Tag Archives: Mamoru Hosoda

The Observation Deck: Belle

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations


Talking about this movie has been a long time in the making, and something I have been excited about for just as long. Mamoru Hosoda, along with Studio Chizu, has become one of my favorite teams in the world of anime. Though his films are a bit more family-centric, it never stops them from being exciting from beginning to end.

Belle, I am happy to report, is not much different in that regard. At a little over two hours in run time, the movie manages to fit in an action-packed, colorful adventure while managing to tackle some tuff themes like abuse and the psychology of absent parents. However, it is by no means perfect, and while it is not a bad film, it is probably on the lower end of Hosoda’s catalog for a few key reasons which I will get into.

Why Belle?

In case anyone missed the memo, the film’s title of Belle is both a reference to our main character Suzuku’s online avatar in the world of U, as well as the name of the main character from the classic Disney film Beauty and the Beast. In fact, the film borrows a lot of its core plotline from Beauty and the Beast.

Belle tells the story of the aforementioned Suzu and her online persona Belle. In the introductory moments of the movie, we are shown how she lost her mom while she was trying to save a kid from drowning in a raging river, and also that Suzu’s mom loved to teach her music. Fast forward a bit and suddenly, with the help of her best friend/producer Hiroka, her avatar Belle has become the number one music sensation in the country.

Most of the story’s actual plot takes place in U, a worldwide social media platform that takes real-world physical and biological data from its users to create a virtual avatar. It is stated a few times throughout the film that Suzu joins U because the death of her mother left her too traumatized to sing in real life. Thus, Belle becomes both her persona as well as a tool through which to release her feelings.

The story of Belle overall is incredibly fast-paced and engaging. However, the transition from its initial focus on Suzu and her road to healing to the introduction of the Beast character feels kind of break-neck. Literally, Belle is about to give a virtual concert, and with no prior foreshadowing, he just kind of shows up and starts fighting people. A charitable interpretation might be that this quick introduction can serve as a metaphor for its thematic elements, but it more so comes off as poor planning.


How is the Music This Pretty?!

The one thing I was not expecting out of Belle was to be blown away by its musical content, or even for there to be any music in the first place. I went into the film more or less blind, and while I did see a trailer or two, it never registered that there was going to be an entire storyline about it.

It is at this point that I should probably mention that I have, at the time of writing this, only seen the film in its dubbed version, and thus the singing and lyrical content I talk about will be in reference to that. Now, getting back to it, wow this soundtrack is basically just ear candy.

The production overall across the film is incredible, from its more climatic and cinematic songs down to the more low-key instrumentals, every song puts in work and I honestly cannot say there is a boring musical moment here. Kylie McNeill was not a name that likely anyone recognized and yet her singing as Suzu and Belle could not have been better.

As a point of comparison, I did listen to some of the bigger tracks in Japanese. While Kaho Nakamura is undoubtedly also very talented, my lack of having seen the Japanese version in full, combined with my English bias still has me appreciating the native version a bit more.

…The Voice Acting

and here is the part where I have to be a bit harsher because as fantastic of a singer as McNeill is, her and the other English VAs’ voice-overs are…rough, to say the least.

At first, it does not come across as super noticeable. After all, one of the ways characters get distinguished vocally is to give them all their own oral quirks. However, as the film goes on, especially in some of the more drawn-out, quieter moments, the awkwardness of the lines becomes all the more apparent. It is partially understandable, given how socially awkward all of the characters are, but it feels like some sections of the script were just straight up put through google translate and then given directly to the voice actors.

What is worse, the lip-syncing team was either non-existent or simply not given enough time to properly do their jobs. There are a number of points where it feels like lines either ran far too long for what the character was saying or too short, and almost no work was done to fix it. The Dubbing is by far the weakest element of Belle, and unfortunately, it is too apparent not to address.


Anime Studio Budgets When They’re Making a Movie:

Ok, now I can go back to being nice. The animation was also a high point and one of the big reasons to see this film. Normally my expectations for animation in anime films are much higher because, well, they are not spreading out all their money over 12 or even 24 episodes.

No, what makes Belle special in this regard is not the quality itself, although it is quite high. Rather, the blend of virtual reality and fantasy creates a unique color palette. The buildings towering over the world of U, The castle which serves as the Beast’s hiding spot, the background characters who all have a design that feels genuinely personal: All of it comes together in a way that compliments Belle‘s vision.

