Anime is a visually delightful, if sometimes baffling animation genre, an exemplar of Japanese pop culture. And it’s more than just Pokemon. Anime feature films have gained audiences on the international festival and art house circuits. One of the most admired younger anime directors receives lavish treatment in the new coffee table book, The Man Who Leapt through Film: The Art of Mamoru Hosodaby animation historian Charles Solomon.
In the late ’90s, Hosoda was an early adopter of computer graphics at Toei animation studio. He briefly moved to the famed Ghibli Studio to direct Howl’s Moving Castle but was fired and replaced by Hayao Miyazaki. Returning to Toei, he worked on advertising shorts and television shows before landing the project that brought him to the eyes of cineastes across the world, The Girl Who Leapt through Time (2006). The film was based on a 1967 novel that had already been adapted several times in Japan for television and cinema.
Working with screenwriter Satoko Okudera, Hosoda kept the story’s focus on three high school friends, but, as Solomon writes, added a series of low-key baseball games “to provide visual interest, instead of just showing the characters sitting around talking.” As Hosoda recalls, his version “wasn’t as much about nostalgia as it was about thoroughly enjoying the experience (or slipping through time). I wanted to turn the idea of time travel into a comedic element … to make it a really, really fun movie.” Hosoda went on to direct several more anime features including Wolf Children (2012), The Boy and The Beast (2015) and the Oscar-nominated Mirai (2018).
The Man Who Leapt through Film is beautifully illustrated with full color stills and black and white preliminary drawings and storyboards from various projects by Hosoda. It’s published by Abrams.