Film | Wide Angle

2018’s anime lineup offers plenty of potential

by Matt Schley

Contributing Writer

Over the past few years, the success of several films — including, most notably, Makoto Shinkai’s record-setting “Your Name.” — have proven that anime directed by someone other than director Hayao Miyazaki can still attract a wider audience.

Several films set for release this year are looking to continue that trend, while others are more clearly aimed at the hard-core anime fan base. One title in the former category is “Mirai no Mirai” (“Mirai of the Future”)(July 20), the highly anticipated new film from Mamoru Hosoda. With “Mirai,” the director of “Wolf Children” and “The Boy and the Beast” is back with his specialty: a film that uses sci-fi and fantasy to explore the theme of family. Will “Mirai of the Future” extend Hosoda’s long critical and financial streak?

Another title that seems to be aiming at a wider audience is “Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana o Kazaro” (“Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms”) (Feb. 24). Aside from its unwieldy title, the film is notable for the fact that it’s the directorial debut of Mari Okada, a prolific anime screenwriter who has penned tearjerkers such as “Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day” and “The Anthem of the Heart.” The film, which Okada also wrote, is a fantasy about a race who live for hundreds of years but are forbidden to love. Fans are looking forward to seeing whether Okada is as effective a director as she is a writer. If nothing else, her choice of composer, Kenji Kawai (“Ghost in the Shell”), proves she’s got good taste in tunes.

Miyazaki, who announced his retirement from filmmaking in 2013 only to rescind it a few years later, is back this year with a short film that definitely won’t reach a wide audience — it’s exclusive to the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo. The director’s 14-minute “Kemushi no Boro” (“Boro the Caterpillar”) will begin screening on March 21, and one suspects March tickets to the museum, which go on sale next month, will sell out even faster than usual.

On the other side of the spectrum, several anime franchises are getting theatrical releases of some kind in 2018, including “Code Geass,” “Bungo Stray Dogs,” “The Seven Deadly Sins” and “Sound! Euphonium.” As continuations to established series, the barrier for entry to these films is invariably higher, but each has its share of loyal fans.

A few question marks hang over 2018: Will this be year that finally sees the release of the long-delayed fourth and final “Neon Genesis Evangelion” film? Will Shinkai announce his next feature? Is there an as-yet-unannounced film waiting in the wings to take 2018 by storm? Unlike the lead character in “Mirai of the Future,” we don’t have a time machine handy, so we’ll just have to wait and see.