The Boy and The Heron (2023) Movie Review

The Boy and The Heron

Hayao Miyazaki’s latest work has finally arrived in Indonesia. After being absent for a decade with his last film, The Wind Rises (2013), Hayao Miyazaki is now presenting his newest anime, The Boy and The Heron , during a media screening which took place at CGV Grand Indonesia (10/12).

Produced by Studio Ghibli, the film’s title refers to Genzaburō Yoshino’s 1937 novel of the same name. However, this film does not have a story related to the novel.

The Boy and the Heron is also the most expensive film ever produced in Japan. The narrative is mostly taken from Hayao Miyazaki’s childhood, which was related to his family during the war.

In the first week the film was released in Japan, The Boy and the Heron grossed ¥1.83 billion or IDR 196 million, more than any other Studio Ghibli film, and surpassing Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), which opened with ¥1.48 billion or Rp. 159 million. Worldwide, The Boy and the Heron has even earned 89 million US dollars

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 95% of 155 critics gave the film positive reviews, with an average rating of 8.5/10. On Metacritic, the film has an average score of 92 out of 100 based on 46 critic reviews, indicating “universal acclaim”. CinemaScore even gave it an average grade of A− on an A+ to F scale.

From all the positive reviews The Boy and the Heron has received , will this film be the best of all of Miyazaki’s works before his retirement?

The Boy and The Heron

The Boy and The Heron (2023) Synopsis

One night in Tokyo in 1943, the war that was raging caused a fire in a hospital where Hisako, the mother of Mahito (Soma Santoki) died in the incident.

His father then remarried Hisako’s sister, Natsuko (Yoshino Kimura) and then went to live in the village where Natsuko lived. Mahito’s father, Shoichi (Takuya Kimura) is the owner of an aircraft ammunition factory.

When he arrived at the house, Natsuko was accompanied by many old servants who accompanied him. When he first arrived, Mahito saw a stork (Masaki Suda) flying close to him many times and made him curious.

Not long after, he looked for the stork and it turned out that the stork was nesting in an old house that looked neglected. This stork also looked very aggressive and wanted to attack him many times.

One day his stepmother, Natsuko, who turned out to be pregnant, suddenly disappeared. Mahito and one of his old servants, Kiriko (Ko Shibasaki) look for him in the forest, and find the voice of the stork inviting him in to meet his mother, who he says is still alive.

What neither of them realized was that the stork had taken them to another world, which was full of magic, where many creatures lived in it.

Will Natsuko and her mother finally be found by Mahito?

Review The Boy and The Heron

The Boy and The Heron Movie Review

The complexity of an alternate world full of layers

The Boy and the Heron is not a Miyazaki anime that is easy to just digest, because this film is very multi-dimensional and the world that Miyazaki is trying to build is very complex, somewhat wild with a surreal feel that uses metaphors in it.

The simplicity of the main character, who is emotional because he has just lost the mother he loves, makes the new world that Miyazaki creates feel inappropriate.

The characterization is also considered weak for several characters. Many characters appear without sufficient exposition, especially the heron or stork characters which can be said to be absurd.

As the central character in the film, for some reason he doesn’t even have a significant influence on Mahito, apart from being a fun travel companion and providing a comedic color in this film.

With a duration of 2 hours, this film is actually still fairly normal for a Ghibli anime, but in the first half, this film tends to slow burn and is a bit boring. There are a lot of plot repetitions before we finally focus on Mahito’s journey.

The visualization is amazing and very entertaining

The fantasy that Miyazaki displays in this film feels very beautiful, full of color, and we can see the classic Ghibli elements found in his previous films. Let’s just say that some of the displays remind us of Spirited Away (2001) or Howl’s Moving Castle (2004).

Several interesting characters are also shown, such as The Parakeet King or Wara Wara, who appear in their own ways. With a duration of two hours, The Boy and The Heron tries to include a lot of things and feels incoherent with the existing characters.

For some viewers, this will be very disturbing, because we will continue to guess what other characters will appear and try to connect this to the narrative. In the end everything will end with question marks and uncertainty.

The scoring remains simple and the comedy is a plus

The most important element behind Ghibli’s work is the memorable musicality in each film. In The Boy and The Heron , Joe Hisaishi, who previously worked on the scores for Spirited Away (2001), Ponyo (2008), and The Wind Rises (2013), is behind the piano which is placed at several important moments. It’s very simple and that’s how Ghibli anime should tell.

Review The Boy and The Heron

One of the other advantages of The Boy and The Heron is that this film is unexpectedly very entertaining and invites laughter. The old servants who gather together remind us of the cuteness of the seven dwarves in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

It turns out that the stork also often creates unintentional humor through his dialogues and gestures which will make us smile when we see his actions.

The Boy and The Heron Conclusion

For those of you who love anime, especially Miyazaki’s works, The Boy and The Heron is an absolute must to watch.

The narrative is quite complicated to digest, which is why this film is not suitable for beginners or children to watch. There are several things that are sometimes incoherent with the characterization in it. The ending also felt unsatisfying, and seemed rushed.

In this final film, Hayao Miyazaki tries to continue to provide the best work we have ever seen. Indeed, the story is not as interesting as the previous films, and The Boy and The Heron is not among Miyazaki’s best, but there is still something to impress us.

The Boy and The Heron Movie

The visual appearance is extraordinary, the characters are very varied and colorful, although not memorable. We seem to enter a world full of layers filled with magic. But of course that’s not enough to help this film as a whole to enter the ranks of Ghibli’s best films.

You can watch The Boy and The Heron starting December 13 2023 in all the nearest cinemas in your city.

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