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There's been a severe drought in the anime industry, as many auteur's have been unable to create works of brilliance within the last decade. Yoshiaki Kawajiri couldn't get financial backing for his second Ninja Scroll film, Mamoru Oshii has been busy making live action films and Satoshi Kon passed on, leaving his final film in limbo. While there's always something great to watch every season and at least one or two theatrical films, there's been something severely missing from anime that had a singular voice. While many people think that with Hayao Miyazaki retiring after all these years, no one will be able to carry the torch and create wonderful anime films, that both hardcore otaku and casual movie goers can enjoy simultaneously. Rest assured, there is one man that is doing just that and has already made a few films, that can hold a candle to some of Miyazaki's finest moments, whose name is Mamoru Hosoda.
Getting his start in the industry as a key animator, Hosoda has lent his talents to many anime series and films, including the Dragon Ball Z: Broly film, which is quite possibly one of the best in the entire series. It wasn't until the early 2000's that Hosoda shifted his animation passion into the director's seat, where he began by working on the first Digimon film. At one point, Hosoda was working at Studio Ghibli, sitting in the director's chair for Howl's Moving Castle, which he then suddenly left to find work elsewhere, only to have Miyazaki to come out of retirement to direct it. Supposedly the 6th One Piece film, Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island is an account of how it felt working at Studio Ghibli, while trying to craft work in the shadow of Miyazaki.
It certainly would have been nice for Hosoda to contribute his talents to a Ghibli film, but his output since leaving Ghibli has almost been as divine as the legendary studios. With films like The Girl who Leapt through Time and Summer Wars, Hosoda has managed to craft rich characters and engrossing stories, that manage to entertain anyone and everyone that are willing to watch. I was lucky enough to see Summer Wars on the big screen in Chicago, when Funimation was touring it around the country, in order for it to receive an Oscar bid, for best animated feature film. While it never made it to the list, I was glad to have the opportunity to see such visual feast on the big screen. Everything from Oz's avatars, to Natsuki's final transformation in the final act, Summer Wars is a beautiful film, that shows a true master at work and on top of his game.
His latest film, Wolf Children, has yet to come out in the states, but is set to be released on Blu-Ray and DVD by Funimation in November. Its been winning a multitude of awards and even had Mark Shilling, of The Japan Times stating that it was obvious that Miyazaki's influence can be felt on every single frame of Hosoda's latest. While November is a bit away, there's still plenty of Hosoda's other works that are readily available one's viewing pleasure. It may be awhile before we see his One Piece film here and maybe a reprint of The Girl who Leapt through Time, but there's no need to worry about the next anime master, because he's already here, turning out some fantastic work.