Since I'm a fan of Spirited Away, I was looking forward to seeing Mai Mai Miracle at the San Francisco International Animation Festival this morning. Mai Mai Miracle is directed by Sunao Katabuchi, who is a protege of Hayao Miyazaki's and worked as his assistant director on Kiki's Delivery Service. Miyazaki, who has received much critical acclaim for at least a dozen films and is considered the Walt Disney of Japan, is one of the few Anime directors who has managed to make films that have a worldwide appeal; and there are reflections of Miyazaki in Katabuchi's style.
I asked SFIAF Programmer Sean Uyehara why he included the film in this year's line-up, and about anime genre in general. One reason Uyehara, who has been a programmer with the San Francisco Film Society for 8 years now, loves Mai Mai Miracle is because he sees his 7-year-old going through the same themes that are explored in the movie. "I think it's a good film. And it represents something that's an important part of animation: Anime...One common theme in anime is exploration of that time of life between youth and adulthood. A lot of Miyazaki's films are about pre-adolescence. Which is interesting because a lot popular films usually focus on adolescence. Pre-adolescence is that moment when kids are figuring out their personality, how they fit in socially, feelings of empathy, how to deal with anger and disappointment...They are starting to understand how they affect others and others affect them."
I also asked Sean about the differences between Miyazaki and Katabuchi's work. He said that in Miyazaki's work "Usually the spiritual or dream world is as real as the actual world." In Mai Mai Miracle, there is more distinction between the two and "it's more about imagination than it is about mysticism," said Uyehara.
Mai Mai Miracle is a 90 minute delight for adults and children, presented beautifully.
This is also posted on fest21.com and filmfestivals.com