One of my favorite things about living in Hawai’i is the opportunity to see animated features from other countries on the big screen. The films mainly come from Japan which has some of the best creators of the genre in the world rivaling even Walt Disney himself in my opinion. This year at the 38th Hawai’i International Film Festival I had the opportunity to see MIRAI without knowing anymore than the small description listed in the catalog. As usual I was very pleased with the film and story it told.
Per usual with Japanese animated films, human emotions experienced throughout life were at the forefront of MIRAI. It is told with a mix of reality and childhood imagination that Japanese creators seem to capture so well. Kun is the protagonist. He is a young boy that must deal with the changing family dynamics when his mother and father give birth to a newborn girl. Kun is no longer the center of attention and must must accept this abrupt change. The film moves through emotions such as jealousy, anger, acceptance, loneliness, growing up, love, and finally understanding. To accomplish this the film takes the viewer on a journey through time with the occasional company of spirits. To sum the film up, Kun comes to realize all of the connections one must make to understand life. For most, this epiphany comes much later in life.
What I love about the film is how perfectly they capture the emotions of an inexperienced child trying to understand the changing world around them with only a very basic understanding of the world. Through Kun the viewer learns the connections between parents, their grand parents, and the experiences they share. These experiences trickle down from one generation to the next and shape one from a very early age. Not only the past but Kun also meets future iterations of his new sister, himself, and even the spirit of the family dog. Adventures ensue, mischief is undertaken, and fun is had.
True to Japanese anime, everything is captured with matched facial expressions and body language. Scenes are vibrant and detailed as well with the usual emphasis on familiar everyday Japanese items. The city in which the family lives would have to be a real city with all of the detail put into the establishing shots. I was very pleased with the character voicing, music, and artwork stylization that changed depending on in Kun was in the past or future.
Situations in the film that arise are very relatable, engage easily, and connect emotionally. The movie as a whole keeps things light and funny throughout while passing along the ultimate lesson of understanding. It’s a lesson that seems lost in today’s society where no one seems able to consider a difference of opinion or how others pasts shape whom they are today… the basic childhood lessons of “put yourself in the other person’s shoes” or that one isn’t the most important person in the universe.