Mamoru Hosoda ranks first among the Japanese animation directors seen as successors to now-retired industry giant Hayao Miyazaki — and for good reason.

Like his distinguished senpai (senior), Hosoda has moved from animating the stories of others (including stints on the "Digimon" and "One Piece" franchises) to creating his own, while winning prizes and scaling box-office heights.

Expectations are high for his new film, "Bakemono no Ko" ("The Boy and the Beast"), which is based on an original Hosoda script and made by his Studio Chizu animation house in a beautifully hand-drawn digitally enhanced style.