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The Boy and The Beast: A Review

Hector Ramirez II

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After his mother’s death, no news of his father’s whereabouts and refusing to live with his legal guardians, young Ren runs away from home to the streets of Shibuya filled with hatred and loneliness. Every day is a struggle to survive for Ren in The Boy and The Beast.

A scene from The Boy and The Beast (LA Times photo)

A scene from The Boy and The Beast (LA Times photo)

In the peaceful Jutengai, or Beast Kingdom, the lords of this realm reincarnate as a deity of their choosing after a successor has been chosen. The two potential heirs are Iozen, a popular and wise warrior, and Kumatetsu, who embodies the terms lonely and lazy. It is custom for these skilled fighters of the realm to take in disciples, but Kumatetsu mocks the idea. However, when Kumatetsu and Ren cross paths, both will embark on an incredible journey they never would have imagined.

Written and directed by the creative Mamoru Hosoda, The Boy and the Beast is a Japanese animated film that’s a coming-of-age story full of wonder and heart. It takes a special kind of movie to uplift your spirit when you leave the theater, and The Boy and the Beast is one of them. I walked into the theater expecting an animated Karate Kid-esque film, but I also experienced a well-paced movie that tackled themes such as loneliness, self-exploration and ambition. The film does more than what it sets out to be, and it was a delightful surprise of direction.

What’s really impressive about this film is the world it creates for the audience to get lost in. Jutengai is an interesting setting because of its culture that is not technicologically advance. Scenic shots set the tone and personality of the world, and it all made me wish Ren and Kumatetsu traveled to more destinations. The ideology of a lord having the power to reincarnate in the world of Jutengai initially seemed to be a spiritual undertone that wasn’t critical to the plot, but ended up rounding out neatly and satisfyingly, rounding out the film.

One of the best elements of The Boy and the Beast is the cast. Ren is thrown into an odd and fantasy-like world with no direction and drive. Kumatetsu is a selfish, but strong warrior that never connected emotionally with anyone or anything. It’s when these two meet, break down their personal walls and start to accept and learn from one another where the movie shines. The film focuses more on the journey of Ren and Kumatetsu, but each side character is not wasted and has an impact in the story.

As a fan of Japanese animation features, I have seen more than a fair share of them. It’s animated films such as The Boy and the Beast that I believe animation is a boundless pool of imagination for storytelling. The complex elements, relatable characters, and emotional story makes Hosoda’s The Boy and the Beast a triumph for the genre.

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The Boy and The Beast: A Review