Introduction and context
I very rarely grace the cinema with my presence. When I think back to my childhood, I recall it being full of advertisements for products I’ll never buy and trailers for movies I’ll never watch, and end up wondering if the ‘big screen’ can really provide a better experience than a DVD or Blu-Ray disc.
I also have ASD Level 1, or Aspergers Syndrome as its more commonly known, and attending events with sizeable amounts of people can be incredibly challenging for me, not to mention the sensory overload that can come with it. I was able to attend my first two anime events this year and had a great time, but I haven’t been to a cinema screening in almost a decade.
But when I heard the premise of Mamoru Hosoda’s new film, Mirai, at MCM Comic Con Scotland in September, it undoubtedly resonated with me, and I felt the urge to watch it as soon as possible
So, what is Mirai? Its a slice of life film with elements of adventure, fantasy and drama that deals with the familial relationship between siblings, accepting the realities of life and all the emotion that comes with those topics.
As an older brother myself who gets along very well with my sister, I wanted to see how much I could relate to. So, last week I took the plunge and bought a ticket to one of the first UK showings at a Vue Cinema venue in Leeds!
The cinema environment
The online booking process was a piece of cake and I was able to reserve a good seat, not too close to the screen and not too far away. After reaching Vue, I noticed a set of electronic ticket machines that allowed you to either purchase a ticket or collect a physical copy of one you already bought online.
Thanks to this super easy system, getting into the cinema didn’t even require speaking to anyone, which was great for someone like me who suffers from social anxiety. The venue was also well-labelled and I had no trouble finding the correct screen.
When I first entered the screening room about twelve minutes before the film was due to start, there was no one else there, so naturally I checked my ticket to confirm I was in the correct room, and sure enough, I was.
After two or three minutes had passed, I started worrying about a poor turnout, but when the clock hit 15:00, attendees started flocking in, and about twenty people must have turned up in all. Perhaps not spectacular in comparison to the latest Hollywood blockbusters, but anime is still quite a niche interest in the west and its heartening to see it grow in popularity.
I ended up with a whole row of seats to myself, which made the experience all the more pleasant, and the entire audience was exceptionally well-behaved – there was no talking, ringtones or noisy popcorn munching.
Before the film
I had prepared myself for plenty of ads and trailers after comparing the cinema start and finish times with the length of the film, so there were no nasty surprises, but thirty minutes of content nobody is in the room to watch really is ridiculous when we’ve already spent money on tickets. This is precisely why less and less people are going to the cinema!
The film begins
Sitting through all the trailers felt excruciating, but they made the beginning of Mirai feel much more rewarding. The film started off with a charming opening sequence featuring an incredibly catchy song performed by Tatsuro Yamashita, who also wrote and performed the theme song for Summer Wars.
As the opening ends, the viewer is introduced to Kun; a young boy who is eagerly waiting for his parents to come home with his newborn sister. Kun is happy at first and even wants to name her, but his emotions transition to jealousy and hostility when his parents start dedicating more of their time to the girl and less to him.
Kun soon learns that this is how Yukko – the family dog – felt about him when he was first born, and despite being two entirely different species, the two are able to relate with each other. However, Kun still refuses to accept his new sister, who has now been named Mirai.
When the childrens’ mother goes away on a business trip, their clumsy father is left to look after them. Kun plays outside a lot during this time, and one day he meets a mysterious schoolgirl in the garden who claims to be Mirai’s future self.
The first thing I noted was that Mirai is very well suited to the big cinema screen. It looks glorious in high definition, the facial expressions feel authentic and the colour contrast is absolutely stunning. Also, the cinema speakers add massively to the experience and definitely helped immerse me into the film.
Speaking of the story, I could tell less than half an hour into the film that it was going to be something special that hadn’t been done in anime before. I was hooked and felt the need to know whether or not Kun would come to accept Mirai as his little sister.
I knew the film was no more than two hours long and wondered how much character development could be fit into that short of a time span.
So, what about the characters?
Firstly, Kun has to be the most annoying protagonist in any anime I’ve seen, but that’s totally intentional and is representative of most real 4-year-olds. He’s always screaming, crying or having a tantrum, and he got on my nerves almost as if I was right next to him – but I still couldn’t bring myself to dislike him!
Mirai is fascinating, instantly likeable and wants to set her brother on the right track, but I’ll leave it to you to find out why she goes as far as paying him a visit from the future.
The mum is nice but generic, and the dad really is a totally oblivious klutz. Nothing else noteworthy about either of them, but they make fairly decent supporting characters.
On the other hand, we learn a fair bit about the childrens’ great grandfather, who I reckon is a contender for most interesting character in the whole film – he was a war veteran who helped build aeroplanes and later became interested in motorbikes.
Also worth a mention is the family dog; Yukko. His presence allows the film to show how children and animals can interact, and Hosada even succeeded in making me sympathise with the four-legged pet.
Audio, music and voice acting
As previously mentioned, Tatsuro Yamashita did a brilliant job on the opening theme, and I have nothing negative to say about any of the other music used in the film. The sound effects were also splendid and the voice actors were clearly talented.
And on the topic of voice actors, I was surprised to discover how inexperienced some of them were. In fact, Moka Kamishiraishi, who voices Kun, had never played any anime roles before!
Her acting came across as very professional and I would love to see her in more anime in the future, especially in roles that don’t require so much screaming!
Mirai leaves an instant impression upon her first appearance as someone with a fun personality who initially seems a little self-serving, but does show affection towards Kun.
However, the scene that I remember most vividly is near the end, when Kun dashes over a train station platform to save his sister from a potentially dangerous situation. This was powerful because it shows that love will, more often than not, overcome silly spats.
On a personal level, another thing that stood out to me was Kun’s love of trains. I’m a train enthusiast myself, although my expertise is on the UK’s National Rail network. Seeing him play with his models warmed my heart and brought back nostalgic childhood memories!
A satisfying family film with no questionable content, a unique plot, beautiful animation, a great soundtrack and characters that make it all work even if you feel like punching them at times. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone, but it will be most meaningful to those who have brothers or sisters that they’re close to.
Get more information on Mirai and find your nearest screening at miraifilm.co.uk!