Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Words – Joe H.
The fourth Anime feature from award-winning director Mamoru Hosoda – who previously brought us the spectacular vision of the danger in our digitally connected world in Summer Wars, and the critically acclaimed The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – The Boy and the Beast tells the story of Kyuta, a young orphan living on the streets of Tokyo after losing his mother, wandering aimlessly and carrying a weight of inner turmoil.
A chance encounter changes the course of his life however when he meets Kumatetsu – a crude, rough-around-the-edges warrior beast who’s been searching for the perfect apprentice. As he stumbles into Jutengai, the fantastic world of the beasts that exists alongside our own world, he finds that Kumatetsu may be taking on an apprentice for selfish reasons – to rise from being a Master, to becoming Lord of Jutengai.
As the two begin their training, it is quickly apparent that the two are so alike they clash – constantly arguing and refusing to give way to each other, the relationship between the two of them is charming, as despite their constant bickering, this unlucky boy and lonely beast together slowly form a bond as surrogate father and son.
A deeper narative begins to emerge here – with the growth of a child and of how the experiences we have shape us, we’re raised by many different people growing up and we become who we are through the people around us, while learning how to handle ourselves and realising that there are a lot of things we can’t do on our own.
The two characters find strength in each other as they go on a journey that brings new purpose to their lives, in the end having to face their own demons to overcome that which holds them back.
The animation is gorgeous – the incredible detail of the cityscape in the Tokyo district of Shibuya is something to behold, and with the enchanting world of Jutengai a lush and colourful environment, the two compliment each other with a hand-drawn warmth creating worlds both feeling equally real, along with great action and fluid detail during battle sequences.
The soundtrack is beautiful, both heartwarming and cheerful and accentuating the mood of scenes perfectly – with the full score since having its own special vinyl release via soundtrack specialists Milan Records.
It would be unfair to compare this film rather than view it in its own right, simply because it’s an animation from Japan, but for the many whose only experience of Japanese animation is the work of Studio Ghibli (many of the same animators worked on this feature), this is a film that will please in the same way, encompassing the same magic and wonder of Spirited Away and the action of Princess Mononoke.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable and touching story, well worth making the effort to see.