Bakemono no Ko is the tale of a boy and a beast: both lonely, both stubborn, and both strong. For nine-year-old Ren, things could hardly be worse. His mother has passed away in a traffic accident, his father is nowhere to be found, and his extended family is cold and distant. Desperate, Ren runs away to the mean streets of Shibuya to try and survive on his own.
In the beast realm of Shibuten, the fierce warrior Kumatetsu is certainly feared, but not especially liked or respected. When the Lord decides to retire and become a God, Kumatetsu would be a natural candidate to replace him; he and the noble Lord Iouzan are the two strongest in the land. But Kumatetsu is so anti-social he's never even managed to hold on to a disciple. And until he proves he can, he'll never be a serious contender.
When Ren gets lost in a maze of alleyways and finds himself in the strange land of Shibuten, fate brings these two stubborn and fierce-willed souls together, and Kumatestu re-names the boy "Kyuuta." Each of them has much they can teach the other, but where these two are concerned, nothing is going to be easy. As Kyuuta adjusts to his new home he finds himself torn between two worlds—two worlds that are far less separate than either the Boy or the Beast realizes.
With over ¥5.8 billion in total, Bakemono no Ko was Japan's second highest-grossing domestic film of 2015. It won the Japan Academy Prize for Best Animated Feature, and was also nominated for an Annie Award in its independent category.
So, I have never cried from anime or any movie. I did however, cry when watching Bakemono no Ko (about 4 times). (Update: Idk why I teared up so much tbh, could just be a sign of my maturity)
I really didn't think the story was that great, but it was good enough to be a successful movie. The growth within the characters was probably the best I have seen in an animated movie; you feel happy when the characters are happy. One main thing I didn't like, however, was the fact that when Kyuuta goes to the human realm, the bakemono realm is totally
neglected. In addition, the final conflict was really predictable, making it a bit dull. Nevertheless, I was touched by the actions of the characters towards the end. Overall, it wasn't an outstanding story but definitely a good one.
Besides the people, the background art was really realistic like it was in Wolf Children. Overall solid art.
I don't know of an anime with "bad sound" so I always give a 10 in this section. When I was in the theatre while watching this, the explosions and stuff were kind of loud, but that just intensified the experience.
I have never ever cried from a character's actions. But even when Kyuuta cheers for Kumatetsu in the beginning I teared up. The student teacher relationship between Kyuuta and Kumatetsu (always arguing) seems a bit stereotypical, but somehow it was unique as they were able to complete with one another to benefit from each other. Both Kyuuta and Kumatetsu gave up their lonely lives to accommodate each other.
If you liked Wolf Children, you will probably like this as well. Since it was directed by the same person; the stories are completely different, but have similar feelings attached to them. I can't explain why, but I feel really excited after watching it and it was probably my favorite anime movie. Maybe it is just because I haven't seen any good anime movies since I was like 10, but this movie is really going to stay with me.
Go watch this movie, I watched it the 4th day it came out and I don't regret it. If an english dub comes out I really suggest watching the Japanese version (subbed) because I have a feeling that the english version will not be as good.
Saw this at the BFI film festival yesterday. Was quite disappointed actually, for reasons I've already read above. The plot felt rushed, the characters one dimensional and the overall world lacked depth. The main antagonist appeared out of nowhere towards the end for no other reason than the plot needed him to.
It's a shame, as I thought the film was really strong when it was about a boy looking for strength and being trained by the beast while the two of them developed a father / son relationship. Then the film became really messy and unfocused with a sudden shift in direction during the second
half of the film.
The film is beautiful though, which single handily took it from a 6 to a 7 in my ratings. It's definitely the directors weakest work though.
