The Boy and the Beast Studio Chizo’s latest, by filmmaker Mamoru Hosoda (Summer Wars, Wolf Children, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time), is a visually stunning hand-drawn animation, that is equal parts action-packed coming-of-age buddy film and semi-realistic but spectacularly fantastical epic.
Released in Japan last year, and killing it domestically at Japan’s box office, it’ll finally be released to New Zealand theatres on March 3rd 2016- with both subbed and dubbed versions available.
The Boy and the Beast is set between both current day Tokyo and a parallel world – called Jutengai – that resembles feudal-era Japan populated by humanoid beasts. And follows a nine-year-old boy named Ren, who runs away from home and accidentally finds himself in Jutengai, where he becomes the apprentice of a prickly bear-man-beast named Kumatetsu- who renames Ren ‘Kyuta’ according to his age.
We see the progression of their relationship, and Ren’s time in Jutengai, through a montage of hilarious moments where the two clash constantly. These moments become poignant as you see their relationship move from antagonistic apprentice and irritable teacher who don’t mesh well at all, to antagonistic teenaged apprentice and irritable teacher who still don’t seem to mesh well but work nonetheless.
The film is visually stunning, however what makes it worthwhile are the characters. They fill the worlds up nicely and the development of the ‘master and apprentice’ relationship is not one-dimensional, there are layers to the friendships and bonds which the film allows the audience to discern for themselves.
Granted there are moments where cliched life-lessons are thrown at you left, right and centre, however when you look beyond the usual ‘fight bad with good’ and ‘you can do it’ cliches there are heavy issues addressed tastefully. Notions of depression and abandonment, as well as the effects these can have on a person, and how different people deal with these issues are juxtaposed against a fantastical world where humans are more or less banned because of these issues and their effects- which residents of Jutengai refer to as ‘the darkness’.
Action and battle scenes are just as epic as the lighthearted bickering scenes are hilarious, and poignant moments are both heart wrenching and heartwarming.
The film is equal parts hilarious, heartwarming and well executed.
Hosoda’s not one to tie everything up nicely, however. There are a few twists you may or may not figure out before they’re revealed, and just like in real life not everything is prettily resolved and easily sorted.
If you like a good epic, with funny bits and well-developed characters give The Boy and the Beast a shot.
You can catch The Boy and the Beast in NZ cinemas from March 3rd onwards at any of the locations below: