Beautiful, but predictable
Jeff Lamson – Arts & Entertainment Editor
“Mirai” is full of whimsical beauty and imagination, but can only drag itself along once the audience catches on to its patterns.
Another animated film written and directed by the now very well- established Mamoru Hosoda, responsible for “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time,” and “Wolf Children,” there were high expectations here.
The film never leaves the limits of this one home and follows a boy named Kun. He discovers that his garden enables him to travel through time and meet members of his family guided by his sister, Mirai, who is an newborn infant in the present.
Traveling through time, meeting his family members serves as a learning experience to Kun, giving him perspective on those that he struggles to get along with. It quickly becomes apparent that he will progress through journey’s with different people in his life until experiencing a more introspective journey in the garden.
While super fun as a concept, the audience pretty much knows all of the beats that the story will hit and when. A lot of the mystery and suspense disappears. This breaks off engagement and unfortunately makes “Mirai” a less memorable experience than some of Hosoda’s other work.
The predictability of these segments is a shame, but that does not mean that they were not at least enjoyable, particularly when Kun encounters his mother when she was the same age as he is.
The strongest element of “Mirai” is the visuals. The animation itself is smooth and vibrant, and the background art is packed with details making the world from the viewpoint of one home feel lived in and believable. The work done by Studio Chizu is high class and the 3D animation elements are well integrated and utilized, making the scenes flow seamlessly. The character designs are simple but powerful, and the directing is purposeful and engaging.
The music throughout the film was good; it had an airy, playful tone that fit well with Kun’s character and the overall tone of the film. There are a few pieces that stand out though. During the climax, surreal and unnatural things happen to Kun and Mirai and the music composed for this is strange, but entrancing; it is fantastic.
Also, worthy of mention are the themes playing in the opening and closing credits, “Mirai Theme” and “Uta no Kisha,” which are both loving throwbacks to Japanese citypop of the early 1980’s. If anything from this film is making it on a playlist, it would be both of these. They are fun, catchy and groovy.
The voice acting for “Mirai” was solid. John Cho captured the essence of the father character fantastically, being just as animated in his performance as the character on screen. Crispin Freeman was a welcome addition as “Mysterious Man,” bringing the same energy and character he always does. Rebecca Hall was rather unconvincing as the mother. She had moments of quality, but was pretty inconsistent, feeling very wooden at times.
In an interview at Cannes Film Festival, Hosoda said that the inspiration for “Mirai” came directly from his son who had said he had seen a future version of his younger sister. This very personal nature to film comes through as one of its most subtle, but resonant strengths.
“Mirai” is a perfectly fine film, but the predictability makes one feel as if they have already seen it in the process. While well animated, it does not provide the same kinds of opportunities for truly impressive work done in other anime films. Solid to be sure, but “Mirai” will go down as a more lackluster entry in Hosoda’s filmography.
Photo Credit: Dick Thomas Johnson