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Film Review: THE BOY AND THE HERON (2023): Hayao Miyazaki Brings to Life an Unforgettable World in an Animated Gem

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Mahito The Boy And The Heron

The Boy and the Heron Review

The Boy and the Heron (2023) Film Review, a movie written and directed by Hayao Miyazuki and starring Soma Santoki, Masaki Suda, Aimyon, Yoshino Kimura, Takuya Kimura, Shohei Hino, Ko Shibasaki, Jun Kunimura and Kaoru Kobayashi.

Animation has never been used to better advantage than in creating the mystifying world featured in filmmaker Hayao Miyazuki’s new picture, The Boy and the Heron. This is a film of great complexity that transports the viewer into its complicated world. Although there are moments which isolate themselves from the core elements of the story, Miyazuki immerses the viewer in the film’s creativity and The Boy and the Heron is the perfect movie to initiate a conversation about life, death, family, love and the way our past and present intersect in our daily endeavors.

This film sets itself in the 1940’s and revolves around a young character known as Mahito (voice of Soma Santoki) and his life after the death of his mother, Hisako. She died in a fire and the vivid imagery displayed here perfectly conveys the details of how her loss has affected Mahito. Shoichi (Takuya Kimura), Mahito’s dad, marries again and Mahito’s would-be new mom, Natsuko (Yoshino Kimura) is pregnant with a child that will be Mahito’s brother or sister. Natsuko is presented as a kind woman through the film’s introduction of her but she is new to Mahito. Mahito doesn’t fit in when trying to adapt to his new environment after the death of his mom. A fairly distinct heron also seems to be communicating with Mahito for some particular reason that is initially unbeknownst to Mahito.

Mahito hits himself with a rock and his head starts to bleed. His wound is tended to and those around him want to help him. There are some intriguing elderly maids in the home the movie sets itself in. They are very unusually animated and stand out like a sore thumb in terms of juxtaposition to other characters in the movie. The plot gets underway when Natsuko disappears. It is revealed that the aforementioned heron can speak and it tells Mahito that his mother is actually alive. There is a tower that was created by Mahito’s granduncle (Shohei Hino). This tower holds a secret that will be unveiled to the viewer as the plot points of the story come together as events in the film progress.

One of the maids, Kiriko (Ko Shibasaki) soon appears to be much younger while a young lady named Himi (Aimyon) shows up as a guide to the alternate reality that the film soon creates. There’s a castle, oversized parakeets, a Parakeet King (Jun Kunimura) and plenty of secrets that help develop the characters that the movie presents to the viewer. There is a section of the film where the granduncle and Mahito connect and the granduncle signifies the power of family and explains the importance of keeping sacred the ties that bond. The alternate reality that these scenes propose is quite intriguing.

This is not a movie that will be easy to piece together right as things occur. Instead, you start putting the pieces of it together like a puzzle as each scene reveals new crucial details to the development of the plot. This picture is said to be semi-autobiographical for director Miyazuki. That’s the most important element to remember while trying to figure out the logistics of the plot. Though the movie lays out a lot of dramatic tension for the viewer, the audience is reminded how precious moments can truly be in life. It’s an important story of acceptance, ambition and integrity that uses the imagery it employs as a metaphor for the ambiguity found in every day life as well as the need to be accepted and understood by others.

Several scenes stand out in terms of the way they present this material to the viewer. Many of the best ones are found in the interaction between the characters on-screen. The sequences showcasing the granduncle and Mahito feel very complex in nature and shed light on the generational gap between the characters and the merging of the past and the present in Mahito’s existence. The parakeets stand out as symbolic of the obstacles to happiness that occur in life and, of course, the heron can be interpreted in several different ways. This is a story of trying to overcome sorrow and loss and the desire to hold onto the family bond formed with loved ones forever.

The Boy and the Heron is a finely crafted animated gem. it digs deep inside the character of Mahito who is easy to sympathize with although initially he seems stubborn in terms of accepting an unfortunate reality. Only through experiencing a different world, will our hero be able to move forward for better or worse and truly grasp the meaning of life.

There are a lot of moments that tug at the heartstrings here too. The importance of family cannot be more relevant to understanding the significance of the themes the picture presents. This movie takes the viewer to another world and transports its audience to a place where things don’t necessarily make perfect sense unless one truly takes the time to put the details of the situations occurring into perspective.

Though the movie feels like it takes on a lot of heavy themes, there’s some reassurance at the end that everything in life has a purpose whether it be to make us stronger or to understand the reasoning behind a particular event. There is a perfect explanation to the action that occurs in The Boy and the Heron. Life is a journey full of complexity that must be appreciated every day because one never knows when happiness can be jeopardized. You’ll discover a newfound respect for life after seeing this very delicate animated picture.

Rating: 8.5/10

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