Anime: The Boy and the Beast
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Retail Price: $34.98
The well known and award-winning Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda has returned to animated cinematic works, achieving a degree of success that many of his prior works have attained over the course of his career. Hosoda has been known to manufacture films like Summer Wars (a generally loved anime feature film) as well as Wolf Children and The Girl Who Lept Through Time, enlisting a slew of dedicated fans who wait for his next project without complaints. Hosoda’s most recent anime original project known as The Boy and the Beast has provided those fans with something they can expect from the creator - drama, humor, love, and the meaningful and unexpected bonds we develop over the course of our life at every turn.
The film starts by introducing us to Kyuta, a rather young orphan who harbors anger and resentment towards the world that he feels has definitely wronged him. As he escapes to the hustle and bustle of Shibuya’s city-like atmosphere, he is seen to be alone and pursued by police to find out where he belongs. During the escape he is trying to pull off, he finds a cloaked figure he he accidentally follows into a different world that is filled with previously unseen creatures or beasts that is a culture shock from what Kyuta has experienced in the human world that he now dislikes with a passion. It is there that Kyuta’s life forever changes, meeting Kumatetsu, a bear looking creature that begins to make a major impact on who the young man will eventually grow up to be one day.
Kyuta (having lost his mother, and abandoned by his father) is in desperate need of a parental figure or role model to change the direction he is headed. When he meets Kumatetsu, the beast is seeking a worthy apprentice to prove his worth and show how much he has to offer (even if he’s a little tough on the exterior.) The two begin to prove they have many similarities by feuding on a regular basis, forming parallels between a father and son almost immediately. After some disagreements, this leads to an apprenticeship for Kyuta with training however he can. Through the important training regimen, it lays groundwork for a bond that before you know it - is a powerful relationship that picks up steam during the film’s runtime. The montages of the love between both characters is what carries the best attributes of The Boy and the Beast.
The plot of the anime movie involves a little bit more than it should have attempted, sometimes drastically shifting between different aspects of morality and family. They way they choose to depict them is effortless in some moments, but overwhelmingly complicated by the film’s conclusion. The so called “villain” of the Boy and the Beast is very oddly placed in comparison of the narrative, which could have been avoided in so many ways. They try to contrast it to where Kyuta could have ended up, but the end result of the villainous role was simply used for a dramatic effect. While I do understand the moral lessons and life tools Hosoda wanted to replicate, it still could have used some tweaking to nail down one goal over the numerous themes introduced.
The animation was polarizing, having a greatly detailed human realm with strong examples of animation and beautiful uses of color, but the beast world wasn’t quite the same. The designs of the the creatures felt somewhat more cartoon like then Hosoda should have gone for, especially given the altering tonal discrepancies of the series. Whether it was the art, plot, or themes, it struggled to achieve a blissful balance of artistic needs. The English production of The Boy and the Beast offered a strong take on the Japanese anime film, with the voices behind Kumatetsu and Kyuta being favorites amongst the cast. In comparison to other Hosoda projects, The Boy and the Beast has many strong suits, but does leave room for improvement - overall, the film is worth the watch and has the ability to spark an emotional reaction in at least one way.
Overall Score: 7/10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:
-Kumatetsu was the definitive role of The Boy and the Beast, offering a great character to root for and love.
-Kyuta started out as a favorite, but ended up making regrettable decisions that muddled my perception of the lead.
-If the ending had been changed for a certain character, the film would have found such a strong success overall.