Anime Reviews: 'Mirai of the Future'
Some Basic Information About the Film
Title: Mirai of the Future a.k.a. Mirai no Mirai a.k.a. Mirai
Production: Studio Chizu
Film Length: 98 minutes
Release Date: 7/20/2018
Age Rating: 3+ (brief shots of small amounts of blood)
Summary: 4-year-old Kun thought he had it all—a large and unique house, a doting mother and father, a playful dog, and all the bullet train toys and tracks a boy could want--but everything changes when his parents come home from the hospital with a new baby girl. Deciding to call her "Mirai," a name reflecting their hope for her future, the parents spend a lot of time caring for the newborn, much to the consternation of Kun and his need to be the center of attention. However, as he becomes more and more frustrated, Kun begins to have spirit visions of family members past, present, and future, including and especially the future version of Mirai. Together, Future Mirai and other members of the Ohta clan will show Kun not only the lessons of their own lives, but also what it means to be a family.
The Good: Wonderfully expressive animation; a myriad of heartwarming and emotional character moments...
The Bad: ...that all build up to a story that is really, really stupid; Kun is probably one of the worst protagonists I've seen in anime
The Ugly: I am astonished that Kun's mom is still alive after...the incident
So, What Brings Me to This Particular Film?
So work has consumed my life for the past few months, and my desire to see this film has waned as a result. I kept reminding myself that this is a Mamoru Hosoda film, and I like Mamoru Hosoda films, but time has passed and my happiness faded away. Until now! I have returned, I have seen Mirai of the Future, and now I'm mad as hell! Hosoda has always played a little loosely with story structure, and maybe isn't the best at it, but his movies have always been enjoyable regardless! But all good things must come to an end, and with this film, Hosoda has finally produced his very first...I don't wanna say "bad" movie, but...it's certainly not "good"...well, let's get into it and examine what I'm talking about, shall we?
What Does Mirai of the Future Get Right?
As with Mamoru Hosoda's previous films, Mirai of the Future wins you over right away with its expressive and inviting animation, featuring simple but elastic character designs occupying painterly backgrounds in thoughtfully planned-out settings. I love every character's design, and how they can (and do) wear just about every facial expression possible. I also love the color scheme the film utilizes, ranging from muted pastels to vibrant golds and verdant greens and deep blues--the artwork is a treat all the way through. Basically, if you've seen one of Hosoda's films, you already know they're quite lovely to look at, and so you already know what you're in for here.
The soundtrack is okay. It's fine. A nice orchestral soundscape that fits each scene, but you won't be struggling to get these songs out of your head. It's fine. The voice acting is also good enough, with one notable exception that I'll get around to later. Your ears won't be annoyed. It's fine. It's fine. It's. Fine.
But the best part of the film lies in (most of) its central cast. I liked the dynamic between the mom and dad, where Dad is neurotic and tries his best but fails, and Mom takes charge and doesn't put up with Kun's whining, throwing his dumb kid logic back in his face. And when the visions of Kun's family through the ages begin to appear, I liked all of them a lot. The dog Yukko takes on a human form as a scruffy middle-age man, whose personality is hilarious and I loved every minute he was on-screen. Teenage Mirai was consistently funny, as well. But the big winner was Kun's great-grandfather, who is just effortlessly cool and charmingly masculine--a real man's man whose very appearance makes your chest hair 10% thicker.
The side characters are great on their own, but they also get plenty of time in the spotlight with their own little mini arcs that serve the dual purpose of character development for them and to give Kun some perspective on his own life. I love that Yukko the dog personifies himself as the prince of the house, who had been the primary beneficiary of Mom and Dad's love until Kun came along and dethroned him, and is frustrated with Kun as a result (though he's a dog, he gets over it when Kun tosses the squeak toy). Mom as a child was a delightful little miscreant, as well, although given the cataclysmic mess she left behind, I was downright astonished Kun didn't suddenly start vanishing, because we all know that there was a murder in that house that night, let's be real now. And the segments with Kun's great-grandfather are a treat, because he is just so cool, you guys.
The movie has a lot of individual moments that just work wonderfully, and you look at them all from a distance and you ask yourself, "Hey, this movie's got a lot of really great moments! So, why don't I like it?"
Now, What Makes Me Want to Smother This Film in the Crib?
To answer that question, the reason you—that is to say, I—don't like this movie despite its many engaging scenes is because you slowly begin to realize that all those wonderful scenes and likable characters are all being utilized in order to tell a story that is monumentally dumb. It is the story of a nuclear family that is facing a really boring, really normal situation in which an older sibling is jealous of the younger sibling. You could make this kind of plot engaging and impactful, as a certain Nickelodeon-produced film based on a popular 90s cartoon once did, but the structure of this film is so disjointed and odd that this basic storyline just falls completely flat.
And then—spoilers, if you care—it turns out that the tree in the house courtyard is some kind of magical family index (WHAT?!) that just happens to be magical because...because it just is? (WHAT?!) Like, if we had established that Great-Grandpa planted this tree with his lady love, and they offered a prayer to the gods to guarantee the tree's growth to symbolize the family's growth, and we are led to believe the spirits of the earth came to inhabit the tree, then sure, fine, with that setup I would be willing to believe the tree has magical family-vision powers. But we never get anything like that. The tree is just magic because reasons. Ugh.
But the biggest obstacle to overcome in this film—the baseball bat that completely and permanently cripples Mirai of the Future and prevents it from ever being a good film—is Kun. Kun is the worst. Kun is a brat, Kun is annoying, and Kun makes nearly every scene he's in unbearable to watch. And yeah, I get that he's just a little kid, and that his character arc's gotta start somewhere, but he just doesn't learn. Ever. Even after being humbled by multiple visions, he still refuses to treat his literal newborn sibling with any kind of gentleness, he adamantly refuses to acknowledge his parents' love and sacrifice, and he just whines constantly. As the family is getting ready for a camping trip at the end of the film, when Kun's development should be nearing its peak, before his final vision, he gets into a shouting match with Mom and declares that he's running away and throws an epic tantrum...because his yellow pants are in the wash. I am not joking. That is literally the conflict that initiates the climax of the film. Kun is mad that he can't wear his yellow pants. Someone kill me, please. This kid is insufferable, and I kind of hate this movie, and it's all his fault.
On a side note, why does Mirai get to be the title character, again? She's not any more important than any of the other family members, and her future self only appears for her mini arc and to explain the plot tree at the very end. Kind of a weird choice, guys.
So, What's the Verdict?
If you hate children, hard pass. Walk away. Do not even look at it. Even if you like children, Mirai of the Future will probably drive you mad with Kun's relentless brattiness. If you're just here for the animation and the side characters, then feel free to fast-forward the movie until those moments you see the tree glow blue. Otherwise, don't even bother. Kun is among the absolute worst protagonists I've seen in anime, and the overall narrative is utter bollocks, so if you absolutely must watch this movie, then you have been adequately warned, I hope. Keep your finger near that fast-forward button at all times.
Final Score: 5.5 out of 10. Mirai of the Future boasts some appealing and expressive animation alongside a cast of fun and interesting side characters, but the story as a whole feels undercooked and stupid while the main character single-handedly takes what should have been a great film and shoves it directly into the dumpster of mediocrity.