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Boy and the Beast, The
The Boy and the Beast is the latest film from acclaimed filmmaker Mamoru Hosoda (Wolf Children, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time). The film is a fantasy-sci-fi-drama that explores the human world and a fantastical world called the Beast Kingdom. The film is produced by Yuichiro Saito, Takuya Ito, Atsushi Chiba, and Genki Kawamura.
The central protagonist of the story is Ren. At the start of the story Ren is a 9 year old orphan child living on the streets of Tokyo. He soon meets "the beast" Kumatetsu and finds himself entering into the Beast Kingdom: a magical otherworld which is home to a wide variety of fantastic creatures. Kumatetsu decides to take Ren under his wing and train him to be an excellent fighter like himself. As his trainer, Kumatetsu teaches Ren about how to become stronger as a warrior. Kumatetsu trains himself and Ren to be better fighters while trying to become recognized in the Beast Kingdom for his strength.
The story unfolds with the training between Kumatetsu and Ren before it turns back to the story of Ren in the human world. Ren, now a young adult, yearns for a college education and to live in the real world again. Ren begins a romance with a young woman and starts to seek out a world away from the Beast Kingdom: the human world. Ren also seeks out his real-life father (whom he doesn't remember). The Boy and The Beast is as much a story of a young adult Ren looking for life in the human world as it is a story of "the boy and the beast".
The animation is from production company Studio Chizu (Wolf Children, Summer Wars). The production company was involved in the productions of all of the films directed by Mamoru Hosoda. The animation quality continues to excel as a fine example of quality animation. In terms of the fantastical world of the Beast Kingdom, the animators did fine work with this otherworldly place. It's a strong effort which is often quite beautiful.
The music score for the film was composed by Masakatsu Takagi (The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, Wolf Children). This is a lovely sounding score. It adds a nice quality to the film and it's artistic sensibilities. The music helps the film excel.
Unlike previous films by the filmmaker (which involved screenwriter Satoko Okudera), Mamoru Hosoda (Wolf Children) wrote and directed The Boy and The Beast on his own. The film's story is quite ambitious and aims to be both a wonderful fantasy and a more serious-toned drama. The story works in many measures but it also flounders somewhat within its ambitions. It aims to be many things and ends up being less successful in each with some poor pacing.
The storytelling sometimes feel more convoluted and less focused than it should. The storyline jumps fast between being a fantasy exploring Ren and Kumatetsu's friendship to the human-world/older- Ren storyline that neither aspect of the film seems as well-crafted as it should. Ultimately, The Boy and The Beast feels like it would be a better film if it spent more time exploring the friendship and paternal aspect of the relationship between Ren and Kumatetsu.
Though The Boy and the Beast falters somewhat with its storyline it still has plenty of moments of whimsy and excitement to make it worth a watch. Hosoda is a talented director and the film has many well-done sequences. The action is exciting and involved. The animation is a visual wonder. There are many scenes with excellent visual flair throughout. The film isn't quite the classic it wants to be but it's still an entertaining film which will be enjoyed by fans of Hosoda.
The Boy and the Beast arrives on Blu-ray from Funimation Entertainment with an impressive 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded presentation in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. This is a beautiful looking film with a tremendous color palette. The film has amazing animation and rich artistry which is well presented on this Blu-ray release. This presentation certainly pleases and does not disappoint. The animation looks vivid and is remarkably clear and crisp.
The film is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The film is available with both English and Japanese language presentations. English subtitles are provided for the Japanese language presentation. In terms of the subtitles included on the release, the effort is quite impressive and the subtitles don't have issues with formatting or grammatical errors.
The release does have an issue with the audio tracks and some may experience difficulty playing the surround sound tracks on this release. This is an unfortunate drawback to the release.
Please note that this release is a Blu-ray + DVD + HD UV Combo Pack.
Alas, this is an almost entirely barebones Blu-ray. The release suffers from an almost non-existent supplemental package. This is especially disappointing given that a well-rounded supplemental package was provided on the Australian Blu-ray edition.
This is what is included:
Original Teaser Trailer
Japanese Trailers #1 and #2
Trailers for other Funimation entertainment releases are provided.
The Boy and the Beast is an entertaining film filled with plenty of spectacle. The storytelling isn't quite as polished as in other films by director Hosoda but the film is still one of the better anime film productions to come out recently and fans of the filmmaker are encouraged to check it out.
While The Boy and the Beast comes recommended, Funimation's Blu-ray release is a bit of a disappointment with problematic audio and a poor selection of supplements. Funimation has already announced plans for a re-release under the banner of the "Mamoru Hosoda Collection" which fans should expect to contain a booklet (and almost assuredly a nice collection of making-of supplements). Fans of the filmmaker should consider this release worth renting to check out the film but might want to hold out for the (presumably) better edition that is forthcoming.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.