to grow. This general plot does a great job of tying the vignettes together and, man, the vignettes are great. They provide a look into the history and future of not just Kun but his entire family, and seeing different people in different periods of time was extremely heartfelt and a couple of these in particular brought tears to my eyes. All in all, the vignettes serve their purpose in allowing Kun to grow and also bring in another theme: Knowing where you come from can help you move forward. This movie had so many relatable themes and that, coupled with great characters, animation, and music, made it a great experience.
What I Didn’t Like
I loved this movie so much that it hurts me to write a section on things I didn’t like but it would be unfair not to mention one thing I
had an issue with and one thing others might have an issue with. The thing that I had an issue with boils down to two letters: CG. When I think of a Hosoda movie (even “The Girl Who Leapt through Time) I think of beautiful, 2D, momentum-filled scenes with a lot of motion in the details. That wasn’t absent here, but the use of CG was very evident in some spots. Yes, Studio Chizu’s style works really well with CG but some scenes had me wishing that they were traditionally done (my favorite vignette, for example, had a major scene rendered in subtle yet noticeable CG). Now on to the issue that others might have: Pacing. Didn’t I just praise the structure and pacing of the movie, though? Yes, yes I did. However, when people sit down to watch a movie the typical expectation is one flowing experience, not a general plot with a more defined episodic feel to it. I enjoyed this because each vignette being a different day in the life of the family felt relatable, but I can see how other viewers might find this jarring or might think it misses the mark.
To me, Mirai was a special movie. In recent years, we as anime fans have gotten some great works (“Your Name” and “A Silent Voice” are recent standouts) and each movie has presented special and impactful experiences. No movie in recent years, though, has felt as personal to me as Mirai did. Hosoda has gotten better with each movie and I didn’t know how he could top “The Boy and the Beast” but somehow he found a way to put out an extremely high quality product. I struggle to say that it is “better” than his other movies because it is so different structurally, but tonally and thematically it could be his best work yet. While there might be some things that bug some viewers, in my eyes this movie deserves to be held up as one of the best anime movies in the past few years and it is one that shouldn’t be missed. Look into what your family has done before you because knowing your past can help your future.