25 August 2017 | dee.reid
"Beast"-mode "The Boy and the Beast"
No, this isn't "Beauty and the Beast" (1991), though this story also involves beasts - in animated form. This is "The Boy and the Beast," the most recent Japanese animation (Anime') offering from director/writer/producer Mamoru Hosoda, who is very quickly becoming one of the greats in Anime' - after such revered Japanese Anime' directors like Mamoru Oshii ("Ghost in the Shell," the "Patlabor" series), Yoshiaki Kawajiri ("Ninja Scroll," "Wicked City," "Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust"), Katsuhiro Otomo ("Akira," "Steamboy") and of course, the now-retired Anime' legend Hayao Miyazaki ("Spirited Away," "Princess Mononoke," "Ponyo," etc.)
Hosoda has come a long way from his debut "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time" (2006) and my personal favorite of his, 2009's "Summer Wars." It was the latter film of his that convinced me of Hosoda's true worth as an inspired director.
Hosoda's films are not easily categorized, in that they often combine genres ranging from comedy, to science fiction, to fantasy, to heartfelt character-driven dramas. It is this skillful blending of different genres that set his "Summer Wars" apart from a lot of Anime' features produced nowadays (most films, period), and why I considered it one of the best animated films so far this millennium.
And now we're at his most recent, 2015's "The Boy and the Beast." While not as strong as his previous entries, it is by no means a wasted effort. True to his form, "The Boy and the Beast" combines different storytelling genres to tell an inspired fantasy tale that while not completely original, does seem fresh and unique given the interesting scenario that the film's events take place in.
In Japan's Shibuya district, Ren is a nine-year-old orphan struggling to get by on the streets by any means necessary. One night, he accidentally stumbles upon the so-called "Beast Realm," a world inhabited by, well, beasts, who take on many characteristics shared by those living in the human world. He is taken in by the gruff, unkempt bear-like warrior-beast Kumatetsu (who appears to be based on late Japanese film legend Toshiro Mifune's "Kikuchiyo" character from "Seven Samurai"), who needs an apprentice, as he is competing to become the new lord of the Beast Realm.
The two bicker constantly, but over time an unconventional teacher-student/father-son relationship develops between the two, and Ren, who Kumatetsu unceremoniously renamed "Kyuta," becomes a master student who eventually earns the begrudging love and respect of his teacher.
"The Boy and the Beast" delivers much of what it promises: stunning animation (complemented by helpful CGI in more than a few places), a sincere and heartfelt story, well-timed humor, and stunning action sequences. "The Boy and the Beast" is not "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time" or even "Summer Wars," but this is nonetheless a strong and entertaining entry in a distinguished director's catalog who can only keep going up.