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The Boy and the Beast (Bakemono no ko) [2015] is the animation movie written and directed by Mamoru Hosoda which follows Ren (later rechristened Kyuta) when tragedy strikes and his mother passes away. With his father remaining absent and unreachable, Kyuta's situation is looking grim. Now a young newly orphaned boy, he accidentally stumbles into a secret parallel realm world inhabited exclusively by beasts. Kyuta soon befriends a crude rough-around-the-edges warrior beast named Kumatetsu, who decides to take the nine-year-old boy in as an apprentice.

Wowser, That's a Mighty Fine Picture. In The Boy and The Beast,  Hosoda's stunning photo-realistic style displays Shibuya at night as a darkly beautiful, mystical, cold and lonely place. The vivid colors depicted in scenes where the swarms of people are walking the Shibuya crossing at night is one of the most memorable images to take away from the film. All perfect strangers to Kyuta and unbeknownst to them, this kid is having the absolute worst day of his life, and our assumption is that these people each get to go back home to their still-around-kicking nuclear families and warm cozy homes. There is a certain heavy-handedness to the visual metaphors Hosoda deploys, even had some of them leaving me scratching my proverbial head. What do spirit whales signify exactly? A nice balance between traditional and modern animation styles are peppered nicely and conspicuously point to something thematically more significant than just fanciful experimentation on the part of an animator. Looking closer, the theme of old versus new is present and is as subtle as Kumatetsu himself, that it figuratively yells at you and hits you over the head. Human beings ('modern'- new) are viewed (by beasts) as being this powerful yet chaotic force doomed to destroy everything in the beast world ('traditional' - old).

Shallow as All Get Out. Not being entirely opposed to consuming visual junk food, The Boy and The Beast provides a story palatable but lacking in nutritional content. Hosoda employs the use of a montage to condense Ren's eight years of training and living in the beast dimension to show the mismatched pair's apprentice/master dynamic evolve into a close albeit tumultuous father/son dynamic. The Boy and The Beast pair two entirely flawed, ostracized and/or forgotten individuals together. Kumatetsu fits the mold of the classic underdog - short-tempered, misunderstood but good underneath it all. Is Lozan the lion-bear supposed to so appealing that it's difficult to root against him? He's a patient and caring father who practices a completely different parenting style to Kumatetsu, who prefers to communicate in an aggressive and argumentative manner. Kyuta and Kumatetsu's argumentative back-and-forth oddly becomes one of the most defining aspects of their entire relationship. It's all in good fun, didn't you know! Strength in character is important and so is... tradition and sacrifice, apparently. It's also slightly perplexing that the discord between both characters is served it to the audience as the sentimental goo that holds everything nice and familial together.

The Boy and The Beast misfires in the storyline and
character development, but appreciators of Japanese animation
can enjoy the film on aesthetics alone. 

Watch The Boy and The Beast on iTunes or Amazon

The Boy and The Beast
3.5Overall Score
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