Letting Kids be Kids!
I’ve been getting into a lot of Studio Ghibli movies lately thanks to a friend who practically has the entire collection (Thanks Lauren!!!) and I’ve noticed a small trend. A lot of the kids, preteens and younger, are usually going through something big and they’re never just kids. They’re always so levelheaded and calm, which is great because in a lot of Studio Ghibli movies they’re usually going to undertake some huge task so they need to be calm and rational. But let’s be honest here, kids aren’t always like that.
When you look at how kids under the age of 12 or so act in some movies, they’re very reasonable and not too out there, if that makes sense. They don’t panic over feelings they don’t understand or act out for attention, they might, but it’s never a reoccurring thing. It’s usually they do something and somehow wise up few minutes and boom…mini adult. Like, you know they’re a kid because they have on kiddie clothes or do kiddie things but are they really children? Do they even look like how kids usually look physically?
I think that’s one of the reasons why I was so amazed and taken by Mirai.
Mirai is an animated film that was written and directed by Mamoru Hosoda, who also did Summer Wars and Wolf Children, that was more or less inspired by his own children. The story is about a mom who was on maternity leave, an architect dad, their 4-year-old son, and a new baby girl. The whole film is really about everyone learning to make adjustments and recognizing what their new role is now that a baby is in the house, but it does focus more on Kun and how he learns to accept his new little sister Mirai (which means future in Japanese).
So to look at it from Kun’s prospective, for his whole entire life his mom has been home and his dad was the worker. He loves them both equally and they shower him with a lot of love and attention. Everything is about Kun and life is grand. Then he gets a baby sister. At first, he thinks she is cute and can’t wait to be her big brother but he doesn’t understand what all of that entails. Little by little, his life starts to change. Mom is holding Mirai and cuddling Mirai a lot, Dad is now trying to be the parent that mom was so she can go back to work, grandparents are visiting and swooning over Mirai and her cuteness, and Kun is basically in the back as everyone runs around him.
So what does he do? He cries and throws tantrums. He starts jumping into pictures or videos to show that he’s still cute or still here. He clings to his mom when she leaves or tells his dad he doesn’t like him. He even takes his train, spoiler he’s a train otaku, and whacks Mirai on the head with it. This causes his mom to really yell at him for the first time and he breaks down even more. Scenes like this, minus Kun hitting Mirai, are not uncommon in this movie; the mom yelling or realizing she’s acting differently towards Kun when she’s never done that before or Kun realizing that things are changing because of Mirai. These small life lessons or life awareness moments are what make this movie.
As Mirai exists in this house, everyone slowly but surely realizes that changes are happening because of this new baby. The mom, who never sees herself as a perfect mom (mad relatable), and who is aware of her flaws as a parent, is learning that she has to also adjust to life with 2 kids who are years apart versus her life where her and her brother were only a year apart. The dad, who pretty much has been removed from being a parent because of his career, is learning what his wife was doing (cleaning and parenting) and he’s learning to be a parent and struggling with small victories.
All while the parents are learning that being “perfect” parents is a myth and you can only do your best, Kun is having small pops of miracles to help him along his journey. In usual anime fashion, this movie gives you pops of magical moments. If you’ve ever seen any version of A Christmas Carol, you know how the story goes. You have a bitter old man who is visited by 3 Christmas ghosts who teach him something and in the end he changes as a person. In Mirai, you can say something similar happens to Kun. Every time he has a tantrum, he goes to the “garden/yard” area of his house and something happens. He is transported or visited by someone who shows him a different perspective or gives him a life lesson. Each visitor, who I’m not going to spoil, allows him to be the child that he is and they give him wisdom that he understands and processes as a child. Now, this isn’t to say he magically becomes better. Because he doesn’t. He is still 4 and can only process life as a 4-year-old. But he does make progress and he does reach a point where you can see he’s slowly but surely learning.
In the end, everyone in their own way, whether by magical tree or not, learn that they can make it as a family somehow. There are a lot of growing pains. There are going to be great days but there are going to be some sloppy meh kind of days, but that’s fine. That is how you learn to be a parent. You’re not perfect off the bat and you probably won’t be, but you know you’re doing something right when you see your kids achieve little things like cohabitation with a new baby or riding a bike without training wheels. As for Kun, from him you can learn that kids aren’t easy. Kids need a lot of you and some days you just won’t have that in you, and that’s okay. Kids help you remember your childhood, but you can’t live theirs for them. You have all this wisdom and knowledge but you can’t give it to them, you have to show them and allow them to learn from their down falls and tears. Don’t worry, they’ll cry now but they’ll find their laughter soon you just have to wait and be there. Through Kun you can remember that change is hard. Things don’t just fix themselves overnight and are better in the morning. You remember that kids go through a lot of emotions and fast, and they never know how to word it perfectly or act reasonably, and that’s fine. They are small humans learning to be human. Treat them as such. Remember to be patient, kind, and remember how it was for you at that age and what you needed when you were 4 or 5 or 6.
5 bee sting tickles out of 5
Mirai is in theaters in the U.S. for a limited time. For movie times and available theaters visit this link!
Please note that this movie is also available in sub and dub, the dates and times vary.
Really enjoy your writing style and perspective. Excellent article.
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Awww, thank you!