Julien Neaves, Editor
Plot: When a young runaway stumbles into the Beast Kingdom, a secret realm of anthropomorphic beasts, he becomes the reluctant pupil of a boorish beast warrior.
Review: If you’re familiar with anime I am sure you took one look at the cover photo and felt you had 2015 action-adventure fantasy The Boy and the Beast all sized up. It’s another shonen anime where you have a young, weak protagonist who trains with a disagreeable master and eventually becomes a grand warrior who takes down a mighty evil. Now while there are some elements of all of this in director Mamoru Hosoda’s film, the story is much deeper and much more existential than it may appear on the surface. And I really dug that.
The heart of the story is the relationship between the titular boy, Kyūta/Ren, and his bear-like master Kumatetsu, the titular beast. Kumatetsu is a rude, overbearing, impatient, lazy, uncivilised oaf and Kyūta is a bratty, loud, impatient child. These two spend almost all of their time quarreling with each other and it is hilarious. And under all the fighting and insults the two develop a genuine love and endearment for each other. Sure, it’s not exactly a novel set-up, but the two of them are so likeable and delightfully over the top you can’t help but root for them. I also enjoyed Kumatetsu’s friends, grumpy, monkey-like Tatara who keeps trying to get rid of Kyūta, and patient, pig-like monk Hyakushūbō, and his warrior rival, the noble pig-like Iōzen.
The animation here is bright, vibrant and luscious, and the Beast Kingdom brimming with a variety of beasts. There are only a handful of fight scenes and they are decent enough, especially with the beasts’ ability to grow in size and a few supernatural powers, but the battles are not the selling point. And that’s not such a bad thing, as the story is more concerned with Kyūta/Ren’s relationship with his fathers (surrogate and biological) and his journey of self-discovery. Sure, it slows the action down but in its place is a thoughtful and touching story. And there are a couple of big twists in there as well, though there was one I picked up on from the jump.
If I have one complaint (and I do) it’s that not enough work is done to develop the film’s antagonist which makes the final confrontation less impactful than it could have been. But this does little to dim the light of an all around powerful film whose ending made me a blubber a little. And yeah, Kumatetsu doesn’t like blubberers, but I couldn’t help myself.
Editor Jules’s Score: 8.5 out of 10
The Boy and the Beast is available to watch on HBO MAX. And you can check out more great anime film content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.