Hosoda’s latest, which we watched after catching up with his previous three, was disappointing. There’s lots of incident, but we didn’t always buy the characters or situations, and the idea of a beast world that exists parallel to ours is only sorta-developed. It was maybe hurt by my recent love for Ernest and Celestine, which is also about parallel animal worlds where a grumpy bear takes on a sidekick, but Katy skipped Ernest and didn’t seem to be having this one either.

Boy and Beasts:

Very moody Boy gains a fluffy pet who hides in his clothes and isn’t important, then finds his way to beastville where chimp and pig monks introduce him to a filthy slacker Beast, who is challenging the beloved local Boar for grandmaster title after the disappearing Grandmaster Bunny (my favorite character, by far) retires. The boy is fed raw eggs and Karate Kids his way towards being a warrior by imitating Beast’s every move, then inevitably he returns to humanville where he meets his real dad and a girl tries to get him into school. And I guess the boar has also been fostering a human son (wearing an unconvincing genki hat), who crosses over to threaten the human world, turning himself into a whale after glimpsing a copy of Moby Dick (shades of Ghostbusters). Guess I don’t remember the very end since it was getting late, but one assumes the good guys are rewarded.

Also this happened, whatever it was:

Showdown in humantown:

Maybe my favorite of the four Hosoda movies we watched. Katy complains that it conformed to gender norms, as the girl suppressed her wolf nature to fit in with other schoolkids, and the boy went full-wolf into the wilderness. And we both thought it odd that the kids’ mom makes love with their werewolf dad while he’s in wolf form.

But most of the movie is about the mom trying to raise two wolf children, with nobody she can confide in, and while I usually don’t go for all-sacrificing parent stories, the unique challenges here along with the kids’ gradually-developing personalities and the mom’s low-key perseverance added up to something special. The advantages of animation are more apparent here than in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, as the kids transform into wolves and back at will (and unconsciously) in the middle of shots.

Mouseover for wolf children:
image

Adam Cook:

This is certainly the closest Hosoda has come to replicating the magic of Miyazaki. In fact, several scenes seem to deliberately reference the great man’s work, particularly the sequence where the children discover their new provincial home for the first time.

High school girl Makoto discovers she has the power to leap through time, uses it to relive each school day when she says or does anything wrong or lets a situation get embarrassing, which is almost all the time. She later discovers her number of time leaps is limited, and that she accidentally stole the power from a friend of hers who traveled from the future obsessed with a painting that’s being restored at the local museum. Makoto’s “Auntie Witch” works at the museum, claims to know about time leaping and says “many girls do it at your age,” so we suspected some deeper time mysteries, but replaying the scene I think she might have been kidding (or it’s a reference to the novel). The story has been adapted a bunch of times, including a film by the director of House. Katy thinks it captures the essence of being a girl, calls it Girl: The Movie.

Makoto and Auntie Witch: