Review: The Boy and the Beast

The Boy and the Beast

Mamoru Hosoda does it again with a beautiful character study and an uplifting message.

When Studio Ghibli announced that it wouldn’t be making any more feature films for the foreseeable future, and the great Hayao Miyazaki was going into retirement, the animation world went into a state of shock. Yet thankfully people like Mamoru Hosoda have been building a case as a spiritual successor for the better part of the last decade. From Digimon to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars and The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki, Hosoda has captured that mix of mystery and imagination that Miyazaki brought to all of his films, combining the real and the fantastical in ways that would have you believe that the two have always coexisted. THE BOY AND THE BEAST is no exception to this tradition, giving us a beautiful character study with an uplifting message. After giving us a trio of strong female protagonists in his last three films, Hosoda concentrates here on the relationship between a boy and his surrogate father. Young Ren (the always wonderful Aoi Miyazaki) runs away from a broken home after the loss of his mother, and the disappearance of his father. Finding himself in a mystical land populated by ‘beasts’, he is taken in as the apprentice of Kumatetsu (played with grumbling gravitas by Kōji Yakusho), a lazy and lonely rival for the position of the next Beast Lord. As Ren grows (and is later voiced by Shōta Sometani), the two learn from each other about determination and their rightful places in the world. Filled to some extent with that familiar Hosoda formula, building towards the gamification of a single battle ‘event’ as the climax, and borrowing heavily from the same mythology that permeates The Jungle Book and similar tales,  THE BOY AND THE BEAST is nevertheless a touching and emotional coming of age adventure that is just as impressive for its large scale animation moxie as it is for the sharpness of its character notes.

2015 | Japan| Dir: Mamoru Hosoda | Writers: Mamoru Hosoda | Cast: Kōji Yakusho, Aoi Miyazaki, Shōta Sometani, Suzu Hirose | Distributor: Madman | Running time: 120 minutes | Rating:★★★★½