Why Abuse?

Turning again to its story elements, Hosoda’s decision to reimagine the story of Beauty and the Beast as explicitly centered on physical and emotional abuse is one that I sincerely applaud. Almost by definition, it is not an easy subject to broach, let alone in the context of online interaction, especially given the number of documentaries that have pointed out rather thoroughly how it can go unseen.

The internet is a strange place, after all. In the same amount of time that it takes for us to scroll through Twitter when we wake up people have likely been kidnapped and trafficked using the same technology. However, the decision to have that same technology be what saves K and his brother as a way of inspiring hope was a good one.


Belle is a strange case because it is pretty much the only Hosoda film where I feel as though seeing both the English and Japanese versions are necessary for having a complete opinion. Too many problems arise because of the English version for me to give it a perfect score. So, for those that do plan on seeing it, try giving the Japanese version a watch, and let me know how that goes.


How do you all feel about Belle? Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

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Special shout out to our Patron Jenn for being incredibly awesome!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!


A New Teaser for Mamoru Hosoda’s “Belle” Dropped. Here’s My Reaction

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

By the time this post comes out it will probably already have been about a week or so since the last teaser for Mamoru Hosoda’s newest feature film “Belle” has come out. However, being the fan of his that I am, I still wanted to react to it and give my initial, albeit ill-informed take on what has been released so far.

The reason I say ill-informed is cause, well, as far as I can tell, there is still relatively little information about the movie as a whole, outside of a general plot layout. The addition of a few more frames in a thirty second teaser does not really add much more to the equation. However, I will say that from the amount that we got, I am incredibly excited.

In terms of modern directors, I feel like Makoto Shinkai gets a lot of credit, deservedly so, for the visuals of his movies. Yet, it feels like Hosoda never really gets that same credit even though his works are all also visually stunning. “Summer Wars,” for example, not only had an incredibly diverse color palette, but had tons of Sakuga in the final act of the movie. The same can also be said for “Boy and the Beast” which had a number of great fight scenes even down to the final minutes of the movie.


I mentioned this in my last post about the movie, but the limited knowledge we do have implies that movie is not going to be unfamiliar territory. The film’s plot is about a young girl from a rural village who one day joins an online world called “U” and ends becoming a famous singer. People who are familiar with Hosoda’s work might recognize that this is very similar to the plot of “Summer Wars.”

The difference, though, is that “Summer Wars” came out during a time when the internet still felt like a novelty to some people, whereas now it is infinitely more important to communication and daily life. There have also been a lot of burgeoning political movements to come out of the internet in last 10 years, some innocuous, some much more harmful *cough cough* literal nazis *cough cough*

Regardless, this is still all speculation at this point, and nothing concrete can really be said until we see the movie, or at the very least get a longer trailer. However, given the consistent quality of Hosoda over the last decade and half, it would not be surprising to see this movie be another excellent addition to his catalog.

What do you guys think of this latest teaser for “Belle?” Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

“Belle” and Mamoru Hosoda

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

It was announced recently that Mamoru Hosoda would be premiering his next film in Japanese theaters come 2021. As this article from Variety explains, “Paris-based sales company Charades is set to reteam with Japanese auteur Mamoru Hosoda on his next directorial outing, ‘Belle.'” The article also explains that the movie will follow a female lead and interaction within the virtual world of “U.” (Note: The Japanese title is “Ryu to Sobakasu no Hime,” which in English would be “The Dragon and the Freckled Princess.”

While this will probably already be old news by the time this post comes out, I want to take today just to celebrate this new film and Mamoru Hosoda.

Now, while he never started there, Mamoru Hosoda has slowly become one of my favorite directors of all time. His works like “The Girl Who Lept Through Time,” “Mirai,” “The Boy and the Beast,” and “Summer Wars” have slowly become some of my most cherished first time viewing experiences. On top of that, all of these films have a the sort of timeless feel that radiates from a lot of Hayao Miyazaki’s and Ghibli’s work.

After the release of his latest smash hit “Weathering with You,” There was a point in which people were starting to wonder whether which of Makoto Shinkai or Mamoru Hosoda would be considered Miyazaki’s successor. While it is certainly a fun conversation to have, ultimately I do not think it does any good to pit to great directors against each other. Still, if I had to pick one…it would probably be Hosoda.

