Mamoru Hosoda Month-Introduction

A stubborn and impulsive teenager jumps into the air, rewinding time to fix her mistakes. A family gathers around a computer, desperate to fight an AI hell-bent on destroying the internet. A young mother moves to the countryside to raise her halfbreed children shortly after her lover dies in a tragic accident. A recently-orphaned boy runs away and learns martial arts from a humanoid bear. Time-travel. Virtual worlds. Motherhood. Adolescence and manhood.

Welcome to the world of Mamoru Hosoda.

I’ve been meaning to start a series of reviews on this man for some time. Not only is he slowly becoming one of my favourite directors in anime, right up there with Hayao Miyazaki, but his films speak to me in a way I never thought possible until fairly recently. They touch my heart, warm my soul and embrace my mind all at once. They’re beautiful to look at, well-scored and wonderfully mesmerizing. Hosoda films are, much like the works of Miyazaki, an experience. It’s hard to believe, therefore, that he got his start so modestly, but he did.

Mamoru Hosoda was born on September 19th, 1967, in Kamiichi, Japan. Though not much is known about his childhood, he did graduate from the Kanazawa College of Art after studying oil painting as his major. Despite jumping around as a background artist and planner on various projects early on in his career, Hosoda was largely commissioned by Toei Animation to work on some of their popular IPs in the late-90’s, most-notably as a director on two short films for and an episode of Digimon Adventure. His work for the series, the films Digimon Adventure and Our War Game, as well as the infamous Episode 22 of the first series, remains unique even to this day, being bleaker and better animated than the series proper. It was here that Hosoda really began to stand-out as a director, eventually leading him to direct a tie-in film to the then-emerging One Piece anime, aka One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island, that’d later be viewed by major Shonen enthusiasts as one of “The Big Three”.

To-date, I’ve yet to see Hosoda’s stand-alone One Piece film, though I’ve heard that it’s vastly different tonally from the rest of the franchise. I have, however, seen his Digimon work, and I can assure you that it stands out. Both films have real life to their animation despite the budget constraints, while his solo episode feels more weighted amidst a rather light and cartoony show. To say that it’s more impressive than the rest of the franchise visually is nothing to take lightly, but, at the same time, I, personally, feel that it’s beneath him artistically. It’s solid stepping-stone material, if nothing more.

Shortly after leaving Toei Animation, Hosoda was commissioned to work on Howl’s Moving Castle as a director. The project eventually lagged behind when Hosoda had a falling-out over the direction he wanted to take it, causing him to leave Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki to take over the project. Hosoda would eventually wind up at Studio Madhouse, where his real career would begin…

Anyway, since Mamoru Hosoda’s birthday is September 19th, I figured that I’d use the next few weeks as a way of celebrating the artist’s impressive filmography. He has, after all, directed four major films to-date, so it seems like a fitting time to cover all of them in detailed reviews. Note that I’ll be assigning scores at the end of each review, followed by a ranking of the four films at the end based on personal taste. I’ll also be covering his body of work in chronological order, meaning that The Girl Who Leapt Through Time will come first, Summer Wars will come next, The Wolf Children will be third and The Boy and the Beast will finish it off. It’ll be interesting to see where this project takes me, but I’m excited.

Also, do keep in mind that, despite loving the man’s body of work, this won’t simply be me gushing. Well…most of it will be, but I’m also fairly critical of Hosoda as a director. I recognize that he has his areas that need improvement, so I’ll be sure to cover those too. I also recognize that not everyone will agree with me on these movies, and that’s fine! Art is subjective, so I’m not expecting you all to share my sentiments 100%. All I ask is that you consider where I come from and be respectful if you don’t agree with whatever it is that I have to say.

But I’ve droned on long enough about this as is. I’m also aware that this has been a little rough as an introduction, and I promise that my actual entries will be much more organized than this. Until then, have fun with my reviews!


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