The Boy and the Beast is a new Japanese animation film from director Mamoru Hosoda. I came across hearing about this film when I heard that there will be a showing of a new animation film in Los Angeles. I didn’t have a chance to see it theaters. but I did get an early access showing to the film, which is set to release in June 2016 on Blu-ray/DVD. I watched this movie with high hopes, because Japanese animation films hold a special place in my heart for high-quality details in the art, that’s it impossible to not be engaged.
The story follows a nine-year-old Ren who has recently lost his mother, whom he has lived with since his parents’ divorced. Having no contact with his father and he refuses to live with his aunt and uncle, Ren runs away into the streets of Shibuya Japan resenting his life and the world, filling himself with “hate”. He then is encountered by two beast creatures, and ultimately decides to follow them into the Beast Kingdom. Kumatetsu (meaning strong lonely bear, in Japanese) takes Ren as a disciple and gives him a new name.
Training sessions go poorly as Kumatetsu does not know how to teach, but Ren realizes that he can learn from Kumatetsu, somehow. The boy gradually finds that he can predict his master’s movements to improve his fighting skills and they soon begin in training together. The story is rich and filled with poetic metaphors.
They story skips a bit to eight years later. Kyuta (the name Kumatetsu has given Ren) has become a great warrior almost able to beat Kumatetsu himself.
He hopes to make his master proud, and stay close to him, as his renowned apprentice. Through Kumatetsu relationship with Kyuta, Kumatetsu gained his own following of supporters, including Jiromaru, the younger son of Iozen (Kumatetsu’s rival). He also receives a number of requests from young beasts wishing to be trained. He never seems to think about the human world, only to progress in the beast kingdom.
By chance (almost accident), Ren finds his way back the human world. There he befriends a young lady named Kaede, a young student who helps Ren with academic work, as he pursues to go to school. In the process, Ren actually finds his father who is hoping to catch up on lost years apart. Ren/Kyuta is torn by his double life, he is unable to reconcile the resentment he had as Kyuta and the familiarity he has as Ren. When he rejects both his father and Kumatetsu, he discovers a powerful shadow inside himself that disrupts both the human world and the beast world.
Mamoru Hosoda is more commonly known for his previous films. Including: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars, and Wolf Children. With great masterpieces like these, a high-quality of animation and story was expected. So, did the film live up to the work of Mamoru Hosoda? I would say, the growth within the characters emotionally was one of the best I have seen in an animated film. As i read in other reviews, The film shouldn’t be compared to a bland re-telling of a “Jungle Book” adaptation, it’s a journey between two souls and the comparison of life and growing up alone in the world.
From very early in the film, we find a young Ren sitting in a row of bike racks, alone and sad. Then we see an adult, Kumatetsu, a soul tortured by persona shadows and the burden of a lonely life.
Finally we see a young adult Ren, who has adapted and embraced the life on isolation and strong will, resenting his own father and human way of life. Having said that, the story did seemed rushed, and important events during When Ren was becoming this young adult were brushed over really fast. This also had an affect on the world. The world in story resided seemed to lack informational depth with some of the other characters in the world.
In all, the film had a beautiful art direction from start to finish. From the intense fight scenes to the immersive Beast Kingdom. The story is filled with deep emotional connections between both the main characters and the human and beast world. I found the great metaphors of life throughout the film to be an intelligent interpretation of the modern world.
- The anime had a beautiful art direction all the way through.
- Deep emotional connection between main characters
- Great metaphors of life found throughout the film
- Shift in direction during the film's second half
- Story seemed rushed, Important events brushed over
- The world seemed to lack informational depth