When Japanese folk meets modern day playground
Mamarou Hosoda’s most recent animation Mirai hit cinemas last week and it’s another beautifully judged emotional rollercoaster of warmth following on from his hits “The Boy and The Beast” and a personal all-time favourite “Wolf Children”. It’s not just Hosoda that connects all three films though as the composer Masakatsu Takagi returns too, lending his sensitive touch on the piano, cute wind and acoustic arrangements and general warm production that sounds distinctly Japanese but also utterly wholesome.
Across the soundtracks 50 minutes and 22 tracks, Takagi keeps the lush orchestrations down to a minimum and the focus is very much on the sentimental feeling of an acoustic guitar, a piano flourish, childlike synths and natures own hubbub of ambience as a backdrop. Particular tracks that stand out early on are the whimsy folk guitar of “Hora Auxo” that breezes by with ease, the Parisian bounce of “Little Entertainer” with waltzing accordions and pizzicato strings, the unmistakable Japanese beauty of “Anemone” and the strangely deformed vocal performance with harp arrangement of “Tanana”.
After a selection of quiet short tracks, the soundtrack takes its time with some utterly astounding vocal themes. “Flower Myth” kicks off the section with timeless soft folk vocals over swaying piano and abstract wind arrangements. It reminds me a little of one of my favourite musicians Yae and how she is able to provide a delicate and dainty representation of folk music full of heart but with a tinge of sadness. “Waggle Dance” and its reprise, along with the heart-swelling “Rainy Steps” shows Masakatsu Takagi’s composition range on a piano. The former duo are like a magical children’s roundabout whilst the latter is aiming right for your feelings square on. The film itself revolves around children and it’s that sense of awe, wonder, excitement and bounding enthusiasm and seeps through every note, chord and instrument in each piece. It made me feel alive and renewed. “Marginalia Song” is the epitome of this as rousing percussion, symphonic strings and an almost Lion King sense of pride billows out in one of the few moments of real unfurling. It’s a stunning track that never overdoes it cinematically – instead, it’s power is in its momentum and cadence – not its power and volume. Western cinema could learn a lot from this.
Towards the end of the soundtrack, we do have some more atmospheric and brass based moments with “Katabasis” and “Trans Train” but these parts are fleeting and move onto the long childlike gospel ballad of “On Angels”. This track plays with vocal synthesisers as if an angel is shooting by you as she sings like a shooting star. You hear wisps of her voice but she never stays for more than a few notes – it’s a really cute way to do a ballad and lets the warmth return for the closing piano-led piece “Future Nursery” where towards the end the voice returns but this time stays with us for full phrases. It’s a lovely touch.
Lovely is exactly how I’d describe Masakatsu Takagi’s soundtrack to Mirai. Its interplay between Japanese folk and children’s playground is a wonderful combination and one I could spend a lot longer with. It’s like a mothers hug but in sound and works excellently with the film and as a standalone body of work. Mirai and its soundtrack are out already and I highly recommend them both.
Recommended track: Marginalia Song
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