Movie review of “The Boy and the Beast”: The latest anime feature by Mamoru Hosoda finds a young boy drawn into a hidden beast-world, where he becomes the apprentice of a reckless warrior. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
An enchanting if somewhat exhausting anime fable, “The Boy and the Beast” is the latest feature by writer-director Mamoru Hosoda (“The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”). The film will be presented locally both in its original Japanese-language version and a dubbed, English-language version.
This tale of twin worlds begins with a 9-year-old runaway boy, Ren (voiced by actress Aoi Miyazaki in Japanese, Morgan Berry in English), whose mother has died and whose estranged father is out of contact. Refusing to live with relatives, Ren disappears into the streets and encounters Kumatetsu (Koji Yakusho, John Swasey), a bearish, scarlet beast.
Kumatetsu is one of two hirsute, fanged creatures destined to fight one another for the right to rule Jutengai, a hidden beast-land that young Ren enters. There, Ren becomes a reluctant apprentice to the wildly undisciplined, impulsive Kumatetsu.
Movie Review ★★★
‘The Boy and the Beast,’ available in two versions: Japanese with English subtitles, with the voices of Aoi Miyazaki, Koji Yakusho, Shota Sometani, Suzu Hirose; and dubbed in English, with the voices of Morgan Berry, John Swasey, Eric Vale, Bryn Apprill. Written and directed by Mamoru Hosoda. 119 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some violence and language. Several theaters.
The pair enters a mutually headstrong, abrasive relationship that does not resemble such classic mentor-pupil stories as Merlin and Arthur, but which ultimately proves to be the salvation of both.
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The film takes an interesting twist when Ren/renamed Kyuta, now a young man (Shota Sometani, Eric Vale), finds his way back to his native city and befriends a smart, well-read student (Suzu Hirose, Bryn Apprill). Suddenly torn between possibly irreconcilable identities as beast and human, our hero no longer knows where he belongs.
A thoughtful if overlong script openly invokes Ahab’s madness in “Moby-Dick” as a way to understand the obsessions of various characters in this story. While the audience chews on that, hand-drawn animation also pulls a viewer in, offering visual density, background detail and such intricate delights as the beauty of a bicycle wheel.
Anime enthusiasts will enjoy “The Boy and the Beast,” but so will anyone who appreciates a good fantasy yarn.