The call of the wild
The very film that got me into anime was Princess Mononoke, my personal favorite from Hayao Miyazaki and the one I consider to be his best work; so you can imagine how much it saddened me when I heard the news he was officially retiring from directing any more feature films back in 2013 (his last film The Wind Rises is another masterpiece that requires viewing). Studio Ghibli films are among the greatest animated films in the world and in the studio's 30+ year run, they have made some memorable titles especially the ones Miyazaki directed himself. With their main guy now retired and the famed production house taking a temporary break from film making, the world of anime feels somewhat empty without Studio Ghibli. Luckily, in the wake of Miyazaki's absence there has been a certain director called Mamoru Hosoda who has slowly been increasing his repertoire in the last 10 years, with many seeing him as the successor to Miyazaki for his aptitude for storytelling and unique artistic visuals. There's no doubt that following up on one of the greatest directors of animation of all time is a heavy mantle to carry; one that comes with an immensely high level of expectations. Hosoda seems aware of this yet he doesn't let this faze him or more importantly his work. His level of quality has remained consistent yet diverse in all of his films and that remains true with his latest film The Boy and the Beast. Set in present day Tokyo in the city of Shibuya, a young boy named Ren runs away from home after the death of his mother, refusing to stay with his legal guardians. On the streets, Ren comes in contact with an otherworldly beast called Kumatetsu, who asks the child if he is interested in becoming his
apprentice. Ren is dumbfounded that a beast such as him even exists but more surprised that he is willing to take him in. At first, he resists but shortly becomes intrigued and follows Kumatetsu into the Beast Kingdom called Jutengai where the two begin training and slowly form a familiar bond. Much like Hosoda's previous works, the director perfectly blends fantastical elements with real-life themes, and he's one of a rare few directors that accomplish this without sacrificing characterization; which is great because there is a huge cast of characters to keep track of in this film. The coming-of-age story is a well known theme that has constantly been explored before but the plot and Hosoda's sharp direction lifts The Boy and the Beast to a higher level. Funimation's dubbing continues to be top-notch as always, and extra kudos to John Swasey, the voice of Kumatetsu in the English dub, for nailing the character's voice perfectly; among the best voice work I've heard both in and out of anime. The Boy and the Beast has something for everyone and the best part is it can be enjoyed by anyone of any age which makes it the perfect film to introduce newcomers into the world of anime. From a promising young scion to an accomplished director, Hosoda continues to solidify himself as this generation's Miyazaki who will surely continue to captivate viewers for years to come. The Boy and the Beast gets my absolute highest recommendation.
-Reviewed by Razor, 6/9/16
-Reviewed by Razor, 6/9/16