The Boy and the Beast

boy and the beast

2.5 stars (out of 4)

Released 2015

A troubled runaway human boy becomes the apprentice for a warrior beast after stumbling into a hidden world through a secret passageway in Shibuya.

The charm of the film came from the characters’ development more than the overall story. The dialogue and interactions were strong and it was nice to see how Kumatetsu, Kyuta, and even minor characters changed over time through their shared experiences.

The actual plot was kind of a letdown, and amounted to not much more than one thing happening, which was then followed by another thing. The events just somehow seemed to lack a logical narrative direction and purpose.

The way Ren/Kyuta vascillated between the human world and beast world, all the while messing with the emotions of the people who cared about him, reminded me a lot of Ame from Wolf Children, another Hosoda Mamoru film. In both cases, what the child was actually looking for, what he wanted from his life, never were clearly explored or explained for the audience (or for his loved ones). But Ame was not the focal character in his film, so his enigma status was a little more acceptable.

I wasn’t really into the Moby Dick symbolism/analogy either. First of all, who learns to read using a Herman Melville novel? I mean I get that Ren’s smart, but that’s just patently ridiculous. And then the antagonist randomly decided to take the form of a whale merely because he happened to get a glimpse of the word “whale”? That was a pretty weak contrivance to justify the fantastical, though inconsequential, whale imagery and cool-looking animation which followed.

In the end, the moral of the story was: “Parents, don’t lie to your children,” I think.


3 stars (out of 4)

Released 2012

A single mother with limited financial and social resources struggles to care for her family.  All the while, she has to protect the family secret, that her two young children are part-wolf.  Early in the film, we see her facing the challenge of finding a suitable environment to raise her son and daughter in.

As they grow older, the kids must come to terms with their unusual situation and find their paths in life.  And their mother finds herself torn between wanting to protect them and allowing them to make their own decisions, their own mistakes.

Despite the element of fantasy, WOLF CHILDREN tells a realistic story that any family can relate to.  The animation is excellent, as expected.  One highlight for me:  the kids were actually really adorable, especially Yuki.  She was rambunctious, and she had a loud and cute voice to match.