Animated fantasy for kids Mirai explores mind of jilted first-born
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Animated fantasy for kids Mirai explores mind of jilted first-born

A scene from Mirai.

A scene from Mirai.Credit:Madman Entertainment

FILM
MIRAI ★★★½
(PG) Selected cinemas (98 minutes)

There aren't many films about pre-schoolers, for an obvious reason: kids this age must be a nightmare to direct. Animation is one solution, which the Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda (Wolf Children) uses effectively in Mirai, an elegant miniature centred on a bratty four-year-old, Kun (voiced by Moka Kamishiraishi), who has mixed feelings about his baby sister.

Kun's new sister quickly absorbs his parents' attention.

Kun's new sister quickly absorbs his parents' attention.Credit:Madman Entertainment

At first Kun is thrilled by the new arrival, whom he suggests naming after one of his beloved toy trains. But he changes his tune when he realises his parents have less time for him than before.

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Kun's mother (Kumiko Aso) returns to work while his stay-at-home architect dad (Gen Hoshino) focuses on the baby, who is eventually named Mirai, meaning “future”. Often Kun is left to play by himself in the garden where, like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, he has a string of visions of the past and future.

Kun is often left alone.

Kun is often left alone.Credit:Madman Entertainment

In these visions appears a grown-up version of Mirai (Haru Kuroki) while the family dog morphs into a slightly dishevelled human prince (Mitsuo Yoshihara) who explains that he, too, is a former ruler of the household, now fallen from favour.

Is all this happening in reality, or just in Kun's imagination? Ultimately it makes no difference, but much of Hosoda's craft goes into the mundane details that are the basis for the fantasy: a spinning washing machine, a glimpse of a family photo album, the architectural drawings made by Kun's father.

A grown-up version of Mirai appears in Kun's visions.

A grown-up version of Mirai appears in Kun's visions.Credit:Madman Entertainment

Mirai can be recommended to both adults and children but viewers of Kun's age will probably find it a bit too intense and confusing, especially at the climax. Those aged around eight and up may be amused to recognise aspects of their younger selves, especially in Kun's tantrums, where his face reddens and his mouth stretches wide in a way that could only happen in a cartoon.