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Friday, January 05, 2018

Three Mamoru Hosada Films

This holiday period, I was hoping to take Bowen on a bike tour. (Yes, rather than ask for a Christmas present, he asked for a bike tour!) But instead, I caught a flu virus from his brother and could only spend most of the holidays catching up on media.

I'd missed all of Mamoru Hosada's movies over the years, but caught them both up due to a trial subscription to Funimation. (The app is horrible, and the selection seems slim, so I'm going to cancel)

Wolf Children, is the middle work, showing how Hosada's maturing as a film maker. Mature, poignant, and well-written, it's full of the bittersweet nature of parenthood, as well as the duality of nature and how much of parenting involves letting go. It's not as compelling a narrative as say, Totoro, and Bowen got bored and couldn't even make it past the first 20 minutes, so don't buy or stream it hoping that your kids will love it the way they love Totoro. They won't.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, an earlier work is both a time travel story and a rumination on the nature of relationships and lost opportunities. The time travel story is unfortunately very weak: not only is it low on exposition, the protagonist seems clueless about the limited nature. Worse, one of the characters in the story talks about time leaps as though they're a commonplace mechanism, but no one else in the world experiences them as such. OK, time travel is mostly fantasy, but the rumination on relationships and lost opportunities is equally weak. The writing never quite sells the protagnoist's feelings and epiphany, and as a result the emotional impact of the final 20 minutes of the movie gets completely diluted. I wouldn't avoid it, but it's clearly much weaker than Wolf Children or Your Name, another time travel movie.

The Boy and the Beast is a revelation, and clearly catapults Hosada into the stratosphere. It starts off fooling you into thinking that this is one of those traditional kung fu movies, where a boy comes under the tutelage of a master and becomes a major ass kicker. Then it throws in literary and cultural references to A Wizard of Earthsea, Journey to the West, Moby Dick. The movie blew me away with its intelligence, resolution, and a unique look at the relationships between master and disciple, between a boy and his father, and a deep understanding of what it means to come of age into a society while retaining what's unique about yourself. If anything can convince you that Mamoru Hosada is the true successor to Hayao Miyazaki, this movie will. Go watch it. I'm going to see if I can convince Bowen to watch it, though I suspect he might need just a bit more maturity to appreciate it more. But that's OK. Miyazaki's best movies are great for kids and even better with a few years of experience behind them. Do what you have to in order to watch this wonderful movie, which beats out everything I saw in 2017, including the surprisingly under-rated Dr. Strange.

I guess I'm going to have to watch Summer Wars next too.

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