Japanese animation feature film “Mirai” is a passable piece of work a bit too mild and shallow to impress me enough. Although it provides a number of lovely visual moments as we can expect from a well-made cell animation film, it is frequently hampered by its rather repetitive storytelling, and you may become impatient as the story keeps spinning its wheels without much narrative development to interest or engage you.
In the beginning, we see how everything has been fine for a young boy named Kun (voiced by Moka Kamishiraishi) and his parents. Thanks to his architect father, Kun and his family have happily lived in a slick and cozy modern house located in some urban area of Tokyo, and Kun has enjoyed lots of affection and attention from his parents since he was born several years ago.
However, things are about to be changed a lot because Kun’s mother recently gives birth to his baby sister. When Kun’s mother returns to the family house along with her baby daughter, Kun is delighted to be a big brother to his baby sister, but he soon becomes quite discontented as his parents become busy with taking care of his baby sister. While Kun’s mother needs to have a rest for a while and is soon going to go back to her work, Kun’s father is going to handle all the domestic affairs instead of his wife, and, not so surprisingly, most of his time is spent on his baby daughter, who is subsequently named Mirai (It means ‘future’ in Japanese, by the way).
When Kun openly expresses his growing discontent about getting enough attention from his parents, something weird happens in front of him. A mysterious guy suddenly appears in the garden of the family house, and it does not take much time for Kun to discern who this guy actually is (I will not reveal his identity here for not spoiling your entertainment). After having a little fun time with this guy, Kun comes to feel a bit better than before, and it looks like he will get along well with his baby sister, but, what do you know, he becomes angry again as being reminded again that his baby sister is still his parents’ No.1 priority.
After that point, Kun encounters an adolescent girl who turns out to be older Mirai from future. She wants to do something for marrying someone as soon as possible, so Kun joins her plan along with that aforementioned guy, and we get a silly comic moment as they try to accomplish their mission in the family house while not noticed by Kun’s father.
As watching this moment, you will probably wonder whether older Mirai (voiced by Haru Kuroki) and that aforementioned guy are merely fantasy elements generated from Kun’s imagination. While remaining ambiguous about the nature of these two characters, the film does not delve that deep into its premise, and it is also disappointing that these two characters remain to be more or less than perfunctory plot elements throughout the film.
Moreover, it is often frustrating to watch the film monotonously switching back and forth between its two contrasting modes. Whenever Kun is pissed off about something, the film shifts itself onto its fantasy mode as required, and there are several fantasy moments including the one showing his unexpected encounter with the younger version of his great-grandfather, who kindly shows Kum how to be more confident about riding a bike for himself without his father’s help.
To be frank with you, it was a little difficult for me to care about Kun, who is no more than your typical willful boy. Sure, I might have been as stubborn as him when I was young and wild, but, whenever he seems to learn something via his fantastic experience, he always gets reverted to his old willful attitude, and that reminds me of that famous line from “Citizen Kane” (1941): “Only you’re going to need more than one lesson. And you’re going to get more than one lesson.”
In contrast, what Kun’s parents experience as taking care of their second child is depicted with more care and attention in comparison. While they are good parents, they sometimes get frustrated as facing the difficulties of raising their children, and Kun’s father surely comes to realize how hard it is to take care of a baby. Through his demanding domestic experiences, he comes to learn how to be a better parent than before, and that certainly helps strengthening his relationship with his wife.
Despite its weak story and characters, “Mirai” is visually impressive at least, and director/writer Mamoru Hosoda, who has been known for his several acclaimed animation films including “Summer Wars” (2009), “Wolf Children” (2012), and “The Boy and the Beast” (2015), serves us some striking moments to remember. I loved the crisp opening shot giving us a wide view of the urban landscape surrounding Kun’s family house, I enjoyed a brief but breathtaking moment featuring heaps of fishes, and I also liked a futuristic sequence unfolded in a crowded train station. In case of its grand climatic sequence, it is definitely worthwhile to watch on a big screen, but I must point out that it also feels too short and hurried to generate any substantial emotional effect for us.
Compared to Hosoda’s previous works, “Mirai” is less enjoyable in many aspects, but it is not entirely without good elements at least. Although I am not satisfied enough with its overall result, I will not deny that I was entertained to some degrees when I watched it at a local theater this morning, so I will not stop you from watching it if you just want to spend your free time.