Why Belle is Mamoru Hosoda’s Weakest Film


Amelia Barnum, Reporter

Award-winning Japanese film director, Mamoru Hosoda, has recently released his latest film, Belle. This hotly anticipated animated film tells the story of Suzu, a socially awkward girl who becomes a nationally adored singer through the Land of U. In this virtual world, anyone can be anything. However, when a monster called The Beast crashes Suzu’s concert, she’s on a mission to learn about his true identity while evading the authorities. Mamoru Hosado has never disappointed in bringing spectacular visuals and relatable characters. Until this movie.

The animation alone is terrific. Its rich atmosphere, character designs, and colors make the film a must-watch on the big screen and is a beautiful contrast to the movie’s real and fictional settings. In addition, the songs are excellent as well. Belle’s singer, Kaho Nakamura, is a phenomenal voice in the film and makes every song memorable. 

However, great visuals and music can’t save the film from its character issues. Suzu is a complicated character and doesn’t feel as grounded as Hosada’s other characters. Although quiet and awkward, Suzu has a supportive father, devoted friends, and loving mother figures, but she continues to be a hot mess for the entire movie. As for the supporting characters, their personalities feel recycled from Hosada’s other films, such as the eccentric best friend, the quiet strong love interest, and the shy popular girl. This also goes for the elusive Beast character. His actions don’t seem fuelled by anything making his character feel two-dimensional. 

Another issue is the multitude of themes being explored in the film. Hosada’s earlier films were great at keeping consistent tones about family. It was in these slice-of-life settings where his directing soared, but when taking on the challenge of working with a virtual environment, Hosada’s directing in the film felt like it was juggling too many tones. Themes like friendship, family, love, domestic abuse, the internet, and appearances are not given enough time to settle and make the film’s pacing feel unbalanced. This issue is nowhere more present than in Belle and the beast’s relationship.

Finally, the film’s worst moments are when it copies scenes from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. From a man like Mamoru Hosada, this was baffling. Moments from the Disney film such as Belle running away from the beast and even the famous ballroom scene feel reused. The worst part is that the film never needed to be a Beauty and the Beast story or have a villain. It is clear that if Hosada had stuck to his strengths, the film would’ve been fantastic.Overall, crowd-pleasing visuals and a fantastic soundtrack can’t save this film. It is disappointing that Mamoru Hosada went from a global success like Wolf Children to a rushed, messy movie like Belle. It is only hoped that Hosada will move on from this stain on his record and succeed again in the future.