Mamoru Hosoda Explains How ‘Belle’ Portrays The Real-Life Child Abuse Crisis

Mamoru Hosoda, one of Japan’s most prolific anime directors, is back with his new production Beautiful, which is currently in theaters in the US and will hit theaters in the UK on Friday, February 4.

The film follows high school student Suzu, who struggles with her grief over the loss of her mother at a young age and rediscovers her voice through the virtual world of “U”, where she becomes a singing sensation under the alias Belle. .

But, as “U” helps her learn to sing again, it also brings her to the attention of a monstrous creature named Dragon who she realizes is someone she can help, and she turns to herself. embarks on an emotional journey to unveil the true identity behind this “beast”.

Hosoda spoke to Newsweek while attending the BFI London Film Festival ahead of the film’s premiere at the event, and he discussed the inspiration behind the film, including the real-life crisis he wanted to highlight through it.

**Warning: This article contains spoilers for Beautiful**

Examine a real-world problem through animation

In the same way as his 2015 film The boy and the beast, Hosoda uses Beautiful address a very important and difficult topic: child abuse.

During her journey to uncover the Dragon’s true identity, Suzu learns that despite his monstrous exterior, he is actually a young boy named Kei who is being abused by his father alongside his younger brother, Tomo.

The siblings use the world of “U” to escape the real world for a few hours, and Kei’s online persona is simply how he presents himself outside of his abusive home life as a defense mechanism.

“The reason I wanted to show this situation that you wouldn’t normally see in an animated film is because it’s based on the internet, in this online world, and you had to show these social issues for that reason, because everyone has secrets,” Hosoda explained.

“Everyone has things they will never tell anyone they are hiding. Even if someone tells you they have no secrets, they do. There is always something you feel that you can’t tell anyone, it’s the nature of society today, that we feel we can’t share our problems or our secrets.

“But the Internet is a place where anonymity can allow us to share [our] secrets and which can really save some people. Even the ability to let it out for a bit can really lighten the load. That’s why it was important to show it.”

The Dragon, Kei’s “U” alter-ego, and Belle, Suzu’s “U” character, in Mamoru Hosoda’s “Belle”.

Hosoda continued, “In Suzu’s case, it’s that trauma she feels about losing her mother that she can’t really tell anyone, and that’s how it eases over the course of her life. of the movie.

“And then in the case of the boys, Kei and Tomo, as kids, there’s no way they could tell in the real world that their parents [are] abuse them.

“Abuse in the family, child abuse within a family, is incredibly difficult to uncover because it will happen in the home and the parents will hide it, of course. Children have to hide it and they won’t. will never tell anyone.

“I don’t think it’s just Japan, I think [it] happens everywhere. But the internet has the power to reveal those things that are overlooked or hidden and that’s what happens with Kei and his secret, and how it comes to light.

“I think if we just ignore these social issues and don’t show them in animation [we’re] pretend they don’t exist, and I don’t think that’s necessarily true, especially with the number of child abuse cases rising during the coronavirus [pandemic].

“We need to talk about it for the sake of the children and be aware of it, and as a parent I always feel a sense of conflict when I see new stories about child abuse because it’s really difficult. [seeing that as] a parent, and that’s something I can’t ignore.

“So I really wanted to have the courage not to sweep it under the rug, but to actually show this as a real problem.”

Research to give an accurate and sensitive representation of child abuse

Hosoda reiterated how important it was for him to research the subject and he said Newsweek he’s worked alongside organizations that help children in a situation similar to Kei and Tomo, and it’s something he started researching The boy and the beast.

The filmmaker said: “I’ve researched and spoken to various agencies, I’ve been doing this since when The boy and the The beast in fact, because few people notice, but it’s a story of neglect. Not all children will be taken to another world and raised by beasts.

“I’ve talked to places I guess [would be] the equivalent of social services and the Child Protection Agency in children’s homes, places like this, that I spoke to and they told me before it even made the one of the newspapers regarding this growing problem of child poverty in Japan, [and] has been a growing problem since 2010.”

Reflecting on how he wanted to give an accurate representation of this problem, he continued: “Also, in this new liberal economy that we live in, inequalities are increasing.

“In Japan, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening and even in a developed country like Japan, there are more and more children who do not have enough to eat and who do not receive a good education.

“It’s something I learned from talking to these agencies and as I researched it led to the themes that I presented in this film. So it’s something which I have continuously followed.

“My films are always about how children and young people grow and change, and that’s at the heart of that. So the issues facing children in society is something I always try to get a handle on.”

Belle is now in theaters across the United States and will receive a theatrical release. UK Friday, February 4.

Anyone seeking help should call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a free and confidential line available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which can be reached at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787 -3224. The Hotline also provides information on local resources. For more information, visit

Belle and The Angel, the avatar of Kei Tomo’s brother in ‘U’ in “Belle”.

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