The Boy and The Beast, a Japanese animated film directed by Mamoru Hosoda and produced by Studio Chizu, is a film that I did not expect to enjoy nor be able to sit through to its entirety. How pleasantly surprised I was to find myself giggling, crying and holding on to the edge of my seat as I watched the film at its premiere event organised by the amazing people at Madman Entertainment.
The film began with a breath-taking introduction to the wonderful world of the Beast Kingdom, narrating the history and culture of all those who live there, along with the core plot of the story; the impending battle between two of the greatest beast warriors, Kumatetsu and Iozen, for the right to become the next Lord of the Kingdom once the current Lord reincarnates into a God.
The allure and mesmerising sequence of the opening scene quickly turns to one we, as human beings, are most familiar with; that of a vibrant city filled with its inhabitants engaged in the day to day hustle and bustle. It is within this mass populace that we are introduced to Ren, a young boy who had run away from home after his mother’s death; his father unable to be found since the divorce.
We see Ren dressed in what looked like old hand me downs, a small bag of bread in his hand as he walks to find shelter, all the while remembering why he ran away in the first place. The reminder of being abandoned and of his relatives not caring about what he wanted or how he felt, frustrated Ren to the point that he developed an intense hatred for humans, or adults if we looked at Ren’s feelings objectively. This hatred created a blackness in his heart that we see for a few moments before disappearing as Ren hides in an alley way. It is here that he meets his cute, cuddly and utterly adorable friend, Chiko, a small mouse-like creature.
Before I delve any further, it’s important to seriously look and understand Ren’s run away scene. Divorce has become so common in this day and age that couples see splitting up as a much easier solution than to try and resolve any issues and salvage the relationship. Truth be told, some relationships cannot be saved but when considering divorce, it is extremely important to take into account the effect it would have on the children. Children, especially adolescents, no matter how tough they may look on the outside, may not be able to fully comprehend the effects of a divorce. Now add to that the death of the parent holding custody over the children. What becomes of them then? Is it fair to bounce them around, relative to relative? Is it right for the parent who walked out to suddenly want to play a role in their children’s lives again? I don’t have any answers for these situations but I do know one thing, it is crucial to consider the feelings and needs of the child before making any kind of decision.
At the highest point of Ren’s despair, he meets Kumatetsu and his companion who happen to be traveling through the human world. Kumatetsu, who seeks an apprentice in order to place himself at a more suitable position to become the new Lord, offers to take care of Ren. Refusing the offer at first, Ren ends up running after Kumatetsu and fumbles his way into the Beast Kingdom. It is here that the relationship between the boy and the beast develop as Kumatetsu renames Ren as Kyuta after his age (Kyu means nine in Japanese). The beautiful relationship between the pair soon flourish as Kumatetsu teaches Kyuta how to be strong, and the boy, in return, teaches the beast how to care and perfect his skills. A touching father-son bond is developed, though this is masked behind the constant arguing the pair engage in. However, Kumatetsu alone doesn’t raise Kyuta on his own. He has the help of Hyakushubo, an apprentice monk and Tatara, a monkey man, who aid the wild and often unkempt beast in raising Kyuta. This familial relationship that they have with each other strengthens the bonds between them, giving Kyuta a sense of finally belonging and being accepted as one of their own in the Beast Kingdom.
The Boy and the Beast played upon many important themes and metaphors including the concept of discrimination, particularly against humans, who are seen to be easily swayed and influenced by darkness. We’ve seen it before, humans have the capacity to be extremely humble and kind but also vicious and brutal, so it comes as no surprise then that the film’s feel good feeling and happy, cheerful moments are ruined when darkness takes over, as it does in most stories.
The Boy and the Beast does well to illustrate how insecurity and a lack of knowledge about who one truly is often leads a person to feel out of place, longing for somewhere to truly belong, which ultimately could lead to a downward spiral. This notion hits our current societal structure right on the nose as many adolescents, and event adults in today’s world struggle with their identities, desperate to find themselves. Furthermore, the film showcases the importance of family, a good upbringing and the idea of being honest with children. A good family life, with strong familial and friendship bonds is what shapes a child toward becoming a good, kind hearted adult, as we see in the case of teenage Kyuta and his budding relationship with a Japanese girl who he meets upon returning back to the human world.
This magnificent tale of bonds, friendships, strength and love will tug at your heart and make you both laugh and cry as you become invested in the characters and their development. The Boy and the Beast is truly an animated film that brings to the forefront the core values that all creatures should possess and is a reminder to us all to appreciate those who are good to us, be kind to others and most important of all, not to give in to petty feelings. Embrace the light, not the darkness.
The Boy and the Beast opens in cinemas on March 3 (English subtitled version) and March 5 (English dubbed version). Be sure to watch it. I guarantee that this movie will give you the warm fuzzies.