The Boy and the Beast
The Boy and the Beast (Japanese: バケモノの子, Hepburn: Bakemono no Ko, literally "The bakemono's child") is a 2015 Japanese animated action-adventure fantasy film written and directed by Mamoru Hosoda. The film stars the voices of Kōji Yakusho, Aoi Miyazaki, Shōta Sometani, Suzu Hirose, Kazuhiro Yamaji, Mamoru Miyano, Kappei Yamaguchi, Keishi Nagatsuka, Kumiko Asō, Haru Kuroki, Sumire Morohoshi, Momoka Ōno, Masahiko Tsugawa, Lily Franky and Yo Oizumi. It was released on July 11, 2015. It won Animation of the Year at the 37th Japan Academy Prizes and grossed ¥5.85 billion at the Japanese box office.
|The Boy and the Beast|
Theatrical release poster
|Hepburn||Bakemono no Ko|
|Literally||The bakemono's child|
|Directed by||Mamoru Hosoda|
|Written by||Mamoru Hosoda|
|Music by||Masakatsu Takagi|
|Edited by||Shigeru Nishiyama|
|Box office||¥5.85 billion (Japan)|
$51.4 million (worldwide)
Nine-year-old Ren has recently lost his mother. With no news of his father and refusing to live with his legal guardians, Ren flees into the streets of Shibuya. Ren steals some food and sleeps in an alley, reminiscing the aftermath of his mother's funeral.
In the Beast Kingdom, the lord has decided he will retire in order to reincarnate as a deity and names two potential successors: the popular Iōzen, who is also the father of two children, and the powerful Kumatetsu, who is lonely and lazy. The Grandmaster suggests that Kumatetsu find a disciple in hopes of inspiring him to succeed him.
While wandering the streets of Tokyo with his makeshift companion, Tatara, Kumatetsu meets Ren and suggests that the boy becomes his disciple. Though Ren is fiercely opposed, he follows Kumatetsu back to the Beast Kingdom out of curiosity but is unable to go back to the human world. As he watches a battle between Iōzen and Kumatetsu, Ren is impressed with Kumatetsu's persistence despite the lack of support from onlookers. When Ren cheers for him, Kumatetsu is easily defeated. However, the Grandmaster declares the actual duel of succession has not come yet.
Taking Ren as a disciple, Kumatetsu gives him a new name, Kyūta. Their initial training sessions go poorly, but Kyūta realizes that he can learn from Kumatetsu by imitating him while performing his household chores. The boy gradually discovers that he can predict his master's movements, and can dodge and move adeptly in combat. They soon begin training together. After eight years, the teenage Kyūta has become a distinguished kendo practitioner. Moreover, through his relationship with Kyūta, Kumatetsu gains his own following of supporters, including the younger son of Iōzen, Jirōmaru, who wishes to be trained by Kumatetsu.
Kyūta finds a way back to the human world, and befriends Kaede, a young student. In the process, Kyūta finds his father, who had been searching for Ren since he disappeared and wants to catch up. Torn by his double life, he is unable to reconcile the resentment he had as Ren and the lack of connections he has as Kyūta. When he rejects both his father and Kumatetsu, he discovers a powerful void within himself that nearly overwhelms him, until Kaede gets him to calm down and gives him a bracelet that has helped her when she becomes anxious.
On the day of the succession duel, Kumatetsu loses confidence without Kyūta's encouragement and is nearly subdued by Iōzen. However, Kyūta has been secretly watching and reveals himself, helping Kumatetsu defeat Iōzen. When Kumatetsu is declared the winner and the new lord, Iōzen's elder son Ichirōhiko is revealed to be a human who had been found on the streets of Tokyo as an infant and adopted by Iōzen. Having developed a vacuum in his heart like Kyūta, unwilling to believe that he is a human and not a beast, Ichirōhiko manifests telekinetic powers and seriously injures Kumatetsu with Iōzen's sword. Kyūta is nearly overtaken by his own emptiness and tries to kill Ichirōhiko, but regains his senses with Kaede's bracelet as Ichirōhiko is consumed by darkness and disappears.
Kyūta decides to leave for the human world to fight Ichirōhiko. When Kaede refuses to leave him, they are attacked by Ichirōhiko, who takes the form of a destructive whale. Unable to hold his own against Ichirōhiko, the young man decides to use the vacuum within himself to absorb his opponent's negative energy and then kill himself, saving everyone else. However, Kumatetsu uses his new privilege as the lord and reincarnates as a deity, taking the form of a sword "to be handled with the heart" in reference to their first training session together. He merges with his pupil's form, filling his empty void within him. Together, the two manage to defeat Ichirōhiko without killing him. Ichirōhiko wakes up surrounded by his adoptive family. Meanwhile; back in Shibuya, Ren is talking to Kumatetsu (who now resides inside him) and the two have a heartfelt moment together, with Kumatetsu promising to always be there for Ren and threatening to beat him up from the inside if he wavers again.
