For decades, when it came to discussing anime film, there was no bigger name than Hayao Miyazaki. That was until a visionary by the name of Mamoru Hosoda stepped onto the scene and changed the landscape of feature length anime forever. Whether it be The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Wolf Children, Summer Wars or Our War Game, Mamoru Hosoda has brought heart and soul to anime cinema in this modern day in a way that is unique and poignant.
With that all in consideration I approached his latest work The Boy and The Beast with eager eyes keen to see what was next for the famed director. Now here I am having just finished viewing the film and I am pleased to say that The Boy and The Beast is another hit from Hosoda and arguably his finest work to date.
Telling the tale of a young boy named Ren who runs away from home following the death of his mother and living day to day homeless on the streets of Shibuya, The Boy and The Beast paints a picture of a boy on the brink of coming of age yet unable to find a place he belongs in this bustling, endlessly moving city. Faces blur and lights blind as Ren searches for meaning in his empty lonely life.
When Ren meets the titular beast, Kumatetsu, it is like a shock to the system waking him from his depressive state. Kumatetsu’s loud and boarish personality resonates with the inner rage within Ren, it speaks to him on a deeper level than he could imagine and he quickly finds himself tangled between two worlds, the world of humans and the world of the beasts.
The Boy and The Beast draws genuine pathos out of its exploration of the theme of loneliness and the ways in which we try to fill that whole in our hearts, literally manifesting itself by film’s end in a truly glorious finale. It is this tenet which The Boy and The Beast toys with the most but it wouldn’t be a true Mamoru Hosoda film if it wasn’t really ultimately about family and it is.
Hosoda masterfully straddles the line between fantasy epic and family drama as he has done so many times in the past, but none has been as superbly told as it is here in The Boy and The Beast. What begins as an almost Alice in Wonderland scenario becomes a story of one boy and one beast’s journey into each others lives and the family they forge together out of their individual loneliness. It is a lovely idea the idea that family can be found in the most unexpected of places and it is another intriguing viewpoint on the notion of what makes a family that Hosoda has so often inspected in his work.
The film snowballs quite quickly into full-blown epic with each act building upon the last and topping it in grand fashion. Seeing Ren’s journey from boy to beast to man is one of the most truly moving things you could witness in film all year. Ren is a character who has a major hole in his heart after the implosion of his biological family after the passing of his mother, and over the course of the film we see him fill that void with love, family, adventure, anger and soul.
While The Boy and The Beast largely dives into the themes of isolation, societal rejection and makeshift families, it also ponders on the topic of destiny and the way in which fate intertwines people and their respective worlds. We see this through nearly any pairing of characters in the film in relation to Ren as we see him appear as an outsider from both worlds in separate times and the bonds he forges between both worlds collide in a climax to savour.
Stylistically, The Boy in The Beast is a ground breaking triumph in animation history. With countless jawdropping angles, shots and takes, the film is brimming with nuance in every frame, with no frame without purpose or meaning. Even blending stunning first person sequences seamlessly into camera shifting long-takes The Boy and The Beast makes it seem easy pulling off sequences that have never been even attempted before in anime and likely won’t soon be replicated.
Furthermore the film features a phenomenal score that injects life into every scene giving a distinct feeling to both of these worlds. I found a lot of the incidental music during the beast world portions of the film to be reminiscent of that of Disney’s Mulan, which I personally attest features the best score in any Disney film, so that is big praise in my book. On top of that the voicework is fantastic which Aoi Miyazaki and Shota Sometani doing a brilliant job protraying Ren both as a child and adult.
The Boy and The Beast is Mamoru Hosoda’s greatest film to date and a must see for fans of Hosoda and those who have yet to be introduced to his body of work alike. It is bursting at the seams with heart and soul and it is a fantastic film for people of all ages. The kids will love the fantasy epic and the adults will love it for its exploration of family dynamics and the poignant tale of boy’s coming of age torn between two worlds.
This is a film that we will be talking about for years to come. Heartfelt, soulful and moving, The Boy and The Beast is a modern masterpiece off cinema that will no doubt be remembered as one of the all time greats of anime.
You can check out The Boy and The Beast for a limited time in cinemas across Australia starting March 3rd, 2016. For more information and session times check out Madman’s official website here.