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Finally, I get to talk about one of my favorite new directors in the animation scene, Mamoru Hosoda. Even though I say he is “new”, Hosoda has actually been around the anime/animation scene for a while, starting all the way back in 1999 when he had a hand with working in both minor and key animation roles on the Digimon Adventure series, Yu Yu Hakusho The Movie: Poltergeist Report, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan, Dragon Ball Z: Broly – Second Coming, Galaxy Express 999 Eternal Fantasy, and Sailor Moon Super S: The Movie to name a few of the projects on which he worked. Only in 2006 after some directing gigs with the Digimon: The Movie and One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island, did he finally get to work on his own original projects. His first release was The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, but essentially started to get more popularity among animation viewers when he released Summer Wars and Wolf Children. However, I’m going to look at those three films at a later date. For now, I want to talk about his newest film, The Boy and the Beast. This movie was originally released last year in 2015, but was brought over in 2016 by Funimation. So, how does Hosoda’s newest film stack against his previous works? Well, let’s dive in.
The story is about a young boy named Kyuta, voiced by Luci Christian, and Eric Vale when the character is older. He is currently unhappy with a rather upsetting family incident where his mother passed away, and the father isn’t anywhere to be found. Kyuta runs away, and accidentally ends up meeting a humanized animal being named Kumatetsu, voiced by John Swasey. As a result, Kyuta takes the offer of Kumatetsu and follows him into another realm known as Jutengai or Beast Kingdom. After being shocked at running into a world not his own, he becomes the apprentice to Kumatetsu, even though Kumatetsu’s two friends, a monkey man named Tatara, voiced by Ian Sinclair, and a pig man/monk named Hyakushubo, voiced by Alex Organ, are concerned about the situation. The story also involves a fight between Kumatetsu and a boar man named Iozen, voiced by Sean Hennigan, about who becomes the new lord of the land. Will Kyuta train and become a great warrior? Will Kumatetsu be able to train Kyuta, and what will happen between the Beast Kingdom and the human world?
I’m going to, of course, start off with the positives of The Boy and the Beast, since I really love this movie and want to talk about how great it is. First off, the animation is fluid with more realistic movements, but nothing that feels stiff or awkward about it, like when they do all cgi or rotoscope. It leads to some pretty beautiful animation with some outstanding fight choreography. I think what helps make the fighting in this movie so fantastic is that it’s more grounded and not flashy. The punches and kicks feel real, with actual weight behind the blows that characters give each other. Yes, there are some mystical elements, but it’s mostly punches and kicks. It gives Hosoda’s films a unique and iconic look, which is hard to say about anime these days with how generic and homogenous it can all look.
Some of the other great aspects are the themes The Boy and the Beast tackles. The film deals with stuff like different family situations, not letting hate take you over, what true strength is, and what is probably the film’s greatest message, being upfront with your children. Yeah, we actually have an animated film that essentially tells the viewers that parents should be upfront with them and not lie to them. It’s a rather refreshing message, since so many films these days rather follow something generic and something we have seen before. It leads to some great parallels to the characters and their chemistry among the entire cast.
The voice cast is also very strong. I felt like everyone had the right voices connected to their characters, and I love how natural the dialogue feels. It isn’t like in Ghost in the Shell where no matter how good the cast is, the dialogue is not organic, and feels robotic and unnatural. The music is once again extremely beautiful, and fits the mood in each scene. This is due to the talented Takagi Masakatsu, who also did the music for Wolf Children. It’s elegant, beautiful, atmospheric, and upbeat when the time calls for it.
If there was really one major nitpick about the film, it’s the pacing in the second half. For the most part, the pacing is perfectly done, but some areas later on could have been better. It’s like how in Kubo and the Two Strings, in how there was no build-up for Monkey. She just appears and it’s like “um, okay.” The second half isn’t horrible. It still has a lot of plot-relevant moments and some really touching scenes, but its pacing is more noticeable in terms of how the story progresses.
Even with the minor pacing problem, The Boy and the Beast is one of the best animated films of 2016, and one of my favorite films of the year. It’s touching, funny, mature, creepy at times, and an all-around endearing experience. If you can find the time to purchase or rent a copy of this film, I highly recommend doing so. Well, next time, we will take a look at the first in a month of Christmas-related animated films with The Magic Snowflake. Thanks for reading, I hope you all enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!