While Shinkai does a great job at capturing feelings of youth and romance, it is rare that his films are ever grounded in any kind of substance. In fact, “Weathering With You” was probably the closest he has come so far, and even then the themes about Climate Change and the need to act are kind of secondary.

Hosoda and Miyazaki, meanwhile, do a lot to work substance into their films at nearly every turn. Miyazaki is a lot more concerned with the environment and the need to protect it, while Hosoda tends to focus on the idea of how we interact online and the need for family. For a good example of how he deals with both these themes at the same time, I would highly recommend watching his 2010 film “Summer Wars.”


“Summer Wars” actually has a pretty similar storyline to “Belle,” at least from what is known so far, with the only major difference being the gender of the main character, though knowing Hosoda, this will probably matter quite a bit.

The internet, while having been around now for around a generation, is still a complex web of interwoven communities existing both separately and often within the same spaces. Looking at nearly any popular social media site will give a good example of this. Even here on my own website, while I am usually the only person who writes on it, there are still people like you who are reading, commenting, interacting, sharing, etc.

All of this rambling aside, Mamoru Hosoda has come a long way since his days directing “Digimon: The Movie,” and while it is clearly to early to say anything definitively, his next film will likely end up being a powerful statement about the nature of communication online, and I for one am extremely excited.

How do you feel about Mamoru Hosoda? Do you think he is a better director than Shinkai? Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

Reflecting on the Works of Mamoru Hosoda

While Makoto Shinkai has been sprung to the forefront of the anime directing world the recent massive success of Your Name, my school winter break was filled with two of the works from a director that often gets brought up alongside Shinkai: Mamoru Hosoda.

The first of those works that I watched was The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, the story of a girl who, quite literally, leaps through time. One day she is cleaning up her classroom and hears a noise coming from the chemistry lab. She then gets scared by a shadowy figure, falls on her back, and before she knows it, is traveling through time.

The stories main lead Makoto is, of course, the center of all this. At first, she uses her newfound powers for benign things, like going back a day so that she could enjoy the pudding that her sister ate without her permission, but as the emotional stakes of the story increase, her priorities in how she uses the power change. This all builds up to the climax of the story which, I’ll be honest, I felt a bit lukewarm about.

On one hand, her friend also being a time traveler was a really great twist ending, and the fact that the writing drops hints of this early on. On the other hand, though, the motivations established for why he comes back are a bit too abstract for the movie’s feel. It tries to go in a more arthouse direction, but the rest of the movie kind of clashes with it.

The other movie I watched this break was The Boy and the Beast, the tale of an orphan boy who discovers an alternate world in which animals live in their own society after running away from home. This boy, Kyuta, is then taken in by Kametetsu, a warrior who has been training to take over the position of ruler of the land when the current ruler becomes reincarnated into a god.

While I might have enjoyed The Girl Who Leapt Through Time more, It’s fair to say that The Boy and the Beast is overall a better movie. It has a great eye for background and details in both the human world and the animal society, and its animation is also much more lively.

The Boy and the Beast also enjoys a much more developed set of characters in Kyuta and Kametetsu. Their interactions are always either funny or heartwarming, and the attention to detail in their character is some of the best from an anime movie in a while.

I am also glad to say that I have seen both of his other feature films, Summer Wars and Wolf Children, both of which are also worth a watch if you haven’t seen them.

Wolf Children

Summer Wars

After watching a most or all of both men’s discography, I can honestly say that I much prefer Mamoru Hosoda overall. While Shinkai may have a similar cinematic feel to Miyazaki, Hosoda’s films all usually have strong characters and themes revolving around family.

When watching a Hosoda film, I can feel the intimacy between the characters much more than in Shinkai’s works, whose films sometimes feel overproduced. Hosoda’s films are much better for feelings of loneliness, or worse depending on your reaction.

I also look forward to seeing his upcoming film Mirai to the Future, which, based on the trailer, looks like it could go a lot of different places. Much love for that man and his wonderful films.

P.S. probably gonna do a review of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time after I rewatch it cause I have a lot more to say about that movie.

Thanks for reading and bye for now, Friendos!