The following is a narrative analysis I made for my schoolwork which I have decided to upload onto my Blog with minimal alteration
Ever since the 1950s, Japanese cinema has been defined by a two-way contrast between the influence of Mizoguchi’s passion and theatricality, and Ozu’s calmness and zen. Mamoru Hosoda seems to be firmly more on the side of the latter as his films tend to attain the sense of calmness that he explained in an interview that he came to adapt to when he left Toei Animation he grew a fondness for as he grew older and came to distance his artistic vision from the studio’s conformities. He is an auteur, a minimalist, a sentimentalist. Like most auteurs in film, his work is conveyed through his use of camera movements, blocking, lighting, and scene length, or mise-en-scene for short.
|The still camera helps to focus the audience’s attention towards the actions of the characters.|
Hosoda’s work lack any melodrama, favouring to present strong emotions in an understated scene lacking background music from a stationary camera perspective. Moreover, his works tend to be character pieces, hence the frequent usage of a shot which places a character in the centre. Even though, working within animation, he creates fantasy films, or stories with fantastical aspects to them. If one were to sum up the unifying theme of his works, it would be the discovery of the exciting aspects of mundanity through Fantasticism. “The Girl Who Leapt through time” for example uses Makoto’s time travel powers as a means for her to discover that trying to take full control of your own destiny only results in more devastating results, and that true happiness comes from taking every moment of life, the good and the bad.
In Hosoda’s narratives, love is merely a cornerstone of life rather than a purpose, it isn’t needlessly exaggerated or ridden with clichés. Though it is still portrayed as an important aspect of life, forming its own inner narrative, such as in the early minutes of Wolf Children in which we see the soft beginning and tragic end of the relationship contrasted by similar shots taken far from the characters displays of emotion. Shots such as these with their lack of camera movement, helps to focus audience attention onto the actions of the characters, however small they might be.
The most important theme in his films however, would be family. His films glorify being with family as the ultimate happiness, as the centre of life, whether that family is related to a person by blood or adopted. This theme is most apparent in “Summer Wars” in which the conflict which divides the family distracts them from a more important epoch which they only ultimately solve by coming together, as well as with Kenji, who is not related to the family but comes to establish a connection with them due to his lack of a meaningful family in his own life.
The unity of the family, and millions of other people through the internet also displays a generally positive view of overcoming adversity through unity as a whole. They additionally represent the viewpoint that family can help to fix things, such as in “Wolf Children” where the love and care that Hana gives to her children encourages her to repair an abandoned house so that they can live in it, or in “Boy and the Beast” where the connection of an adopted family can inspire individuals to better themselves.
Going back to his use of camera, he often keeps the camera stationary, helping the times when he does move the camera to stand out more. He frequently enjoys the use of lateral tracking shots to represent a character’s personality, the climax of “The Girl Who Leapt through Time” features a shot of Makoto running quickly. The camera doesn’t focus specifically on her, but rather seems to challenge her to a race as she struggles against the wind, ultimately allowing her determination to keep her within the shot. A slower use of such a shot is used in “Summer Wars” to display the collective sadness of the family following a death, while in “Wolf Children” is a scene in which the shot goes back and forth between the corridors of the school to show Ame and Yuki growing up to represent the passage of time.
|Interesting to note how Eastern cinema pans these sorts of short from right to left, while Western cinema pans them from left to right, the same cultural distinction between writing formats.|
Hosoda’s artistic vision is one which encompasses the beauty of ordinary life through an objective lens employed by his use of intricate camera movements and angles, and his focus on those aspects in terms of romance, friendship, and family.