The Boy and the Beast (Bakemono no Ko)

The Boy and the Beast (Bakemono no Ko) 2015

Before Makoto Shinkai was dubbed ‘the next Miyazaki’ that (possibly unwelcome) title was given to Mamoru Hosoda. I can’t remember exactly when it was that such claims started but maybe around 2006 when The Girl Who Leapt Through Time first made waves?

Obviously Hasoda wasn’t the first director to be compared in such a way to Miyazaki nor will he be the last but it’s understandable why it happened. Both directors have a real knack for blending the fantastical with very real human characters and both (though obviously not always) stray toward the ‘family-friendly’ spectrum of anime.

For me, they probably have more differences than similarities but I won’t try and delve into that but instead, finally get to the film itself The Boy and the Beast.

I wanted to start with that comparison to establish something of the reception to and tone of Hasoda’s films – but with The Boy and the Beast I think it’s one of the more obvious examples of where he’s further away from Miyazaki than usual. Maybe it’s the shonen feel to the training or master-student storylines here, or maybe it’s just the fact that family is dealt with as more of a ‘site of conflict’ rather than being something somewhat absent, as is often the case with Miyazkai’s more adventure-based films.

Here’s a tiny idea of the plot:

Young runaway Kyuta stumbles into a fantasy world where he is raised by a cantankerous bear-man, Kumatetsu – and is soon forced to struggle for control of both his emotions and abilities, as he is drawn into the politics of succession in the Beast Kingdom.

The story proceeds much in the classic ‘coming of age’ manner but with a couple of welcome surprises and as to be expected with a great director and a giant budget, some wonderful animation and great integration of CGI. I especially remember really enjoying the whale in Shibuya scene actually, that and the travel montage or the way the seasons are depicted in the film.

Although, on the note of the travel montage I remember being kinda disappointed when Kyuta and Kumatestsu set out, as I was expecting a new adventure to start – but it was heavily compressed and instead, the film switched back to the focus on the politics of the fantasy world and more importantly, the strained master-student, father-son relationship between the two lead characters.

And it’s obviously a struggle for both of them so that’s where a lot of the film’s comedic moments (and heart) comes from, and so if you’re familiar with Hasoda you’ll know that the dramatic elements are given as much weight as action or fantasy.

Looking back on the review, I’ve probably spent a bit too much time on comparisons, on genre and general statements… but I actually want to quickly mention that so far, The Boy and the Beast is my least favourite of the Mamoru Hosoda films I’ve seen.

For me, it didn’t match the heights of Summer Wars or tension in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, nor the emotional rollercoaster that was Wolf Children. I’ve not been able to put my finger on quite how or why I didn’t enjoy it as much – but having said that it’s really a question of degrees: I really liked it, as opposed to, I loved it.

4 Stars

Published by ashleycapes

Ashley is an Australian poet, novelist and teacher. He's currently running a casual review blog called "The Review Heap" focusing film, anime, games, books and music - and (very) occasionally other stuff too. He is the author of half a dozen poetry collections and a few novels, some published traditionally and some self-published. He also occasionally publishes other folks too.

5 thoughts on “The Boy and the Beast (Bakemono no Ko)

  1. It feels weird for me as someone who likes anime. Get ready to have your jaw drop. The only thing I’ve seen from Hosoda was Digimon and I haven’t seen an entire movie from him (I have seen clips or Summer Wars though). I wasn’t aware that he was called “The Next Miyazaki” like Shinkai, but I can see some comparisons there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a surprise, yeah – but we all have our gaps in what we’ve seen 🙂 (One of mine is having never finished ‘Death Note’.)

      I seem to remember that ‘next Miyazaki’ stuff peaking a fair while ago and it always makes me wonder who will be next, who will be named thus after Shinkai? Or perhaps, who will now be called ‘The Next Shinkai’?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for understanding. My gap is a ton of anime released in the 2010s. Don’t feel bad about not finishing Death Note.

        Is that so, now? I could see it. I remember that moniker when Shinkai came out with 5cm. That’s a valid question. Who could it be? Or maybe decades ago, did one argue about who would be the “Next Tezuka”?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Me too, I think! Especially the early half of the decade.

          It’s such a hard question (but that’s what makes it fun, huh?) I found this after a bit of searching, which has something of a Shinkai feel, and it’s a one-man project in most ways too:

          I was thinking maybe for Tezuka, that Shotaro Ishinomori would have heard that label? And Naoki Urasawa mentions being influenced by him, which is interesting.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Wow, we really are alike in that regard! Haha!

            That was a fascinating find. I’m getting major Shinkai vibes especially 5cm and the more realistic aspects of The Place Promised In Our Early Days with this one. Even the music sounds like new-school Shinkai (like post-Children Who Chase Lost Voices). The fact it’s a one-man project certainly hearkens back to She and Her Cat and Voices of a Distant Star. Yes, I’ve seen and even reviewed everything from that director except for Weathering With You which I do want to see.

            Shotaro Ishinomori makes a ton of sense since I found his older designs to be very Tezuka-esque. I’d say Mitsteru Yokoyama might be a close second in that regard. I believe that with Urasawa given the Pluto manga and actually getting licensed to use Astro Boy characters for that project.

            Like

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