Tentacle-Free Anime: "The Boy and the Beast" (2015) Review
- by Kazekun, 21 June 2016
I apologize for missing out on the last TFA two weeks ago. That's the first time I've missed a deadline in the 3 1/2 years that I've been doing this. The reason is because my Grandmother died just before that week's review was due and I certainly did not feel up to watching anything in order to get the publication out on time. Thankfully, everyone was understanding about the situation and I hope all of you reading this are too. As long as nothing else major comes up however, we're officially back in business. So let's get to some reviewing!
Criminally, I've only ever talked about Wolf Children, one of Mamoru Hosoda's now 4 major original films (the Digimon movie is connected to a franchise). And I can't remember if I mentioned in that review, but Hosoda is one of my all-time favorite film directors. I've seen all of his movies and – this time is no different – they're all wonderful to behold.
However, before you think I'm about to start blindly praising this film left and right, there are actually a lot of problems with it. If I were to sit here and list in order all 4 original films he's done in terms of how much I love them, I would actually place this last. This doesn't make it a bad film by any means, but out of all of his work so far, this one has the most problems.
This is after Kumatetsu, who finds the boy during his wandering around of the human world, asks him to become his apprentice. He sees that Kyūta has nowhere to go in his life and, truth be told, Kumatetsu needs Kyūta for his own machinations.
After telling them, essentially, to buzz off, Kyūta has a change of heart and chases them down, again finding himself in the beast realm with no knowledge of how to get home to the human world. Kyūta is begrudgingly allowed to stay in the beast world by the other beast's at the Lord's command who see potential in him.
Kumatetsu, who is our other major main character of the film, takes on the father figure role to Kyūta. But as time passes, the two become so intertwined with one another that the role of the pupil and the master becomes one and the same for the two of them. I love this dynamic in the film, seeing these two have this fluid symbiotic nature that only enhances their lives together. It's juxtaposed by the fact that both Kumatetsu and Kyūta are truly stubborn, hard-headed individuals who actually hate to listen to one another and yet they still work so will together.
It's the whole first half of the film that works so well for me because you really get to see these characters grow and get to know their motives and why they care about one another. Kumatetsu is one of two in line to succeed the Lord as the new Lord of the beast realm, once he figures out what kind of God he would like to reincarnate as (it's a thing, I don't wanna explain it here). Kumatetsu needs to fight his rival in order to be chosen as the successor, but the only way he'll learn to get better himself is to take on a pupil that will fill a hole inside of him and give him better discipline and focus.
That's the whole thing. However, through a training montage, the movie skips to several years later where Kyūta is 17 years old and almost as good as Kumatetsu, if not better than him. During another fight, he runs off only to find himself back into the human world where he immediately begins to explore.
This is where the movie begins to fall apart for me on a storytelling level because everything from this point on are decisions and motives not based off of events and motives from the first half of the film but changed outlooks on life and motives character's have grown to have over the course of the time skip. The problem is that because time moves in a Karate Kid style training montage, we never get to see the motives seeded and therefore any good act, bad act, story making decision doesn't at all feel organic to the story. And thus the second half of the film feels like a completely separate movie altogether.
There is a lot that happens during this time, so I'll just give a brief overview of all of it. Kyūta meets a girl who helps him reintegrate himself back into the human world. Her name is Kaede and she's a really nice addition to the cast. I like her character a lot. My problem with her is that throughout her time in the movie, she talks a bit about hiding her own demons and having her own problems and how much she can relate to some of our characters on that level but never once do we see any of those “problems” arise for her to deal with. I can only assume they're family issues, but never once do we get any indication telling us that's what it really is.
Kyūta finds his biological father, who left him and his mom when he was only a boy prior to the beginning of the film. The two hit it off pretty well and come to an understanding of the roads their lives took them down. Without Kyūta divulging that he's been a realm filled with beasts for the last several years. It's between him and Kaede that pushes Kyūta to question whether or not he wants to continue living in the beast realm instead of the human one. To be perfectly honest, Kyūta dealing with this decision does feel oddly placed after he spent so long in the beast realm and now only a few months or so in the human realm going back and forth.
And then finally there's Ichirouhiko, who I hadn't mentioned before this because he's not really all that relevant to the story until the second half. He's the son of Kumatetsu's rival Iouzan and hides a dark secret that's been eating him alive for all the years he's watched Kyūta grow up alongside Kumatetsu. It's this secret that comes to a raging boil in the third act that causes him to turn evil and murderous. That secret is explained in just enough detail that you can figure out what's going on and why he becomes a villain, but again the motives feel unrealized because it's never established or hinted at even in the first half of the film that Ichirouhiko would go on to become jealous of Kyūta and thus the big bad of the movie.
Trust me, there's a lot that goes on in this film – a bunch of which I'm not going to talk about here, so you can go watch the movie – and for the most part Hosoda does do a good job at keeping everything together and streamlined. Unfortunately, with a poor choice as to what to focus on during his time skip montage, he forces a lot of the events of the second half of the film to feel haphazard and lackluster. Even during all the really, really cool spectacles seen towards the end.
This isn't a bad movie. And you can tell Hosoda is putting his all into this film, just like he does with all of his previous works – of which I will cover in due time. I do feel as if Hosoda chose to do a little too much with the Boy and the Beast and thus I can't fully talk about this film with as high regard as I would genuinely love to.
I do recommend seeing this film if at least once. If anything for the spectacle, because it is a gorgeous movie and definitely a different piece of entertainment far out of the realm of any other shows or movies going on at the moment. I'm speaking in part about the entire realm of beasts that you just don't seem to see in anime anymore.
At the end of the day this movie is beautiful, feels very fresh, filled with a lot of likeable characters and that whole first half is just astounding to watch. With a bit of tweaking, the second half could've been just as good, but is still at least pretty and you get to see a lot of cool things. So there's that at least.
Final Score: 3 Soul Swords out of 5
Have you seen "The Boy and the Beast"? Let us know what you thought of it below! And a big welcome back to Kazekun!