Title: The Boy and the Beast (Bakemono no Ko)
Creator: Mamoru Hosoda
Release date: July 11, 2015 (Japanese), March 4, 2016 (English)
Japanese animation has three legendary animators known for their outstanding movies: Hayao Miyazaki, Mamoru Hosoda, and Makoto Shinkai. In this review, I’m going to focus on Mamoru Hosoda’s latest work called The Boy and the Beast or Bakemono no Ko in japanese. Just a little background on Hosoda: people said that he can be called the next Miyazaki after the latter announced his retirement after producing The Wind Rises in 2013. Some of his most beloved works are The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006), Summer Wars (2009),and Wolf Children (2012). I’m sure if you’re a fan of Japanese animations, you might have watched a movie or two. For me, Hozoda’s works are very distinctive. There’s something about his animations (the literal drawings) that are very similar to each other and has a unique style compared to other movies. In my opinion, Hozoda’s works are lighter and more easier to understand than Miyazaki’s but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t deep or it has lesser value than Miyazaki’s works. As much as I see Miyazaki’s works as legends (in which they are), I can’t help but like Hozoda’s works more because it’s more relatable. For me, Miyazaki is still number one when it comes to the epicness, legendaryness, enchantness, and greatness of the ideas and animations on his movies. However, I am more prone to be attached and engaged to a Hozoda movie for some reason.
With this, let me start by giving you a brief narration of the plot.
A nine year old boy named Ren recently just lost his mother which he had lived with since his parents got divorced. Feeling aggravated by the fact that his father did not show up and his relatives treating him as merely an heir, he left and wondered around Shibuya on his own. Meanwhile, in Jutengai (or the Beast Kingdom), a new grand master is to be selected since the current one is going to retire soon and incarnate as a god. Two strong candidates are going to battle each other one day to see who would be the next grand master: Iozen, a father of two children and Kumatetsu the hot-headed, lazy candidate who was said to be stronger than the first. The grand master advised Kumatetsu to get a disciple, however the candidate was still not able to succeed because nobody likes his attitude. In the busy streets of Shibuya, Ren and Kumatetsu met each other and the beast suggested to make the boy his disciple. Though hesitant, the boy followed the beast and entered Jutengai, unable to get back to the human world. He watched the unplanned fight between Iozen and Kumatetsu where the latter was defeated and decided to accept the offer of becoming his disciple. He trained on how to become stronger and at the same time his master also learned how to learn from others through his disciple. He was named Kyuuta (because of his age) by Kumatetsu after the boy hesitated in saying his name.
After so many years of training, Kyuuta is now seventeen years old and already has a father-son like relationship with Kumatetsu. After wondering around, he accidentally returned back to the human world where he met a girl named Kaede in a library. He then realized that he never learned how to read nor experience normal life as a human, so he needed Kaede to teach him the things he missed out. Kaede was also bullied so she also needed Kyuuta for protection. In addition, he also met his father who now has another family but is willing to make up for the years lost with his son. Torn by his double life in the monster and human world, Ren rejects both his father and Kumatetsu and discovered a dark void inside him that has nearly overwhelmed him until Kaede gave him a string bracelet which she said helps her when she’s anxious.
The day of the succession battle came, and Kumatetsu almost loses without Kyuuta cheering for him. But just as he was about to give up, Kyuuta cheered him and Kumatetsu ended up as the winner. Because of the Iozen’s lost, his son, Ichirohiko stood up as a human with a dark void inside his chest and stabs Kumatetsu with his telekenesis. Seeing that Kumatetsu was about to die, Kyuuta was also filled with darkness and almost kills Ichirohiko with telekensis before he stopped remembering the bracelet Kaede gave him. Ichirohiko disappeared and Kyuuta decided to go after him to the human world to help him overcome the void, leaving Kumatetsu who is in critical condition.
With Kaede, Kyuuta thought of a way to stop Ichirohiko from destroying the human world. He decided to vacuum Ichirohiko’s darkness inside of him and later kill himself to save everyone. Before he did, Kumatetsu showed up now in a form of “the sword to be handled by the heart” since he decided to incarnate to help Kyuuta. He filled in the void in Kyuuta’s heart and guided him to defeat the enemy without killing Ichirohiko. In the aftermath, Ren studied in a university with Kaede still carrying Kumatetsu in his heart. Meanwhile, Ichirohiko wakes up in his bed surrounded by his adopted family and finally accepts that he is also, like Ren, a boy adopted by beasts.
