I watched The Boy and the Beast over the weekend and absolutely loved it! This is about a year late, but I had to write about it. The movie directed and written by Mamoru Hosoda is a wonderful story with many overlapping themes that make it a rich and emotionally stimulating story; at its core though it is a coming of age story. This is a movie I watched again the next day that’s how much I enjoyed it.
The story begins following Kyuta as a young boy of nine after his mother has passed. He is understandably upset and run’s away from his grandparents as they are bashing his absent father and trying to make him go with them. While hiding he runs into Kumatetsu–a bear-like man from the world of beasts. Kumatetsu is looking for an apprentice and sees promise in the young human. He needs an apprentice because he is to participate in a battle where in the winner becomes the leader of all the beasts and has the ability to reincarnate as the god of anything he chooses. Kyuta follows Kumatetsu and ends up in the beast world where after some arguing agrees to become Kumatetsu’s apprentice.
Kumatetsu begins teaching the boy martial arts, but is not a very good teacher.
“how much clearer do you need me to make it for you? You grab the sword that’s in your soul, OK now do it!” (haha love that scene).
Kyuta responds to this by trying to learn from his master by copying his every move. Eventually he knows Kumatetsu so well he can mimic his movements just by listening to him and even beats him in a fight. From this point the master apprentice relationship begins to blur as both start to teach each other, and both end up becoming better due to the other. The story then skips 8 years into the future, and we see Kyuta once again find his way back to the human world where he meets a young girl that begins to teach him all the schooling he has missed since he was nine. A dilemma begins in Kyuta about where he belongs, in the human world or the beast world. While in conflict over this decision the current leader of the beasts finally calls forth for the battle that will decide his successor, and the story really takes off. I will leave it there because I don’t want to spoil too much.
The character archetypes are definitely nothing fresh and new, but the way in which they interact with each other, and grow over time definitely make up for it. This movie really immerses you into its world, story, and characters, and you forget everything else. The characters are very memorable and stick with you after you have watched it. As well, the relationship between Kyuta and Kumatetsu is fun to watch, and you can really see them both change because of the other.
On a more technical aspect, this movies visuals are stunning. The art direction and animation are superb. The bright colors and aesthetic of the beast people make for a playful and fun tone perfect for a fantasy epic. The voice acting is also fantastic. Usually I will attempt to watch the movie or anime in English, only to switch to the subtitles with the Japanese voice actors because they are typically so much better. Not in this case. The English actors are great. Even Kyuta as a young boy is done well, and usually young boys sound awful in anime (think the English voice actor for Naruto… soooooo bad!).
The only thing I can say I didn’t like about this movie was the way they handled the opening credits. The story would be going and then it would cut to a black screen with no sound that had the opening credits on it. It was a little jarring. It would have been better if they just superimposed them over-top of the beginning of the movie as it was playing. Pretty good that this is my only complaint though.
All in all, I would highly recommend this film. I wish western creators would make more stories like this through this medium! If you’ve seen it, or go watch it because of reading this, let me know what you thought of it in the comments below or on our Facebook wall. The Boy and the Beast is currently available on Netflix so check it out!