The Boy and the Beast (Bakemono no ko)
Mamoru Hosoda is regarded by many as one of the best anime film directors of our time, and with films such as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Wolf Children under his belt it’s easy to see why. Each of Hosoda’s films are stunningly crafted and each share the similar theme of grief, and his latest feature is no different.
The Boy and the Beast is the coming of age story of Ren (Shota Sometani), a nine-year-old boy who has recently lost his mother, who he lived with ever since his parents got divorced. With no contact from his father and refusing to live with his legal guardians, Ren runs away to the streets of bustling Shibuya feeling nothing but resentment towards humanity and grief from losing his mother. While running from law enforcement officers, Ren stumbles into a hidden land of beasts and is soon taken in by the grumpy warrior known as Kumatetsu (Kōji Hashimoto), a bear like beast who happens to be looking for an apprentice to take on in order to prove his worth as the next Lord. The film explores the relationship between Kumatetsu and Ren (now known in the beast world at Kyuta) as the beast teaches him martial arts, but Kumatetsu has always been a loner which means he is not a skilled teacher – often displaying a fiery temper if Kyuta doesn’t succeed at first try.
Kyuta eventually gives up training directly with the impatient beast and begins to observe him from the distance while he does chores. When Kumatetsu retired for the night he would practice what he saw out back on his own – eventually making him more skilled in the art, surprising his master. It gets to the point where Kyuta can best his master in combat just by listening to his movements. It is in these scenes that we find most of the films humour but also a lot of it’s heart as we begin to see the pair teach each other and help one another better themselves.
From this point onwards the story then leaps eight years into the future where we see Kyuta, who has found his way back to the human world, as he tries to pick up on the school education that he has missed out on all those years with the help of a young girl named Kaede (Suzu Hirose). It is at this point in the film that we begin to see Kyuta question just where he belongs – the human world or the beast world?
The Boy and the Beast is a heartwarming film with strong direction, gorgeous animation and an all-star Japanese cast that I would highly recommend to any anime fan, seasoned viewer or not. The film is a lot of fun and the only real problem I felt with the film was it’s lack of engaging secondary characters. I would highly recommend you watch the subtitled version first as the voice work is just fantastic.
Anime, Fantasy, Drama | Japan, 2017 | 12A | 4th September 2017 (UK) | Studiocanal | Dir.Mamoru Hosoda