Mirai (meaning ‘Future’) is a 2018 Japanese animated, adventure and fantasy film written and directed by Mamoru Hosoda. Mamoru Hosoda’s ‘Mirai’ finds the magic in the mundanity of everyday life. Mirai follows Kun, an imaginative, stubborn 4-year-old whose parents have just given birth to his sister, Mirai. As Kun struggles to adjust to losing his parent’s undivided attention, he finds ways to entertain himself in their sloped four-storied house every day. 

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Mirai Movie Poster_©Mamoru Hosoda’s ‘MIRAI’ – Official Trailer
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Scene from the movie ‘Mirai’_©Netflix/Mirai

Architecture 

Architecture plays a vital role in this animated film since significant consideration was put into designing the house where most of the film is set. In addition to that, the father character in Mirai is shown as an architect; hence, Hosoda wanted somebody with similar expertise to design a residence as if they were creating their own family home. In the starting scenes, the father character of the movie renovates his house to make space for his children while keeping the existing tree and courtyard in between. It’s organic that the inside of the house changes steadily as the child grows up as it is the house that reflects the family itself. 

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Scene from the movie ‘Mirai’_©Netflix/Mirai

The minute details where the father is seen working on floorplans or the books of Zaha Hadid, Alvar Alto and Bauhaus stacked on the shelves behind him give away hints of the character being an architect.

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Scene from the movie ‘Mirai’_©Netflix/Mirai

Mamoru Hosoda hired a real-life architect Makoto Tanjiri, to design this conceptual open staircase house. The house accommodates four levels, where each level is staggered above the other via a series of steps on the side. The stacked massing and difference in elevation makes the house appear to be designed on a contoured site. It’s a ‘modern home with a peculiar layout’, just like the grandmother describes it at the beginning of the movie. 

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Axonometric Section of the house_©Produktion HS twitter

The ground level is a nursery, where Kun spends most of his time playing with his extensive collection of train sets. The first level is a small courtyard that holds the enchanted tree; this tree plays a major role in representing an actual family tree. The second level consists of the kitchen area with an attached dining space, followed by the third level that contains the family living space. Finally, the topmost level has a bedroom, wardrobe and service area. Each level has a height difference of six steps, making the circulation around the house seem almost like a journey. 

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Scene from the movie ‘Mirai’_©Netflix/Mirai

Concept

Makoto Tanjiri cleverly designed the entire house with steps that symbolize little Kun’s journey towards growing up. The level difference between the rooms is 100 cm, about the same as Kun’s height. In other words, the world seen by the protagonist, Kun, and the world seen by adults is completely different depending on the viewpoint, which is unique to this movie. According to the architect, Tanjiri, the idea was to section off the house at different levels; he quoted that a kid of Kun’s age will be able to see the nursery clearly from the courtyard garden, but an adult will see what’s right in front of them. The child’s view will change as he grows into an adult. 

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Scene from the movie ‘Mirai’_©Netflix/Mirai

The stairs, one of the most prominent features of the house, are shown in maximum frames of the movie; Kun is seen climbing through these stairs; the difference between his adorable height and the stair riser is hilariously evident in those scenes. Travelling from one room to another using these stairs is almost like a journey to him. Hosoda has utilized this concept to create thematic parallels between the open staircase and Kun’s growth as an individual.

The film’s main plot focuses on learning about a family; thus, staying true to the plot, Hosoda insisted on removing partitions between the room and creating a space where one could see through the entire house. 

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Scene from the movie ‘Mirai’_©Netflix/Mirai
An architectural review of Mirai - Sheet9
Scene from the movie ‘Mirai’_©Netflix/Mirai

The interpretation of time and space relative to family history is well articulated throughout Mirai. There are shots of Kun travelling to spaces aesthetic and rich in family history. Starting from the architecture of the railway station to the domed greenhouse, the setting of these spaces is too exquisite to be ignored. 

Scene from the movie ‘Mirai’_©Netflix/Mirai

Conclusion

Mirai is an achingly beautiful movie, not just in its vivid animation or dreamlike sequences but in the gentle way it presents the vivid notion of a family by integrating architecture into its plot. The bonds of family, their past, sibling rivalry, and how Hosoda delivered all these through a stepped house and a small courtyard are surreal. The film is a light watch, which was initially thought to be for children, but, in the end, leaves a deep meaningful message for people of all ages. 

Mirai illustrates a family that is flawed, loud and nowhere near perfect, a family people can resonate with. However, it also makes people wonder if they could leap from their family’s past like Kun did; would they apprehend their family members better? 

References: 

  1. Real-Life Architect Designed the Set of Mamoru Hosoda’s Mirai Film, 2022
  2. Mirai review – an anime fantasy that bottles the magic of childhood, 2022
  3. https://youtu.be/ZajO256KTOo, 2022
Author

Every architecture has a different story to tell, and Nanziba Khaled takes pride in conveying those stories through her words. Nanziba is an aspiring architect who thrives on creativity; she believes in the power of the pen to express her views on art and architecture.

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