Following Wolf Children, Mamoru Hosoda delivered what was maybe his most lackluster (though not quite bad) film with The Boy And The Beast. But his next picture, Mirai, is a masterpiece. Nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2018 Oscars, Mirai takes the themes of both parental and childhood insecurity that were present in Wolf Children, and blows them up into an entire family tree. Hosoda is interested in familial warmth and growth, and how the smallest moments in someone’s life can drastically change how they see things—and how they see themselves.
Mirai’s episodic structure allows us to witness the lives of young siblings Kun and Mirai in short bursts. Where there was a peace to the way Wolf Children contrasted melodrama with playfulness, Mirai is a film that’s constantly in motion. Repetition, from major tantrums to minor breakthroughs, is a key element, turning the smallest event into something major. Life is no longer grounded in this film—instead, it’s made of one imaginative experience after another. Each changes us as we move through it, and every world we’re introduced to is somehow more stunning than the last.
The film itself moves through time, through frames, through worlds, and through history, all without ever betraying its core characters. It’s Hosoda’s most mature piece of cinema, the kind of ambitious story that’s as human as it is fanciful, and as personal as it is grand.