The Boy and the Beast – Review

Continuing through Hosoda’s catalog, today I reviewed his newest and likely messiest original film. The Boy and the Beat has a lot of awkward parts, but my second viewing actually ended up being a lot more rewarding than the first – I knew it wasn’t going to be “followup to Wolf Children” good, so I could appreciate the many, many individually compelling moments. Hosoda’s dramatic priorities largely match my own – plot is basically always working in service of characters and relationships, not the other way around. In The Boy and the Beast, that ultimately results in a film that feels disjointed and somewhat lacks momentum, but the things he actually cares about are as strong as ever.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my notes below!

The Boy and the Beast

We open with one of the big questions – why is Kumatetsu even a contender for the throne at all?

English voice acting pretty solid so far

And that “darkness” in humans, whatever it is

Great expression work, as always for his films

Excellent imagery for the transition into the beast world

The beast world is a vibrant place

“What do I care if he’s a human or a toilet brush, an apprentice is an apprentice”

Slight stiffness of matching the lip flaps, as always

The “Kyuuta” joke doesn’t really translate, and it’s probably for the best that they don’t try

Remembering his mom. Nice little moment

Man, the two of them arguing is so great

Great horns for this pre-battle song. Good percussion too

And really nice choreography. Actually feels like a fight where he’s testing the waters

The fight’s narrative purpose is excellent, too – a fine way to draw the first bond between these two

Kumatetsu is an understandably shitty teacher. Great stuff

Children learning from their parents in a variety of ways, both good and bad. An excellent core theme

Their journey to find true strength. A progression of nice moments and great visual ideas

And now Kyuuta copying his master’s actions. More good visual comedy

“How else does a child learn aside from imitating his father?”

Kumatetsu doesn’t really successfully learn all that much

I love how gracefully the older brother takes being beaten. Inviting him to go hang out

Lovely flute music for their growth montage

And then we immediately jump back to the real world. Once again, the storytelling is far from graceful

There are just big, big issues with structure, and with themes beyond fatherhood and the relationship between the main two

And then he immediately meets the girl. And then they introduce Moby Dick, which becomes a visual metaphor but never has much significance in terms of actual ideas

Oh no, kids being loud in the library

Really love the framing of Kyuuta coming to the rescue outside

Lovely backgrounds

“I haven’t gone to school since I was nine”

“Well, I’ll just have to teach you.” Kaede’s introduction is such an abrupt mess. She’s a nice enough person, but narratives need more grounding than this

And we suddenly learn he can jump backwards and forwards between worlds

“I think he’s actually in a battle against himself. The whale represents the captain. It’s a reflection of himself.” Thanks, Kaede

“I feel like I exist to make my parents happy. They don’t know me at all”

He calls himself Ren to her

Talkin’ ‘bout college

Lots of quick pacing cuts both in-scene and between them

“I’ll just need you to confirm your father’s address”

His father initially doesn’t recognize him

I really like this consistent trick of the held shot followed by the slow pan to another character. It really makes the world seem like a real place

“I want to go to a human school”

“You don’t even pretend to listen to what I’m trying to say, you just start yelling”

Really nice sad moment here

“You can take it slower.” “Why would I need to?” Kyuuta’s in a tough spot

We needed a bit more time in the original world, and more time transitioning here

“This is moving really quickly.” Kyuuta losing it

“Time passes quicker the older you get. So for me, living with you and your mom feels like it was only yesterday”

“What do you know about me or my life? You don’t know anything about me, you weren’t there”

“If you ever need me, I’ll do anything for you.” God, this conflict is so good. Dragged between these two fathers, both of whom absolutely mean the best

And now this emptiness thing returns

Again with one of those pans

“Just remember, I’m on your side.” A key point

Some of the CG sequences are a little wonky – the scale they’re looking for demands some compromises in the crowd scenes

Nice fight sequence, as always

Ah, here it is. Fighting with Kyuuta’s teachings in his mind

And a great track for this. Wonderful horns

“I assumed that if I raised him correctly, it would have remained dormant”

“Father, who am I really?”

Ah, love this piano melody for the last journey back to the human world

Kyuuta has such great dads

Great expressions on the lost son

The animation here is wonderful in general

And the distorted festival music

The whale arrives. I mean, this actually kind of works? Shared darkness inside him, etc

Man, Kaede’s so awkwardly placed in this narrative

“I may be a fool and a bum and a slob, but for him I can be strong”

Man, the whale is gorgeous

“He said he would become the sword in your soul”

Piano and picked harp, it seems

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