Director Mamoru Hosoda is up there as one of the brightest talents in modern anime, having brought us gems like Summer Wars, Wolf Children and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. For me, Mirai unfortunately isn't his greatest work, largely due to poor pacing throughout the first two acts, as well as the seeming lack of depth and introspection compared with his other films, which proves extremely frustrating up until the excellent final act, which eventually helps Mirai come good.
Before we get into that, however, I will say that Mirai is a fairly enjoyable film right the way through. Far more family-friendly than Hosoda's previous works, it has the quirky charm of some of the lightest Ghibli movies, and with that effortlessly beautiful animation throughout, it's hard not to find yourself smiling from time to time.
With a young boy as the film's main character, I'm sure that younger viewers will have a wonderful time with Mirai, as a lot of its central themes focus on those that those even as young as four or five years old can relate to, as we see Kun, the young boy, find himself frustrated and jealous as his parents turn their attention to his newborn baby sister.
It's a pleasant story throughout, and unless you're averse to hearing children screaming (because there is quite a lot of that here), it keeps you engaged and entertained right the way through. However, in comparison to Hosoda's previous works, there's nowhere near as much depth of emotion in Mirai, and its central themes come off as a little simplistic, which can be disappointing if you're expecting something a little bit more captivating.
Certainly, we've all been through that feeling of jealousy much like young Kun, but for older viewers, it's a theme that's a little too far back and simplistic to really provide a deep emotional impact. Of course, it's an enjoyable story nonetheless, but over the course of the film's first two acts, I found myself rather underwhelmed that the plot wasn't going anywhere beyond that simple line of focus.
What's more is that those first two acts move at a painfully jittery pace, as we flip between the present, and Kun's various adventures to eras past and future as he visits his relatives through time. In all truth, Mirai doesn't do a good enough job at tying those two parts of the story together, and although there are clear emotional parallels between the past, present and future, the way that the film transitions between those two main parts of the story is rather jagged and abrupt, which proves hugely frustrating as you look for some sort of flow in the film.
Fortunately, while I can't say I was all too impressed by the first two acts, the film's final vignette proves a stunning conclusion, finally bringing about the depth of emotion and sense of wonderment that everything before was so disappointingly lacking in.
For one, seeing a young boy effectively travelling through time should inspire an incredible sense of wonderment and awe, yet the first two acts seem strangely normal in their presentation of this. However, in that final act, we see Kun transported to a world filled with bizarre and dazzling things, and as he becomes more and more aware of his situation, the gravity and emotion of what he's going through finally hits home for you too.
As I said earlier, the film's central theme is a little simplistic compared to what Hosoda has brought in the past, however, come the finale, he finally crafts a scenario that allows the raw emotion and drama of what the story is about, and with an equal improvement in the screenplay's depth, Mirai comes to a stunning and moving conclusion.
Overall, then, I found Mirai a little bit of a mixed bag. Starting off in rather underwhelming fashion with a jittery and underwhelming first two acts, it does eventually come good with an exceptional finale that finally brings about some strong emotion and drama. It is still a pleasant and enjoyable film throughout, and it's undoubtedly more family-friendly than any of Hosoda's other films, so while it's not perfect, it's definitely still worth the watch.