In This Beautiful Anime, a Toddler is Annoying
I saw the Mirai movie. It was playing at the local film society. My wife had recently watched some sort of horrible anime on Netflix about girls and ghosts. She seemed disappointed. So I took her to see an actual good anime on the recommendation of my anime-watching friend, who knows about these things.
In Mirai, a toddler boy named Kun lives happily in Japan with his two NPR-type parents. The father is a passive-aggressive architect, and the mother is a corporate type who struggles to Lean In. Then along comes a baby sister, named Mirai. Kun gets confused and jealous. He shrieks a lot, and when he doesn’t shriek, he whines.
About a half-hour in, the imaginative anime bits take over. First comes a great fantasy sequence where Kun encounters a shaggy deposed prince, who we quickly figure out is an anthropomorphized fantasy of the family dog. Then a teenage girl, Mirai from the future, appears. About every ten minutes or so, Kun disappears into some sort of reverie, imagining himself transported through time or into fantasy realms, where he learns important lessons.
He frolics with his mother as a child and meets his great-grandfather as an young man. In a spectacularly spooky sequence, he gets lost in a surreal Tokyo train station full of monsters and evil robots. Kun and teenage Mirai fall endlessly through some sort of weird historical matrix, where Kun learns that he’s part of something bigger than himself and that nothing matters more than family.
MIRAI ★★★ (3/5 stars)
Directed by: Mamoru Hosoda
Written by: Mamoru Hosoda
Starring: John Cho, Rebecca Hall, Daniel Dae Kim
Running time: 98 min.
This movie reminded me of two relatively recent American cartoon features. It resembles Inside Out in that it uses animated flights of fancy to depict a certain kind of difficult childhood transition. Also, like in Inside Out, the family exists inside a privileged urban bubble, where the concerns of the babies take precedence over everything else. However, unlike Inside Out, the movie basically lacks a sense of humor and imaginative celebrity voice work. And, of course, there’s no Bing Bong. It’s also a bit like another Pixar movie, Coco, in that it places family history as the most important thing, perhaps the only important thing, in life. But it contains no amazing songs, and only the most subtle of plots. Yuppies have a kid, and then they have another kid, and the world just keeps on turning.
Seventy-five percent of this movie’s dialogue consists of Kun shrieking stuff like “WHAT?” or “MOOOOOOOM!” I had a toddler once, so I figured I was clear of hearing that endless self-absorbed howl. Mirai should contain a trigger warning for anyone who’s ever raised a little kid. This movie will not relax them. Behind me at the screening, a young female couple, all snuggled up and in love, cooed delightfully at all of Kun’s antics. They gasped when he fell off his bike and laughed when he screamed for his dad. Foolish humans. I’d like to see how they react to this movie in ten or 15 years, assuming they go through the baby-wringer. At a certain point, little kids in movies don’t seem so cute anymore.