ANN Mamoru Hosoda page

My average ranking: 7.14

Director Pantheon: Mamoru Hosoda Rating
(The) Boy and The Beast (movie) Very good

Digimon Adventure: Born of Koromon (movie) Decent

It's only twenty minutes long but it's a whole lotta fun. An egg appears out of a computer screen before two young children and hatches to become Koromon the digital monster. It evolves into a T rex looking creature that can shoot fireballs from its mouth and proceeds to battle a giant, lightning bolt shooting budgerigar that miraculously descends from the heavens in a blaze of light as if on a mission from god. Given that I'm from the land of the budgerigar I found myself barracking for the wrong combatant. Even though the battle does serious damage to the streetscape it seems only children can see it. The evolution sequence is accompanied by Ravel's Bolero which gives the film a joyful forward momentum. I'm sure it's yet another anime nod to Bruno Bozzetto's animation masterpiece Allegro non Troppo.
(The) Girl Who Leapt Through Time (movie) Excellent

Makoto Konno must be the most beautifully realised character in all anime. She's no superbrain and an unlikely heroine, as she herself points out early in the movie, but she utterly convinces in this re-imagining of Jane Austen's Emma, albeit with a time-travelling twist. Her "death' fourteen minutes into the movie is startling, of course, but, as in Emma, the tone is good-natured and you know Makoto will come to her senses, literally and figuratively, by the end. Watch out especially for the comic interactions between Makoto and her Auntie Witch (the original girl who leapt through time, Kazuko Yoshiyama).
One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island (movie 6) Decent

As my first exposure to the One Piece franchise I was surprised how dark this film is, and how sophisticated. It's not to my taste, but Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island deserves credit for its hurricane pace and its black humour. Some of the set piece fantasy sequences prefigure the 3D animation of Hosoda's later work, Summer Wars. As expected, the shonen elements spoil things, particularly the posturing and the fight scenes. Should I judge it on its own terms or on mine? I mean, Sesame Street is great children's television but I wouldn't consider it great television. Perhaps I'm just too old for One Piece.
Summer Wars (movie) Very good

The marvel of this film lies entirely in the enormous cast of characters that make up the Jinnouchi clan. They’re all lovable and they all have their agendas. Best of all, each is quite distinctive in appearance and character. By the end you feel that you have been there all along as part of the clan, joining in with the celebrations and disappointments. Tack on a couple of pleasant protagonists in Natsuki and Kenji; mix in a mildly entertaining sci-fi complication that threatens to bring the world (wouldn’t you know it) to it’s knees; and you have a film that manages to stand out from the pack, even if you suspect it could have been even better if it were more ambitious. Perhaps more ambition would have spoiled its charm. With this and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time Mamoru Hosoda has become the standard bearer for general interest anime movies.
Superflat Monogram (movie) So-so

Short, attractive anime promoting Louis Vuitton from the director of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars.
Wolf Children (movie) Very good

What do you do if you're a young mother and your wolf child has swallowed something that might be poisonous? Do you take the wolf child to a hospital? Or to a veterinary clinic? Hana, the human mother of two wolf children – female Yuki (born on a snowy day) and Ame (born on a rainy day) - faces this very dilemma early in the movie. It may not be apparent from the movie title or the promotional artwork but Wolf Children is a very, very funny movie. If Spice and Wolf could be described as fantasy meets economics, then Wolf Children is fantasy meets child rearing with even funnier results.

The children can change form at will, but it's not until they get older that they have substantial control over their shapechanging. As younger children they constantly flip from one form to the other, particularly when they are excited - not an uncommon thing at their age. And they have a very strong doggy nature combined with the intelligence and resourcefulness of children. Needless to say they shred the furniture, the drapes and any other chewable thing close at hand. Yuki is the over excitable, sociable, communicative puppy, while Ame is timid, quiet and slightly uncanny; Yuki thrives on sensation and activity while Ame is drawn to the natural world; Yuki could be a member of a pack; Ame is the lone wolf. And, not are they funny but they are also supremely kawaii.

Artwork and animation stands out. I would expect nothing less from Mamoru Hosoda and Madhouse. The fine detail is always sensational: from a bicycle rack at university so real it could almost be live film; to Hana lying in a flower meadow and forest scenes detailed down to the individual flowers and the grass blades. There's a sequence where Yuki and Ame go racing through snow laden woods then tumbling and flying down a hillside (followed by Hana) that is the most breathtaking piece of Japanese animation I've seen since Paprika about five years ago. The odd thing is that the backgrounds are so realistically detailed that the two dimensional, relatively simple character designs initially look out of place. They almost seem like ghosts in the landscape. I got used to it but it was jarring at first.

As with Summer Wars the end seems as if it's being forced on to a thoroughly engaging slice of life tale that doesn't need drama or a message to improve it. Like being a guest at the birthday celebration in Summer Wars, the best part of Wolf Children is just being there with them as they grow up.

Extended review