Wolf Children creator says his latest anime is a mix of romance, action, and suspense.

Anime director Mamoru Hosoda usually takes about three years between films. He had his breakout hit in 2006 with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, followed by Summer Wars in 2009, Wolf Children in 2012, The Boy and the Beast in 2015, and Mirai in 2018.

So by that timetable, it’s just about time for the next Hosoda anime, and sure enough, the teaser trailer for his latest project has just been released.

Ryu to Sobakasu no Hime (“Dragon and Freckled Princess”), or Belle, as it’s officially titled in English, focuses on Suzu, a girl living in rural Kochi Prefecture, on Japan’s island of Shikoku. When Suzu was still a young child, her mother died in an accident, and as she’s gotten older an emotional rift has formed between her and her father. Now 17 years old, Suzu joins the online community called U, creating an avatar for herself that she names Bell (yes, with no e at the end, like the ringing instrument, which is what the Japanese word suzu means).

As Bell, Suzu reignites her passion for creating and singing songs, something she loved doing with her mother but hasn’t done since she passed away. Bell quickly achieves worldwide fame and popularity, which is when she meets Dragon, a mysterious entity feared throughout U.

▼ Poster for Belle

The film’s Japanese teaser features the on-screen text:

Welcome to the world of U
This is a secret known only to me
Who are you?
Just who are you?
Who…am I?

Long-time fans of Hosoda’s work will be quick to recall that virtual online communities were also key aspects to two of his previous films, Summer Wars and 2000’s Digimon Adventure: Our War Game (simply titled Digimon: The Movie for its Western release). “I think online spaces are fascinating and exciting ways by which young people transform the world,” Hosoda says of his once-a-decade pace of reexamining the setting. “There are many negative aspects to the Internet, such as slander and fake news, but I think it is also a good tool for expanding human capabilities. The Internet itself is going through changes right now, and I wanted to make a movie that shows it as part of a positive future.”

It doesn’t look like Hosoda intends to completely sugarcoat online activity, though, as the trailer includes scenes of flurries of hurtful messages such as “You don’t have any reason to exist, Dragon” and “You’re pathetic and no one likes you, Dragon.”

In addition to directing, Hosoda is also writing the movie’s script and is credited with its original concept, as has become the norm on his projects. Animation production is being handled by his Studio Chizu (now celebrating its 10th anniversary), and while no visual artistic staff has been revealed yet, it seems clear that the world of U will allow for ample indulgence in Hosoda’s tastes for towering techno-architecture and anthropomorphic animal characters, and the trailer’s human-world backgrounds look stunningly photorealistic.

Belle is a movie I’ve always wanted to make,” says Hosoda. “Even going back to before I became an animation director, I wished I could make this kind of movie, and now I finally can because of the films I made in between then and now. It has elements of romance, action, and suspense, and deals with the theme of life and death, and I think it will also be a highly entertaining film.”

▼ English teaser trailer for Belle

Belle is scheduled for release in Japanese theaters this summer.

Sources: Livedoor News via Jin, Belle official website
Top image: YouTube/東宝MOVIEチャンネル
Insert images: YouTube/東宝MOVIEチャンネル, Belle official website
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s wondering if Bell will feature as much Kochi dialect Japanese as Studio Ghibli’s Ocean Waves did.