We’ve been pretty lucky in recent years that we’ve been getting more and more Japanese animated films getting wide releases in America! Which is why I was ecstatic to hear Mamoru Hosoda‘s The Boy and the Beast was coming to San Francisco!
I’m a huge fan of Mamoru Hosoda’s work with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (which is getting a re-release this year by the way!!) being my jumping off point followed by Wolf Children then Summer Wars.
As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I try to go in to films fairly blind outside of seeing the Official US trailer(s) (as International trailers sometimes contain story spoilers). The Boy And The Beast is no different!
I went in to this thinking the main character Ren, swiftly renamed by his master Kumatetsu as Kyuta because of his age (Kyu = 9 in Japanese), was the only one who could see these Bakemono or Beasts. Low and behold it was soon revealed that Beasts were real, and lived in an almost parallel society (Beast Kingdom) ruled by the Beast Lord who happens to be an elderly anthropomorphic bunny (probably one of my favorite characters)!
What I didn’t expect was the aspect of Ren’s chance encounter with Kumatetsu was due to his father being absent, his Mother recently passing away and his family pressuring him to take on the family’s legacy THEN he runs away to hide in the busy streets of Shibuya. This is all laid out within the first 5-10 mins. Things got heavy real quick!
We’re introduced to the Beast Kingdom almost just as quickly with little to no explanation of how the society works other than setting up that Kumatetsu is a loner, lazy and in need of a disciple in order for him to succeed in becoming the new Beast Lord.
I felt the overall coming of age story was definitely something that I’ve seen before with the whole outcast teacher and defiant cocky student dynamic with the teacher gradually warming up to the student and so on. However I enjoyed the approach of Kyuta learning from Kumatetsu through observation vs Kumatetsu actually being a good teacher (which is is actually a terrible teacher) and in turn Kyuta is able to train Kumatetsu.
With Kyuta going to the Beast Kingdom it visually gave me strong Spirited Away vibes but with more yelling and fighting. I also liked that after 8 years of training with Kumatetsu, he was able to go back to the human world. I’m a sucker for “fish out of water” scenarios. As a result Kyuta is an amazing kendo martial artist but he lacks basic education such as reading.
Things get a little muddy after he befriends a college student Kaede who helps him study for college entrance exams as well as Kyuta also finding his estranged father. These new relationship now tear Kyuta between supporting Kumatetsu fighting against Iōzen in the Beast Kingdom continuing his life in the human world.
I don’t want to spoil the ending for the movie but I’ll just say that is where it kind of started to fall apart for me. They kept mentioning rules that we weren’t aware of or they never explained (like why they have swords but never unsheathe them), and then suddenly humans are capable of using magic but Beasts can’t. The climax for the final battle was also a little off for me and the part that was supposed to be hyper emotional had me (and some of the audience), giggling at how ridiculous it got. Also one of the big reveals wasn’t that shocking and was predictable so that was a little disappointing.
Now lets touch on the art style a bit. The Boy And The Beast had some STUNNING shots as you can see from the trailer posted above, but there were some awkward shots here and there. The scenes that come to mind are usually very large crowd shots were 3D animated background characters are utilized. I know they do this to save on production costs because 2D would just be too excessive for characters that are not the main focus. But the poor animation and short loop cycles had the opposite effect for me and that’s all I’d focus on. It words for scenes like Shibuya crossing shots with people walking by but dramatic still shots in between fights were painful to watch.
On another note, backgrounds; amazing. Establishing shots; amazing. Character designs, amazing! Except for Hyakushūbō a pig man character… He was a little odd compared to the other pig/boar anthropomorphic designs. I wonder if it was because he pretty much looks like a very pink man with a pig snout slapped on.
Overall I think I preferred Wolf Children over The Boy And The Beast as far as storytelling goes, but The Boy And The Beast has great humor and character development along with rich environments and intense choreographed fight scenes. If you’re able to I highly recommend seeing The Boy and The Beast.
Rotten Tomatoes: 88% (7.5/10 average)
[Based on stats as of March 23rd 2016]
Release Date: March 4th 2016 (Limited)
Studio: Studio Chizu
119 Minutes | Rated PG-13
Directors: Mamoru Hosoda
Writers: Mamoru Hosoda
Stars: Kōji Yakusho, Aoi Miyazaki & Shōta Sometani
What’d you think of The Boy And The Beast? Did you like it more over previous Mamoru Hosoda films? Do you want more wide releases of Japanese animated films? Comment below or tweet me @teriarchibbles!
ARTing is all about animation, graphic novels, and anything in between that is art related. Regular posts coming on Wednesdays.
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