Japan’s hale and hearty box office will welcome a major new anime title next summer. Belle is the latest release from Mamoru Hosoda (Mirai, Wolf Children) and his Tokyo-based Studio Chizu. The feature, whose Japanese title is Ryu to Sobakasu no Hime (The Dragon and the Freckled Princess), was announced today, along with a piece of concept art (see above).
Details are scarce, but we know that the film will be set in the world of U, an online network that draws together more than five billion users. With this premise, Hosoda returns to the theme of human communication through the internet, which he previously explored in his 2000 short Digimon Adventure: Our War Game! and 2009 feature Summer Wars. A statement on Studio Chizu’s website describes Belle as follows:
Director Hosoda uses the digital world as a backdrop to delve into themes of modern society, basing the story on his more recent insights. Coming of age, family ties, love between parents and children, friendship that transcends species, the links between our lives.
Of the various themes, Mamoru Hosoda’s recurring concept is “People in difficult situations bravely pushing themselves forward and striving for a better future.” In 2020, people all over the world have faced a crisis like never before, but the year is finally coming to an end. Director Hosoda will spin a tale of hope and courage that will be an inspiration for everyone around the world in 2021.
While Hosoda has long had a fanbase outside Japan, his last film, 2018’s Mirai, was something of a breakout hit. Distributed in the U.S. by GKIDS, it became the first anime title not from Studio Ghibli to pick up an Oscar nomination. It also earned an Annie Award for best independent feature animation, as well as a Golden Globe nomination.