The Boy and the Beast / Bakemono no Ko
Review By: John Fragglepuss Evans
Genre: Drama, Adventure, Supernatural, Coming-of-Age, Mysterious Kingdoms
First Released: July 2015, 118-minute film
Summary: Ren is a 9-year-old boy living in Tokyo who has just lost his mother. With his father not in the picture, Ren is told he will be put in the custody of relatives. Overwhelmed with all the changes occurring in his life, Ren runs away. It isn’t too long before a member of the Beast Kingdom, Kumatetsu, passes by Ren and half-jokingly offers an apprenticeship. With little reason to stay in Tokyo, Ren follows the undisciplined Kumatetsu into the Beast Kingdom.
The Boy and the Beast is directed by Mamoru Hosoda, director of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars and Wolf Children. Hosoda’s style shows in the storytelling and animation-style. I went to this in the theater and one of the trailers before the film was for the upcoming live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book, which was fitting in how The Boy and the Beast felt like an anime version of The Jungle Book. Ren is raised in a world of beasts and has a significant amount of internal struggle when he is reintroduced to the human world.
The story itself is not unique, but the way it is told is good enough to give it a watch. It’s entertaining to watch the mixture of drama and comedy, especially with the interactions between Kumatetsu and Ren, master and student. Kumatetsu is an impatient teacher with a short temper. He is lonely and lazy, except when it comes to his Kendo. Ren is a clueless kid that hates everyone due to the tough lot he has in life. The two are constantly bickering with each other due to their differences in opinion. Between the bickering and fighting there are heartfelt moments where the two realize they are more alike than they thought. The cast of minor characters complement Ren and Kumatetsu well. My favorite is Tatara, the pessimistic beast always trying to get others to quit. My second favorite is the white puff that accompanies Ren throughout most of the film. It reminds me of the fox squirrel from Nausicaa, saying nothing but leaving a big impression.
The criticism I would give about this film is the climax, which felt a little weak. I won’t give anything away, but it seemed like it could been executed better. The story seemed more focused on the journey and less on the destination.
You might enjoy this if: You want to watch a coming-of-age story with a fun cast of characters that will make you laugh and cry.
You might not like it if: You’re one of those people that says, “I knew what was going to happen after watching this for two minutes”.
Note to the Viewer: The Boy and the Beast was the second highest grossing Japanese film in Japan in 2015.
The Boy and the Beast Trailer