The latest gem from Mamoru Hosoda is deceptively simple: a young boy named Kun worries about being eclipsed by his newborn baby sister.
Through episodic little vignettes, we join Kun on an array of magical adventures with family members from the past, present, and future – a kind of Christmas Carol by way of My Neighbour Totoro. Yukko the family daschund (now a regal human prince) commiserates with Kun over his own status as fallen family favourite, and the would-be interloping infant herself (named Mirai, meaning “the future”) aptly appears as her future teenage self, dispensing sage advice and tickles in equal measure.
As expected, the animation is gorgeous, and the attention to detail outstanding. Kun may be brattier than your average protagonist, but that’s because he’s an utterly believable four-year-old child (despite being voiced by 18-year-old actress Moka Kamishiraishi). Details like his fury over being forced to wear blue trousers over his favoured yellow, or packing a little backpack with snacks and threatening to run away from home (only to then go and hide in the bathtub), are delightfully well observed, and always help to keep the flights of fancy grounded and centred.
The story itself may be a little slight, but whether watching Kun, a teenage Mirai, and human-Yukko try to sneakily put away some ceremonial dolls without Dad seeing (a masterclass in razor-sharp comedic timing and the unique joys of good animation), or a gorgeous sequence in which Kun’s long-deceased great-grandfather takes him on a horse ride across 1940s Japan, it’s difficult to complain.
An absolute delight from start to finish, Mamoru Hosoda’s family fantasy is packed with true-to-life details that keep it grounded. Like any good kids’ movie, the laughs are tempered with a healthy dose of poignancy that may go over the heads of the film’s littlest viewers.
CAST: Haru Kuroki, Moka Kamishiraishi, Gen Hoshino
DIRECTOR: Mamoru Hosoda
WRITER: Mamoru Hosoda
SYNOPSIS: Four year-old Kun’s life is turned upside-down by the arrival of a new baby sister, Mirai.