Mamoru Hosoda Delivers Superb Animated Adventure

Mamoru hosoda, who for more than a while has been called “the new Miyazaki,” is back with what might just be his best film since Wolf Children. The filmmaker returns to Cannes with Beautiful, a film that updates history as old as time to the extremely online generation giving it a new coating with an emotional story of bullying, abuse and how we connect with others and to ourselves online. This song as old as the rhyme has been turned into a new experience with a parade of catchy J-pop bangers that are sure to become additions to your daily rotation.

Hosoda, who made a career out of reusing themes or sets from his (still very underrated) first film Digimon Adventure: our war game!, takes us back to a familiar massive digital world, this time called U. Essentially a virtual reality familiar to those who have watched anything from Loan Player One at Sword art online, U is home to five billion users, a place where everyone can reinvent themselves and be the best version of themselves by embodying determined avatars without user intervention from biometric analyzes of their secret inner strengths. It’s here that we meet Suzu (Japanese for “bell”) who discovers that there is actually more to this provincial life and becomes online popstar sensation Belle, a pink-haired avatar resembling a Disney princess whose looks are accidentally borrowed from Suzu’s prettiest classmate. . It doesn’t take long for Belle to go from being a newcomer with polarizing reactions (as Suzu’s secret hacker best friend tells her, you only become famous when half your fans hate you) to come out singing while standing at the top of a huge flying whale hump covered with hundreds of loudspeakers as if they were barnacles. Of course, things get complicated when Belle meets an online fighting game avatar known as the Dragon – a huge warthog / goat hybrid monster called Beast – and instantly and inexplicably becomes fascinated with him.


Image via GKIDS

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While the 3D animation used to bring U to life may seem a bit lifeless (perhaps an intentional nod to the fiction U is selling to its users), Beautiful features stunning particle and background animation. The virtual world of the film looks like one of the biggest metropolises ever shot in cinema, animation or otherwise, and the Studio Chizu team gives it a lot of details. From buildings to the debris exploding onscreen as Beast battles the superhero-inspired judges chasing him, to the hundreds and hundreds of background avatars with wildly varied designs, this world feels inhabited. We see avatars that look like cute, petite spirit creatures straight out of a Studio Ghibli movie, several Digimon-inspired creatures, and much more.

Adding to the feeling that U is a global community created by people from all over the world, Beautiful looks like a truly international production, something rare for a Japanese animated film. The Belle Holder was designed by veteran Disney character designer Jin kim, while the Irish studio Cartoon Saloon (Wolf walkers) brings its unique visual style to beautiful 2D footage inside the U designed to look like dreamlike expressionist paintings. The film constantly flooded the screen with hundreds of user comments and posts, and they are displayed in multiple languages ​​to reflect the billions of international users in U. Beast’s gothic castle. Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte-Cristo. Then there is a sequence that uses a Clash of the clans meets Risk video game aesthetic to represent Suzu’s social circle reacting to a new rumor. It would have been very easy for Hosoda to just give Beautiful a Disney aesthetic and call it a day, but instead he gives us his most visually stunning and varied film yet, as well as the best animated film of the year.


Image via GKIDS

the The beauty and the Beast the re-imagining is a bit too sudden, with the re-creation of obligatory rhythms like the ballroom sequence never reaching the emotional highs of the Disney classic. Likewise, the idea of ​​the Internet allowing people to create a new character is like a retreading of an old land already paved with perfection in Lain series experiments decades ago. What makes the film special doesn’t come from the specifics of either story per se, but how they come together to support a coming-of-age story about adopting your real you. and the ways online communities can help heal old scars. Hosoda follows Kyoto Animation’s emotional storytelling A silent voice and even Carole & Tuesdayon the healing power of music to create a beautiful and visually stunning film that breathes new life into this time-old tale.

To note: A-

Beautiful previewed as part of the Cannes Film Festival. You nerds can see it this winter in theaters.

KEEP READING: Here’s the Awesome Trailer for “Cryptozoo,” the Wildest Animated Art Film of the Year

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