Yes, I’ve been catching up on my anime. No, we won’t turn into an anime-exclusive coverage site. Don’t worry. Unless you wanted that. In which case: sowwy.
In my quest to know more stuff and due to my budding friendship with Sopé (shout out to the Outlaw Barz Podcast, again,) I’ve been exploring more anime. Due to this, The Boy and The Beast had come up on my radar. So, like the bored young folk of latter day, I threw it in my Netflix DVD queue and eagerly awaited its arrival.
Directed and written by Mamoru Hosoda, this film follows one boy’s adventures in a world of anthropomorphic beasts who enjoy a feudal but peaceful society. Considering Hosada spent tons of time directing various films in the Digimon universe, it only seems natural that his next big project would be about…kids falling into alternate universes filled with monster people.
Anywho, in this case, things are a wee bit different. The boy, Ren (or Kyuta, he goes through a couple names), becomes a martial arts pupil to a brash bear-man named Kumatetsu. Their relationship grows and informs Ren’s progression into a teenager. Rivaling the two is Kumatetsu’s older boar-man brother, Iozen, who’s the better fighter and father. Or so we think. As the story progress, many things come to light that throw a wrench in that paradigm, causing some great (but predictable) plot twists and excuses for huge fight scenes. But hey, it’s anime — the whole reason we’re here is for plot twists and huge fight scenes, right?
What makes The Boy and The Beast work, however, is its dedication to a slow burn. Clocking in at about 2 hours, the film doesn’t mind focusing on Kumatetsu’s relationship with Ren, and their journey to proxy father-son-ship. In my mind, this is great versus a quick 80’s training montage, as it gives the characters depth and allows them to cash emotional checks in the third act that feel warranted and earned. And, while The Boy and The Beast doesn’t quite achieve the profound well of whimsy and existentialism that, say Miyazaki films often accomplish, it holds its own in a way that is indebted to anime grandmasters and its peers without trying to copy the blueprint too much.
Speaking of which, this is a beautiful film. I’m no expert in animation, but there’s nothing about this film that isn’t aesthetically pleasing. From the richness of the color schemes to some of the detail paid to small motions and large landscapes, The Boy and The Beast is easy on the eyes in a very smooth and easy-going way.
Lastly, this movie made a homeboy with a keyboard cry. And not in the bad way. If you’ve been around these parts long enough, you know that I have a soft spot for good father-son stories. And this is one of them. In its multiple iterations, The Boy and The Beast explores a multiplicity of themes related to fatherhood, family and how sons find themselves in spite and because of their fathers. While it’s no in-depth conversation, there are some great nuggets of truth that, if you’re sensitive to them, will hit you in the feelings gland.
So if you need a good anime to fill your time and love the idea of traipsing around with a spunky kid and his adopted bear dad, this is a good film to boot up over the weekend.
Dap owns Timberland boots and is committed to loving black women, eating good food and diversifying media as he sees fit and while he can. He can be found yelling into the abyss and being snarky on the following: IG | Twitter