The latest film from the creator of Summer Wars and Wolf Children may or may not take home the gold statue, but it’s already done something incredible.

For a brief period, anime felt like it was going to become a permanent presence on the list of nominees for the Best Animated Feature Oscar. Japanese-produced films were among the five chosen for 2013, 2014, and 2015, with titles chosen as among the five best of the year being The Wind Rises, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, and When Marnie Was There.

However, there’s been an anime drought at the Oscars ever since, with neither 2017’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower (from the same director as When Marnie Was There) nor 2016’s record-breaking Your Name getting a nod of approval from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ gatekeepers.

But this year anime is making a comeback. The Academy has announced the nominees for the Best Animated Feature category, and one of the five slots is going to director Mamoru Hosoda’s Mirai (titled Mirai no Mirai, or “Mirai from the Future,” in Japan).

Mirai’s English-language trailer

Released in Japan last July, Mirai then headed to U.S. theaters in November, courtesy of licensor GKIDS. Hosoda’s fourth original anime film, Mirai, continues the director’s focus on family dynamics, telling a tale of a teenage girl who travels back to the past and meets her older brother when he’s still a toddler.

Cynics often refer to the Best Animated Feature Oscar as the “Best Disney/Pixar Movie” Oscar, due to the American studios’ dominance in the category since its establishment for 2001. However, neither of the powerhouses’ nominees this year, Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet, achieved cultural or critical phenomenon status, nor did Wes Anderson’s stop-motion Isle of Dogs, which has also been nominated.

▼ Both Mirai and Isle of Dogs are set in Japan and feature talking canine characters, giving that combination of characteristics a 40-percent representation level in this year’s Best Animated Feature category.

Unfortunately for those hoping for Mirai to become only the second anime ever to win an Oscar (Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away being the only film to receive the honor so far), Hosoda’s latest film hasn’t resonated as powerfully with critics, or audiences, as his earlier films, particularly in comparison to his much-loved Summer Wars and high-profile Wolf Children. There’s also the matter of the category’s fifth nominee, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which was an unexpected, highly-praised hit.

As such, Mirai is far from a shoo-in to win anime’s second Oscar when the envelope is read at the Academy Awards ceremony on February 24 in Los Angeles. However, win or lose, Mirai has achieved a historic first: it’s the first time ever for a non-Studio Ghibli anime to be nominated, and that may help open the door to nomination for other Japanese animators who aren’t direct disciples of Miyazaki in the future.

Source: Oscars official website via Cinema Today via Otakomu
Images: YouTube/GKIDS Films

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