Mamoru Hosoda is a Japanese film animator, screenwriter, and director. He studied oil painting at the Kanazawa College of Art and went to work at Toei Animation as an animator. Some of his early directorial work included two Digimon animated shorts (which were subsequently recut and included, along with another Digimon short, as the critically disappointing Digimon: The Movie). At one point, he had been commissioned by Studio Ghibli to direct Howl’s Moving Castle, but was let go after failing to come up with a suitable concept. Hosoda would finally make his true feature-length directorial debut with 2005′s One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island. For this long-awaited installment of Animation Corner, I’ll be celebrating this past Spring’s U.S. release of Hosoda’s The Boy and the Beast by taking a look back at his first two feature-length directorial efforts, One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
Directed by Hosoda, 2005’s One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island centers on the Straw Hat pirates, who visit an island run by Baron Omatsuri. Featuring the voices of Mayumi Tanaka, Kazuya Nakai, Akemi Okamura, Kappei Yamaguchi, Hiroaki Hirata, Ikue Ohtani, Yuriko Yamaguchi, and Akio Ohtsuka, this critically acclaimed film grossed over $10.4 million in Japan (it made another almost $10.5 million outside of Japan for a worldwide total of over $20.9 million). The film is actually the sixth in the One Piece animated film franchise. The animation on the film differed from the previous films; it was much more like the style that has since graced all of Hosoda’s subsequent films. The film’s storyline also stands out from the other entries due to its darker tone.
Directed by Hosoda, 2006’s The Girl Who Leapt Through Time centers on a teenage girl who discovers that she has the ability to travel back in time but soon realizes how her uses of it are affecting the lives of others. Featuring the voices of Emily Hirst, Andrew Francis, Alex Zahara, Kristie Marsden, Natalie Walters, Saffron Henderson, and Shannon Chan-Kent (in the English language dub), this critically acclaimed film grossed approximately $3 million in Japan due to a limited release. The film was an indirect adaptation of the 1967 novel of the same name by Yasutaka Tsutsui (the basic premise remains but the story and characters are different). Among the film’s accolades are six Tokyo Anime Award wins (including Animation of the Year), a Young Artist Award win for Best Performance In A Voice-Over Role, and Best Animated Film wins from the Sitges Film Festival and Mainichi Film Awards. It also won the first-ever Japanese Academy Award for Animation of the Year.