Mamoru Hosada is basically to Japanese animation what Disney is to Western animation: one of the better players in the field, but far from the best the medium has to offer. Just like Disney has never been able to produce a movie that my pre-college self would have loved but my post-college self just finds alright, I'm not too keen on rewatching any of Hosada's films these days whether or not I think they're good. Whilst the character animation being distractingly un-detailed compared to the rest of the animation is a bit of a sticking point in his films, my main problem with him are
how he spreads the subject matter of his stories too thin to leave more than a middling impact. Still, his stuff is better than...well let's face it...any anime airing right now, so I could not go to see his film fast enough when it came out in theatres just to ignore the sixteen cartoons I'm going to finish in a few weeks for a moment. And yes, The Boy and the Beast is worth one watch, although whether you'd want to buy the blu-ray or not really depends on how much you can accept that whole "something for everyone" mentality. Which sounds good in theory, but in practice it often means spreading yourself out so thin that no element truly shines.
The movie starts off like a more mainstream version of Spirited Away, in that it focuses on a young boy named Ren running away from his legal guardians after his parents became unable to take care of him on account of his father being somewhere unknown and his mother being straight-up dead. He encounters a beast deity named Kumatetsu in the streets and ends up following him into a strange world of colorful beast people, most of who are wary of humans due to the inherent darkness within them that can destroy animals in a way that PETA would declare too powerful to oppose. Ren ends up being apprenticed by Kumatetsu in the art of swordplay and after some initial struggles due to his master being a complete idiot, a ten-year time skip turns him into the standard Disney strong man who soon finds another way of life after going back to the human world and meeting a girl who's as smart as he is strong. What follows is the old classic tale of Ren struggling between staying in the beast world or integrating back into the human world whilst strange things happen in the former that threaten to affect the latter in the process. The only thing missing from this familiar fable are people bursting into song after a major event.
In some ways, Hosada's approach to this style of storytelling is better than say, Disney's Tarzan or Ushio & Tora, because he likes to focus more time on making his leads relatable to a general audience, having them go through actual struggles that can't be solved in song and giving them personal flaws we can identify with. And Ren definitely has that in spades if you ignore the fact that he can beat up three guys at once with only a slight scratch and summon supernatural powers that will allow him to go toe-to-toe with water demons. While the movie can overdo the angst at times, you have to keep in mind that Ren is a stubborn kid who's never had a real family and isn't one to just dive into something without questioning the methods, not helped by the fact that his would-be guardians are often idiots. Kumatetsu is pretty much every stupid shonen lead ever, which doesn't exactly translate to good teaching or fighting, so whilst this leads to a volatile relationship with his human apprentice, it also gives him a character arc where he has to grow more mature in order to become a God. In that sense, The Boy and the Beast can be considered the criticism against the shonen action genre that it desperately needed.
As a tradeoff though, Hosada's stories tend to be overcomplicated despite the fact that the overall narrative is really simple. The most egregious is the final villain of the film, who I won't spoil, but I'll ask the following questions. Why exactly is there a physical villain that Ren has to face at the end of this film considering the majority of the conflict up to that point has been mostly psychological? And why did that character do such a 180 in terms of personality when he grew up in order to fulfill that role in the first place? And why was he and his backstory never important until the final act? It feels like it was crowbarred into the narrative at the last minute.
But that's not the only problem that bogs down what could have been a great film into something that's just decent at best. The Boy and the Beast is paced weirdly, like someone cut and paste scenes from a would-be series and just made a movie out of it. The middle arc where Ren goes back to the human world for the first time in ten years, meets his lady friend, and yearns to get an education whilst struggling with the life of fighting he once lived is executed decently for the most part, but the arc when he's a kid moves really slowly on account of it just consisting of him struggling to get along with Kumatetsu and the other inhabitants for what felt like an hour (I think it was only forty or so minutes though), and the final arc where all the plot points the movie had built up over its run come together feels rushed - largely due to the last minute villain, but also because Kumatetsu is absent for a large chunk of the middle section and thus when the film has to resolve his story, it comes off a little Deus Ex even with all the foreshadowing during the movie's slow start.
Oh, and as you probably expected from this sort of "human entering beast world" premise, a large chunk of the story is devoted to how much animals don't like humans because of everything the vegetarians call us out for. This leads to Ren suffering from species-ism, if you can call it that, and one of the ultimate takeaways of the film being about how man and animal can get along just fine. It doesn't have a "must" attached and the ending ends up being similar to Spirited Away in a good sense in order to give it some life, but that message wasn't really interesting when Tarzan did it years ago, and it's not dealt with uniquely enough here to be anymore than tolerable. Still, it was kinda cool to see Ren earn respect from those who used to torment him. I'm sort of a sucker for that trope.