That took longer than I thought. Now let’s go on with the review. I’m just going to enumerate them by category (since I seriously have to sleep now)
The story was unique and beautiful with its combination of both human world and the beast world which is quite an interesting topic in Japanese animations. The beast world is explored and the concept of a boy living in the midst of beasts (like Tarzan living with the apes) was shown in detail throughout the first half of the film. Speaking of the first half, it was the lighter part of the movie where the relationship between two unlikely but very likely characters developed. Despite the fact that one is human and one is a beast, both characters are so cute looking like a father and son. They’re both hot-headed, strong in spirit, and stubborn. But at the same time, they also needed each other to learn: Kyuuta needed to be stronger like Kumatetsu, and Kumatetsu needed to learn how to learn from his opponent from Kyuuta. The scenes where Kyuuta was trying to immitate Kumatetsu was really amusing.
(Not the exact script but here’s what one of the scripts kinda looks like:)
Kumatetsu: Why is he copying me?!
Hyakushubo: It’s like a baby duck imitating and following the footsteps of his parents
Kumatetsu: I’m not a duck
The story also has other themes such as parenthood or being a foster parent. It was very touching to see that two characters who does not have a good experience when it comes to family became family! Kumatetsu learned and got stronger on his own without his parents, so did Kyuuta who did not have a whole family to guide him. Although both characters were always shouting at each other, it’s like they are a perfect match and they belong together. Truly, the movie did show the essence and picture of “the boy and the beast” or even the japanese title which literally translates to “child of the beast/beast boy”.
The movie also shows compassion to others as shown in Kyuuta’s compassion towards Ichirohiko who is at the same state as he is: a boy who is confused and was adopted by beasts. The movie gives a sense of togetherness and not being alone, like there’s always someone who is there for you when you needed them, whether your family is just your adoptive family or not.
Everyone is interesting from humans to beasts. Ren/ Kyuuta was an exceptional character who showed a love for learning whether it’s for beast fighting skills or for human knowledge. He is a very strong character and not to mention very charming too (from childhood to young adult ❤ ). Kumatetsu was also a very strong character, much like Ren since they have almost the same attitude. He was not the noble and gentleman type fit for the grand master title like Iozen, but rather his character is unlikeable. You’ll learn to love him though with the uniqueness of his characters and how adorable he is so tsun tsun or awkward when it comes to being a “father” to Ren. (He reminds me of my gaia online brother. Greeting to Rex!). Sub characters are also interesting but I won’t tackle them anymore. Watch the movie for yourself.
Wow. It’s just wow. You’ll never get disappointed with a Mamoru Hosoda film. Everything looks spectacular, amazing, enchanting, and just perfect! The battle scenes are very easy to follow yet are very exciting to watch. Beautiful and unique beast characters were created and you’ll kind of get a sense of Spirited Away but in a more common life scene than Sen’s life. The colors are very vivid and lovely, and the scene “shots” are so mysterious and natural at the same time. I especially love the surveillance camera shots (noticed that there were a lot) and the colorful design of the whale scenes. Very very lovely ❤
How would I rate it? Let me think…
It’s a good movie. Again, story, characters, and animations are amazing. Something that you can expect of the great Mamoru Hosoda. But comparing to other popular Japanese animations, this movie is less likely to be one of my top favorites. I like Summer Wars and Wolf Children better than The Boy and the Beast. Also, I liked the first half of the movie when it was all fun and amusing to see the Kyuuta and Kumatetsu relationship. But on the second half, things became more serious that it’s aura is different from the first half, and you’ll kinda miss Kyuuta being a boy again. Fine, climax’s are supposed to be serious. But, I don’t know, I felt that the second half was way too serious that the first half was left in the distant memory.
I still recommend watching it though. It’s a really good movie, worth to be part of your list of watched Japanese animated films. Kudos to Mamoru Hosoda!