Review of 'The Boy and the Heron (Kimitachi wa dô ikiru ka)'

the_boy_and_the_heron.jpg The latest film from the ever-retiring “Hayao Miyazaki” is set in Japan during the second world war.

Mahito (voiced by Luca Padovan) is a stern young man who loses his mother in a horrific bombing raid. He travels with his father to stay in their countryside estate with his new stepmother Natsuko (voiced by Gemma Chan). Fairly quickly the local grey heron (voiced by Robert Pattinson) shows an interest in Mahito - Dive bombing the boy and breaking into his room. When his stepmother disappears into a mysterious delipidated tower built around a space rock Mahito follows the heron inside to search for her and steps into another world. With the help of fisherwoman Kiriko (voiced by Florence Pugh) and fire goddess Lady Himi (voiced by Karen Fukuhara), Mahito hopes to find the truth about his mother, find his stepmother and escape this deadly alterative reality complete with attack pelicans and parakeets.

I was over the moon to be able to see this new film from Miyazaki the same year it was released in Japan. Ok, for me it was not ideal to see it in the English dub (I would prefer subtitles), but it was just great to see it on the big screen where it really deserves to be seen - This is a BIG film with loads of detail crammed into every frame. The English cast is filled with A-listers including Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker in Star Wars) as Granduncle, Dave Bautista (from Guardians of the Galaxy) as “The Parakeet King” and Willem Dafoe as “Noble Pelican”. There are confusing bits of mouths moving on screen but with no dialogue that I am assuming means we have already heard was it relevant or bits have been cut…

As with many Miyazaki films this is another confusing story loosely based on a 1937 novel of the same name. Trying to make sense of what is going on is part of the fun but does make it a tad difficult to follow. The animation, as you might expect, is quite amazing with an incredible sense of imagination and also, for some reason, an emphasis on demonic birds. Any bird that appears on the screen seems to be out to get everyone, attacking at a moment's notice. Of course, in the real world they revert to pleasant, peaceful creatures but if you are in the spirit world, watch out!

I am not sure there is any deep moral here. Mahito is a lonely, quiet, disturbed (self harm anyone?), and reserved child that livens up for the film but seems to be the same at the end though, perhaps, a bit more satisfied. The ending is a tad confusing and rather abrupt, one feels.

At just over two hours, it does feel a bit overlong and a tad over-indulgent but the faithful viewer that just stops and takes it all in will be rewarded. Another wonderful animation from master Miyazaki.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2023-12-31

Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki

Studio: Studio Ghibli

Year: 2023

Length: 124 minutes

Genre: Japanese Animation

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