But overall, I'd say the hits and misses balance themselves out enough to be worth at least one watch. The emotions are decent, the action is good, and if you don't mind how jarringly out of place Hosada's character animation is with his background stuff, you can do far worse than The Boy and the Beast in terms of anime, film, or otherwise. I'd even go so far as to say it's my favorite anime of the season, even if the bar isn't really that high now that ERASED kinda shot itself in the foot in its closing act. But Hosada really needs to find a better balance between how to tell a story and how to cater to the mainstream audience if he's going to continue focusing on making movies for the latter in the future. I don't mind the fact that he's basically the Disney of the anime world, but that really doesn't excuse the fact that he needs a better editor. Preferably one armed with Kill la Kill scissor-blades.
Hosoda continues to make films that are incredibly enjoyable to watch. Bakemono no Ko (The Boy and the Beast), his first film produced under the banner of Studio Chizu, is another great addition to his directorial repertoire. I was lucky to catch this film in theaters and my impression is better for it.
The story in Bakemono no Ko is relatively standard, but with some creative decisions that boost its impact. There is a world of anthropomorphic beasts living parallel to the human world. The laws of the beast world vary from that of the human world to create a
beautiful fantasy setting. However, the climax of the film would have benefited greatly from deeper exploration of the dark, psychological aspect of the human characters and a more developed explanation of the laws in the beast world.
This film looks fantastic most of the time. Hosoda's style is always apparent and I really love it. The simple but expressive characters against the painstakingly detailed backgrounds always makes for beautiful and dynamic shot composition. CG is used throughout to enhance visuals and looks gorgeous when used sparingly. The CG is also where the visuals fall short. I couldn't help but notice that every scene with more than a couple background characters used entirely CG models. Sometimes they just look BAD, but then again, the viewer's focus is supposed to be drawn elsewhere. Either way this film looked outstanding most of the time, especially on the big screen.
Everything from the dub to the musical score sounded great the whole way through. I watched the English dub by Funimation, so my comments will specifically reference this dub. Luci Christian and Eric Vale do an awesome job as the protagonist, Kyuta. Whereas voice actresses sometimes sound unnatural as young boys, Christian has one of the best voices for this sort of role and manages to make young Kyuta endearing and realistic. Eric Vale then follows suit with a fitting performance as teenage Kyuta. The trio of beasts that Kyuta hangs around with are charmingly voice acted and likable. Bryn Apprill's performance as Kaede is also worthy of praise.
The soundtrack fits the movie incredibly well. Though not as instantly memorable as the soundtracks for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars, I believe Masakatsu Takagi did an excellent job of writing music that fit the world. The beast world has a very eastern flair and the music improves the aesthetic.
Almost every character in Bakemono no Ko is lovable. Aside from a single character, everyone seems to be looking out for one another, regardless of their affiliation. Kyuta and Kumatetsu's hot-headed interactions are adorable and really make the viewer care for them. Kyuta and Kaede's interactions are similarly satisfying and meaningful. Even the side characters like Tatara the monkey and Hyakushubou the pig have an endearing moment. Also Soushi the bunny had some great comedic moments
The antagonist could have used much more screen-time to better flesh out their motives and abilities. Kyuta's father also deserved more screen time and I would have enjoyed seeing them interact more.
This film is very fun to watch, and I found watching it in a theater really improved the experience. Either way, I greatly enjoyed watching Bakemono no Ko and will certainly buy it when it releases on dvd/blu-ray.
Bakemono no Ko is a fun, beautiful movie. I can't wait to see what Hosoda and Studio Chizu create next.
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Mamoru Hosoda makes heartfelt, beautifully-animated films that appeal to all ages. His latest, The Boy and the Beast, is coming soon to theaters in America and Australia! Learn how he got to the point where many have called him "the next Miyazaki."