In the aftermath, Ren celebrates his victory with Kaede in the Beast Kingdom and returns to the human world. After reconciling with his father and himself, Ren decides to live once again in the human world with Kumatetsu forever residing in his heart.
|Kumatetsu (熊徹)||Kōji Yakusho||John Swasey|
|Kyūta (九太)/Ren (蓮)||Shōta Sometani,
Aoi Miyazaki (child)
Luci Christian (child)
|Kaede (楓)||Suzu Hirose||Bryn Apprill|
|Tatara (多々良)||Yo Oizumi||Ian Sinclair|
|Hyakushūbō (百秋坊)||Lily Franky||Alex Organ|
|Sōshi (宗師)||Masahiko Tsugawa||Steve Powell|
|Iōzen (猪王山)||Kazuhiro Yamaji||Sean Hennigan|
|Ichirōhiko (一郎彦)||Mamoru Miyano,
Haru Kuroki (child)
Morgan Berry (child)
|Jirōmaru (二郎丸)||Kappei Yamaguchi,
Momoka Ono (child)
Brittney Karbowski (child)
|Chiko (チコ)||Sumire Morohoshi||Monica Rial|
|Kyūta's Father||Keishi Nagatsuka||Chuck Huber|
|Kyūta's Mother||Kumiko Asō||Jessica Cavanagh|
The film was released on July 11, 2015 in Japan. The film received its International Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and its UK Premiere at the BFI London Film Festival on October 16, 2015.
In December 2014, Gaumont secured international sales outside Asia and theatrical distribution rights in France. The film was released in France on January 13, 2016. Funimation licensed the film for the United States release; it opened in select theaters there on March 4, 2016. It has been licensed by StudioCanal for the UK and Ireland release, Madman Entertainment for the Australian release, and Mongrel Media for the Canadian release.
The film was #1 at the Japanese box office during its opening weekend by replacing Avengers: Age of Ultron, earning approximately US$5.4 million from 492,000 admissions on 457 screens, before being dethroned by Hero 2 in second week. The film was Japan's second highest-grossing film in the year 2015 with a total box office gross of (converted from yen) US$48.6 million.
The film ranked #28 at the American box office during its opening weekend on March 4, 2016. As of March 16, 2016, the film has an American box office gross of $474,308.
The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 90% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 67 reviews, with an average rating of 7.34/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "The Boy and the Beast combines familiar parts to create a gripping, beautifully animated adventure with inventive storytelling to match its visual appeal." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 65 out of 100 based on 15 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Mark Schilling of The Japan Times said that the film "has more in common with the “Harry Potter” series than the usual female-centered [Hayao] Miyazaki fantasy" and would later say that the storyline "stays centered on Kyūta’s long, vexed struggle to become not only strong, but also whole." Richard Eisenbeis of Kotaku said "[The Boy and the Beast] is an entertaining coming-of-age adventure on one hand and an excellent thematic exploration on the other. This is one of those films that is perfect for any age group—there’s something for everyone in this one"  Charles Solomon of the Los Angeles Times said "'[The] Boy and [the] Beast' is a bracing tale of two flawed individuals who find the love and discipline they need to assume their rightful places in their respective worlds." Peter Debruge of Variety called it, "an action-packed buddy movie that strategically combines several of Japanese fans’ favorite ingredients: conflicted teens, supernatural creatures and epic battles." Peter Keough of The Boston Globe gave the film 2.5 out of 4 stars and wrote, "[Hosoda] does know how to mix an eclectic array of film plots and concepts into a mish-mash that seems original." Pat Padua of The Washington Post wrote, "But it is the world of man, not beast, that makes this coming-of-age movie most touching."
While popular in Japan, in the west the film has a more mixed reaction. Andy Webster of The New York Times was more critical of the film, saying "Mr. [Mamoru] Hosoda is skilled with fight scenes, and his settings — the pastel-hued Jūtengai and the drab Shibuya, evoked at times with surveillance-camera perspectives and crowd-paranoia angles — are impressive. But the characterizations and conflicts here are strictly generic." Sherilyn Connelly of The Village Voice said that the film "works with many common anime tropes but doesn't find anything new to say about them." Marc Savlov of The Austin Chronicle gave the film 2.5 out of 5 stars and said "A huge success in Japan, this thrilling, if overlong, epic from director Mamoru Hosoda (Wolf Children, Summer Wars) is part Karate Kid and part Japanese folklore." Jacob Chapman of Anime News Network had a mixed response to the film and said "The Boy and The Beast is the kind of movie you put on to please a kid with its loudness and color, but promptly leave the room to do something else.
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- Keough, Peter (March 3, 2016). "Suspended anime in 'The Boy and the Beast'". The Boston Globe. Retrieved May 13, 2016.
- Padua, Pat (March 3, 2016). "A boy comes of age, with the help of talking animals, in this cartoon fantasy". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 13, 2016.
- Webster, Andy (March 3, 2016). "In 'The Boy and the Beast,' Learning From Anime Animals". The New York Times. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
- Connelly, Sherilyn (March 1, 2016). "Familiar Anime Tale 'The Boy and the Beast' Presumes That Beasts Are Pretty Dumb". The Village Voice. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
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