It’s not really rolling the dice to go see a Mamoru Hosoda film. Even if he’s never quite hit the heights he did with the first film of his we saw (Wolf Children), he’s always more interesting than his story premises might suggest. In this movie, he returns to a Summer Wars-style virtual reality, where an unassuming girl takes the (virtual) world by storm and finds herself involved with a destructive player who eludes the ruling authorities and creates havoc at community events.
The beautiful Belle finds herself captivated by the “beast” and ultimately finds her way back to his secret castle. At certain points, here, rooms in the castle are directly lifted from the 1946/1991 Beauty and the Beast and the movie teases a plot like that film—and then it veers in an entirely different and ultimately more interesting direction.
This shift and the heroine’s comically aggressive friend who arranges Belle’s meteoric rise and runs cover for her are the highlights of the film, as well as the animation and music.
It probably won’t knock your socks off, but it’s a fun movie with a serious undercurrent, and that unique Hosoda flavor.