belle trailer

There are a few things that appear in almost every Mamoru Hosoda movie: a stirring examination of parenthood, a bittersweet romance, and a furry husband. Hosoda, the filmmaker behind 2018’s Oscar-nominated Mirai and anime masterpieces like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Wolf Children, is back to his old tricks with Belle, a digital spin on Beauty and the Beast that returns to Hosoda’s urban vision of the internet that he first explored in Digimon and Summer Wars — but with a new furry husband, of course.

Belle Trailer

Every Mamoru Hosoda film is worth watching, even if he doesn’t have the global profile that anime auteurs like Makoto Shinkai (Your Name) have. Which is a shame, as Hosoda is just as — if not more — gifted at the kind of melancholic, genre-defying romance that Shinkai has been praised for, though Hosoda’s films are often a bit more homespun. In recent years he’s taken to exploring his own relationship with fatherhood through his films, but Belle looks like a return to the kind of wacko sci-fi storytelling that shot him to fame.

Hosoda made his directorial debut with 2000’s Digimon: The Movie, and would expand on that kind of exploration of the digital world with Summer Wars — of which Belle looks to be a direct continuation. But this time, with a Beauty and the Beast spin: the film follows a regular 17-year-old country girl who takes on the persona of “Belle” within a popular virtual world, where she meets a Beast that looks like a more intense version of the wolf-inspired romantic leads that have popped up in Hosoda’s films in the past (hey, we all have a type).

GKIDS has gained the North American distribution rights to Belle, with plans to screen it theatrically this winter in both its original Japanese language and an English language dub. This makes Belle potentially eligible for the 2021 awards season.

Though Pixar and Disney generally dominate the Oscars’ animation category, Hosoda has quite a creative team supporting him on Belle, who could give him a leg up. Frequent Disney collaborator Jim Kim worked to create the titular Belle, while Wolfwalkers directors Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart contributed artwork for the more action-oriented scenes. Rounding out the crew is architect Eric Wong, who designed the film’s city of “U,” and composer Ludvig Forssell, making his film debut after last scoring Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding.

Here is the synopsis for Belle:

Suzu is a 17-year-old high school student living in a rural village with her father. For years, she has only been a shadow of herself. One day, she enters “U,” a virtual world of 5 billion members on the Internet. There, she is not Suzu anymore but Belle, a world-famous singer. She soon meets with a mysterious creature. Together, they embark on a journey of adventures, challenges, and love, in their quest to become who they truly are.

Belle will be released in Japan on July 16, with a North American release date and dub cast still unknown.

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