Following on from the success of his previous works, including The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars and Wolf Children, Mamoru Hosoda’s latest film The Boy and the Beast is finally available in the UK following its release in Japan back in 2015. Hosoda is one of Japan’s most gifted filmmakers, with his anime’s often gaining worldwide recognition on top of their domestic successes.
Young boy Ren (Aoi Miyazaki) has fled his home for the streets of Shibuya following the death of his mother and is resorting to stealing food and sleeping in alleys in order to survive when he is come across by Kumatetsu (Koji Yakusho) and Tatara (Yo Oizumi). Out of curiousity, Ren follows them through a series of passageways until he unwittingly arrives in the Beast Kingdom. He learns that Kumatetsu is one of two powerful beasts being considered as the next lord of the kingdom, but that due his temper and laziness he has no disciples. During a fight between Kumatetsu and Lozen, the other potential lord, Ren shouts out in support of Kumatetsu, which prompts him to take Ren on as a disciple.
Hosoda’s animation has always had a spellbinding quality, but the most surprising value he has brought to The Boy and the Beast is the expert action scenes which flow with an intricate detail and slickness that is just exhilarating to behold. The characters are vibrant and pop off the screen with an aggression and fervour that demands attention. Kumatetsu is the stand out character, a ferocious bear voiced with a raging passion by Koji Yakusho. His uncompromising malicious attitude is continually worn down by Ren’s own hostility and the pair’s relationship throughout is the heart and soul of the movie. At two hours in length the film does feel a bit too long and some pacing issues creep in towards the end of the second act that do unbalance the movie, but the characters and animation are always vibrant and interesting enough to keep you invested throughout until the rousing finale.
Though it may not eclipse the greatest of Hosoda’s works, it is a suitably excellent addition to his filmography, blending the more soulful sombre moments that tend to inhabit Hosoda’s movies with amazingly frenetic action sequences that are also stunningly choreographed. For anime fans, it is definitely one to check out, but it’s also a strong enough film to sway those who would not regularly watch films of such a style. It’s been a long wait for The Boy and the Beast to make its way to the UK and it hasn’t disappointed – hopefully the amount of time between domestic and international anime release dates will shorten in the future.
Dir: Mamoru Hosodu
Scr: Mamoru Hosodu
Cast: Koji Yakusho, Aoi Miyazaki, Shota Sometani, Suzu Hiroze, Yo Oizumi, Lily Franky, Kazuhiro Yamaji
Prd: Yuichiro Saito, Takuya Ito, Atsushi Chiba, Genki Kawamur
Music: Takagi Masakatsu
Run time: 120 minutes
The Boy and the Beast is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray.