Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Is Mamoru Hosoda The Next Hayao Miyazkai?

For those who don't know who Mamoru Hosoda is, you should get familiar with his work. The guy is building quite the legend these days directing the monster hits: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars and Wolf Children. Between the three films, Hosoda's works have grossed a total of approximately $75 million (in US dollars) and have won a multitude of awards. To simply state how successful Hosoda has been, he is the only Japanese director, other than Hayao Miyazaki, to be nominated for an Annie Award in an individual category. To put it directly, the guy has talent and is building quite the impressive resume for himself.

Having now established a pattern of success in directing animated features, it's clear that this feat would not go unnoticed. Hosoda has received massive amounts of praise from the media, whom have officially donned him "the next Miyazaki". I even recently noticed in Funimation's recent promotion for their release of Wolf Children that they have gone as far as stating so. Now, for those who are familiar with Miyazaki's works, this statement probably sounds down right ridiculous. But should it be? There is no denying that Hayao Miyazaki is the greatest animated director of all time and for good reason. He's earned the title. Not to discredit any other phenomenal directors, but all it takes is one look at the guy's resume to understand that he is the unquestioned greatest of all time. So why on Earth, is someone like Hosoda who's resume is nowhere near as impressive as Miyazaki's at the moment, receiving such incredible praise as to be put in the same sentence of the greatest there is?

Well, it's quite simple really. Hosoda has warranted the praise not only with the consistently astonishing films he has produced in the last few years, but also with the style he uses. Stylistically, has there ever been a director who mirrored Miyazaki's style more so than Hosoda? Other than those who produce titles for Ghibli, no one captures Miyazaki's style more so than Hosoda. All 3 of Hosoda's films feature a strong female protagonist in the same way that Miyazaki's films do. All 3 of his films tell a light hearted tale that in the end, we come out feeling like we learned something about morals and values the same way we do with a Miyazaki film. Hosoda films, however, often are not as politically focused as Miyazaki's films. This isn't to say that all of Miyazaki's films were politically driven, but it is pretty evident in a vast number of his works. A lot of Miyazaki's works also tend to have a strong societal message in them, often about the environment or our nature as people. This isn't to say that Hosoda shies away from the concept, he just applies it in a different manner. In The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Hosoda speaks to how our selfish actions can impact those who are surrounding us. In Summer Wars, he speaks to how too much dependence on technology can be a bad thing as well as the importance of family. In Wolf Children, Hosoda recycles the importance of family undertones but there is also present a huge sociological message about being different as Ame and Yuki are considered to be outcasts of society based on their genetic nature and how far their mother is willing to go to protect her children and make life as normal as possible for her children.

So stylistically, it is a fair comparison for Hosoda to Miyazaki as his films share a lot of similarities to those of Miyazaki's. More so than any other director I have seen thus far in animation. So what about Hosoda's works themselves? Do they justify the comparison? I know I will upset a lot of Miyazaki fans with this next statement but here it goes: I'd venture as far as to say that Hosoda's three major films right now stack up toe to toe with any and all of Miyazaki's films. Now I know that sounds crazy, how could anyone live up to Miyazaki's legend? No one can create better films than Miyazaki? If there was anyone who can tell a story more eloquently and dazzlingly than Miyazaki, it would be Hosoda. Albeit, the sample size is smaller, but the quality is on par, if not better than some of Miyzaki's works. Without letting nostalgia or the impact of the films cloud our judgement, based solely on pure execution and quality of the stories, Hosoda's works could rival any of Miyazaki's films. Without bias, I think after viewing all the works presented by both men, it is a fair statement that Hosoda's films are exceptionally brilliant and you walk out of every one of them with the feeling that you just witnessed a masterpiece. The same could be said for Miyazaki, however I believe that often times people allow the mystique of Miyazaki's legend to influence their opinion. Miyazaki is indeed a legend, but let's face it, he isn't god. With that I'm saying it's okay to say that one can produce a film that surpasses that of Miyazaki. I'm not saying that Hosoda is a better director, only time will tell for that, I'm saying there is nothing wrong with enjoying one of his works better than that of one of Miyazaki's.

With Miyazaki recently retired, presumably for good (although no one knows how long that will be with a few other previous retirements and returns) it is time for someone to carry on the torch for a new generation with producing top quality animated features. If anyone was going to garner the title "the next Miyazaki" then I'm glad it is Hosoda. Hosoda has been the best director in regards to animated features in the past decade, so I believe the comparison was well warranted. Stylistically, technically, and story telling ability, no one has lived up to Miyazaki's standards quite like Hosoda. For future generations, Mamoru Hosoda is going to be a legendary animated feature director, so if you are unfamiliar with the name, now is the time to get familiar. Remember the name Mamoru Hosoda.

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