There are very few times one can say ‘that film reminded me of Naruto’ and be happy about it. Yet we can say this about The Boy and the Beast, one of the lesser-known films by Mamoru Hosoda.
Hosoda is far less famous than, for example, Hayao Miyazaki, yet arguably creates equally breath-taking films. Creator of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars, the director’s venture of The Boy and the Beast deserves a heck of a lot more recognition. Of course the plot isn’t perfect in many ways, but it follows the new trend of anime films being visually indescribable, and that makes up for a lot. So without further ado, here’s our verdict.
The Boy and the Beast follows nine-year-old Ren, a troubled and newly-orphaned little boy. On the busy streets of Tokyo he encounters Kumatetsu, a terrifying beast who’s wandering the human world for a reason never described. Kumatetsu is a useless knucklehead kind of guy who is desperate to be in charge of the world of the beasts – but to do that, he needs a disciple. He takes the only logical conclusion and adopts Ren as his own, raising him to be a martial arts master in the world of the beasts. Ren ends up being torn between the two worlds after meeting a girl in the human realm, and a childhood friend turns into a crazed enemy to top everything off.
The plot itself is pretty basic. It’s a classic hero’s tale. Ren is a scruffy, rebellious kid who constantly challenges Kumatetsu, his useless master. He grows up under this tutelage to be talented but very troubled, and a ‘darkness’ begins to grow in his heart. His friend and rival Ichirouhiko also has this ‘darkness’ and their fates end up greatly intertwined. It’s rather predictable (except for one excellent plot twist that no-one saw coming), but in a way it’s soothing. The plot isn’t the important bit. What’s important here is the over-arching message in the film. A message of belonging, friendship, and emotional turmoil. It’s a universal theme we can all get behind.
Character-wise, again, it’s a little clichéd. Ren himself is endearingly grumpy, relatable, and overall a very magnetic main character. He’s the saving grace of it all, alongside the shy and sheltered female lead. It’s the side characters that form the cliché. Kumatetsu is moody, messy, and has no brains. His rival for leadership is popular and very powerful. We’ve got comical minor characters and then Ren’s rival – a dark-haired, high-achieving boy with a lust for evil things. Though they might be a bit predictable in personality, they interact well. The relationships between them make this film special. Since a central focus of The Boy and The Beast is emotion, the characters really bring this out. Even if Ren’s rival is scarily reminiscent of Sasuke Uchiha from Naruto, everyone’s favourite franchise.
That’s the thing with so many of these films. Despite many technical flaws, it’s the atmosphere that brings everything back and wraps it all up with a wonderfully animated bow. The music is beautiful, the animation is unique and breath-taking, and – you know – it’s Mamoru Hosoda. The guy was responsible for Wolf Children. If that won’t convince you, who knows what will?
The Boy and The Beast was released in 2015. Although we’re a little late to the review, we were still blown away by the film. It’s easy to watch, has an enjoyable cast, and it has this powerful atmosphere that just glues you to the screen. We highly recommend you give this a view – even if it’s only so you can say you’ve seen it.