originally posted at https://canmom.tumblr.com/post/626929...
It’s (just hit) Thursday, which means it’s the time of week where I expose my friends to lethal doses of animation. This week, we’re going to be checking out another anime director - Mamoru Hosoda (細田 守)! which is to say, this dude:
…only now six years older, but he probably looks pretty similar :p
So who’s this dude? Mamoru Hosoda is an anime film director, known for, essentially, sci-fi dramas which are ultimately very much about realistic characters and relationships. A typical Hosoda film premise is like, you’ve got a touching character story about the trials of a single mum raising kids in the Japanese countryside, only the kids are also adorable werewolves. That’s the kind of thing he does. (If you want a more informed take, kVin of Sakuga Blog has you covered like usual. I’m gonna present my own impressions here!)
Hosoda’s early films were actually franchise films - he did a bunch of work on the Digimon franchise, and also on a One Piece film. In 2001, he joined up with Studio Ghibli to direct their adaptation of Howl’s Moving Castle, but ultimately that didn’t pan out - although he storyboarded a bunch of the film, his vision of it was apparently not compatible with what they wanted, and Miyazaki took over the project.
Instead, he ended up working with Madhouse (the studio who made most of Satoshi Kon’s films, alongside like a million other projects) on a different classic novel adaptation: Yasutaka Tsutsui’s 1965-6 serial novel The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. It’s a story about how a schoolgirl gains the power to time travel, only to find herself stuck in a time loop, which has become something of a classic, but I believe this was its first anime adaptation.
The result was a film I’ve been wanting to watch for ages, in particular because it showcases some absolutely brilliant character animation by the first wave of ‘webgen’ animators such as Ryosuke Sawa/Ryo-Timo. I actually wrote a huge long post on a particular favourite cut from this film I’ve seen floating around the sakuga world, in which the protagonist goes through a variety of emotions while running along a street, so I’m pretty damn excited both to see the context of that shot!
And also just like… I mean look at the character animation in the clip above? How full of life and expression it is? That’s what it’s all about, you know! As much as I love big flashy fights, or meticulously animated machines, or really technical perspective shots… making a character feel this lively is the dream. if I can pull off something like that one day, I’ll have made it as an animator.
Also I think there’s some heterosexuality or something idk. That’s an acceptable price to pay to see a girl animated this well!
In The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, we see a few of the hallmarks of hosoda’s style - in particular, the unshaded kagenashi animation, a conscious choice which he apparently describes as a means to create a clarity of feeling and expression, especially for his child characters. Not many animators still use this style - though Masaaki Yuasa, whose work we saw a few weeks ago, is one person who does. To my eye, I think this probably makes it a lot easier to focus on animation - with just solid shapes and lines, silhouettes read incredibly clearly and it takes less time to go from pencils to finished frames, so you can spend more time on nailing the motion itself. Whatever the logic, it results in a really distinctive visual style.
After The Girl Who Leapt Through Time turned out to be a big hit, Hosoda went on to start directing a bunch more films in the same vein. His next film was Summer Wars, about a computer game world… though this film doesn’t seem to have made as much of a splash compared to his others. Next, though, was probably his most famous film: Wolf Children.
That premise I described of the single mum raising adorable werewolves? I wasn’t making that up, that’s what Wolf Children (2012) is. Our protagonists are a human woman whose werewolf husband dies, and her two kids, who grow up over the course of the film.
It’s definitely a film designed to work the emotions: the kids grow from adorable little pups to troubled teenagers trying to fit in at school while secretly being, you know, woofs, packing in a great deal of character development. As before, the character animation is outstanding, of animals as much as people, and that’s what makes it really sing I think.
With Wolf Children, Hosoda founded his own small studio, called Studio Chisu. They’re pretty small, but thanks to the reputation of people like Hosoda, the studio can draw a lot of talented people to make their films, much like Masaaki Yuasa’s very similar studio Science Saru.
Following Wolf Children, Hosoda kept up the schedule of releasing a film every three years in July. In 2015, he wrote and directed The Boy and the Beast (Bakemono no Ko), about an orphan who is effectively adopted by a big furry prince from another world, and as such gets drawn into a contest for succession.
I admit, I’ve not seen this film! It looks like it’s probably pretty fun. But because Hosoda’s directed way more films than we’ve got time to show in one night, I’m going to focus on his next one…
Hosoda’s latest film is Mirai (未来のミライ Mirai no Mirai - the girl’s name has the same pronunciation as the word for ‘future’), again focusing on really sincere family relationships - though this time with a more comedic angle than Wolf Children. This one is, I’m led to understand, much more autobiographical than Hosoda’s other work. kVin describes it as a “magical realism tale drawn through the eyes of Kun, a four-year-old boy with a very active imagination”.
The title of this film refers to Kun’s sister Mirai, and the vision of her future self that Kun has when she is born. But from the sound of things, it’s also about Kun’s architect dad, who’s a stand-in for a different Hosoda. The setting is a cool weird tall house designed by an actual architect, full of spaces that inspire Kun to imagine stuff… it sounds charming, altogether.
Mirai does have one other unusual quality, in that it’s one of the few anime films to get an acknowledged by the Americans for the ‘Best Animated Film’ oscar. Which unfortunately says more about the Academy than the film, given all the incredible anime films they’ve ignored. (Spider-Verse got the actual award, one of the few times they gave it to a non-Pixar film.)
Anyhoo, that’s the plan! We’re gonna Hosoda’s three best-known films: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Wolf Children and Mirai. The time will be 7pm UK time (about 17 hours from this post… yes I’m up at 2am writing about anime, I know, I know) and the place will be twitch.tv/canmom. I’ll reblog this closer to the time, hope to see you all there!