Belle is Mamoru Hosoda’s latest anime movie, but how does it compare to Wolf Children, Summer Wars, and The Boy and the Beast?
Ever since debuting in the late ’90s, Mamoru Hosoda has been one of anime’s most exciting creators. Prior to making the jump to the director’s chair, Hosoda served as a key animator on series like Dragon Ball Z and Slam Dunk, along with a few movies such as Sailor Moon Super S: The Movie and Yu Yu Hakusho The Movie: Poltergeist Report. Hosoda went on to direct 1999’s Digimon Adventure short, which proved to be just the beginning of the director’s long career in fantasy anime.January 2022 to see the anime in theatres. Inspired by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s Beauty and the Beast, Belle showcases many elements that have come to define Hosoda’s style, but how does it compare to the filmmaker’s other projects? Which are the best anime movies by Mamoru Hosoda?
Most people’s introduction to Mamoru Hosoda, the director, was probably his Digimon shorts, two movies that combined last roughly an hour. These releases are still arguably the filmmaker’s most well-known, at least for those who grew up with late ’90s anime. Digimon: The Movie shows Tai and Hikari’s first clash with the Digital World, telling a compelling story that has almost Kaiju-esque vibes to it.
A continuation of the original series, Digimon Adventure: Our War Game! is a fun ride from beginning to end, one that delivers impressive animation considering its scope. While certainly light on plot or character development, Our War Game! nevertheless manages to introduce a memorable antagonist in Diablomon (or Diaboromon). Entertaining as these films are, they do not hold much value for nonfans of Digimon.
Released in 2018, Mirai is a coming-of-age story about a young boy struggling to adapt to the arrival of his baby sibling. Kun, the frustrated child, goes through a number of fantastical adventures that seek to teach him to be more accepting of this new change that has come into his life.
Mirai has a sweet message and a number of imaginative, breath-taking sequences, however, the film mostly consists of vignettes that effectively find Kun learning a variant of the same lesson over and over again. Taken on their own, each experience is charming; viewed as a whole, Mirai feels static, the repetition not helped by Kun’s unlikable nature persisting for too long in the story. Mirai is an enjoyable anime children’s movie, even if it might have worked better as a series.
One Piece celebrated its 1000th episode in 2021. The franchise has produced 14 feature films, with another project, One Piece Film: Red, set to drop in the summer of 2022. Consequently, One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island‘s value depends entirely on someone’s investment in the series.
Hosoda’s non-canon film plays around with a number of the manga and anime’s tropes. While not a deconstruction, the movie is more interested in exploring its themes than indulging in action sequences, although the latter are also present. The animation is stylish and quite unlike anything else related to One Pieceâ€‹â€‹â€‹â€‹â€‹â€‹.
Throughout his career, Hosoda has frequently dived into virtual worlds, exploring the freedom and dangers presented by them. Belle finds Hosoda revisiting this concept through a (loose) homage to Beauty and the Beast. In this universe, people turn to “U,” an online utopia, to be their “true” selves. Although she struggles with insecurity and anxiety in real life, Suzu feels liberated when she becomes her avatar, Belle, and steps into “U.” She gains so much confidence in this virtual world, Belle becomes a J-Pop star.
Belle boasts gorgeous art and extremely detailed animation. “U” overflows with life, personality, and color; the virtual world brings out the best in the movie’s protagonist, not only narratively but also in terms of entertainment value.
In terms of shortcomings, Belle‘s story suffers from some pacing issues, particularly in its second half, and the supporting characters are not especially memorable. While not Hosoda’s best anime movie, Belle is still pretty great.
The Boy and the Beast is an isekai anime about Ren, an orphan who follows a beast, Kumatetsu, into a fantasy realm just outside of human view. Ren winds up in the irresponsible Kumatetsu’s care as they form an unorthodox mentor + student dynamic. One of Hosoda’s more popular projects, The Boy and the Beast is a movie of two halves:
These two halves are both engaging in their own right, however, it does come across like a middle section has been cut from the movie. While this transition is quite jarring, The Boy and the Beast‘s strengths override its flaws. Rena and Kumatetsu are great together, the action sequences are smooth as butter, and the world-building is done well.
The Digimon movies crawled so that Summer Wars could run. Released in 2009, Summer Wars finds Hosoda thoroughly investigating the concept of virtual reality, all the while crafting an irresistibly entertaining blockbuster with a lot of heart.
An awkward teenager who moderates a virtual world called “OZ,” Kenji is invited by Natsuki to spend a few days with her family. During this time, Kenji is tricked by an AI seeking to take over “OZ,” prompting the protagonist, Natsuki, and her family to work together to defeat it.
Hosoda’s films tend to blend reality with fantasy, sometimes quite literally. While that is also the case for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, the 2006 movie tells a more low-key story than something like Summer Wars or The Boy and the Beast. Makoto Konno, a directionless high school student, picks up the ability to reverse time; naturally, she uses it for trivial stuff and to avoid a confession from her best friend. Eventually, Makoto has to face the consequences of her action (or inaction).
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time starts out as a sci-fi comedy, and a funny one at that, but the anime gradually evolves into a thought-provoking character study that analyzes the reasons behind Makoto’s behavior.
Mamoru Hosoda’s anime masterpiece, Wolf Children tells a powerful story about family, parenthood, and growing up. Hana falls in love with a wolfman, and they start a family. Sadly, Hana becomes a single mother, and she has to raise two children destined to experience challenges and changes that she can’t comprehend.
Wolf Children strikes a slice of life tone as it follows this unique family through a number of years, showing moments of joy, tragedy, and confusion. This anime takes familiar themes and gives them a fresh spin.
MORE: The Best Anime Movies On HIDIVE
Mark Sammut grew up on the PlayStation 1 and has been playing games ever since, although he is no longer limited to just Sony consoles. Be it RPGs, shooters, platformers, or fighting games, Mark’s area of expertise covers a wide range of genres and topics. That goes beyond video games as well, extending to mediums like anime and film.