The Boy And The Heron Review

Friday 5 January 2024

Plot: A young boy named Mahito yearning for his mother ventures into a world shared by the living and the dead. There, death comes to an end, and life finds a new beginning.

Film: The Boy And The Heron

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Writer: Hayao Miyazaki

Starring: Soma Santoki, Masaki Suda, Kô Shibasaki

Hayao Miyazaki’s latest (and last if that is to be believed) follows the adventure of a young boy who lost his mother in a hospital fire and relocates to meet and live with his father’s new pregnant wife. 

Mahito, arrives at his new home quiet but curious, eager to explore like any child would be, though the trauma of losing his mother still sits heavy on him. One day at his new school, he gets into a fight & to underline said point he smashes a rock to the side of the head which after getting infected keeps him bedridden but his imagination (or is it real?) ignite where he meets the titular bird which keeps showing up at his window sill. Leading him to a disused tower in the forest to look for his recently missing new mother, Natsuko. Mahito and the heron descend into a world entirely different from the world we know and encounter a whole range of characters that are so Studio Ghibli that you don’t even question the whimsy as it unfolds.

The art style can’t be faulted, Miyazaki and his team are masters of their craft and there was so much life in every single frame. For me the problem lies solely with the story. From the moment Mahito enters the tower it’s obvious we’re in some world that’s frozen in time, the characters he meets there are younger versions of characters we know of, but I never understood why this was. It’s a fun ride for the most part but by the end we haven’t progressed anywhere, the story is exactly where it was when Mahito entered the tower to search for Natsuko. 

The narrative felt muddled and nonsensical and I was left with more questions than I would have liked for Miyazaki’s final work. I was reminded of Grave of The Fireflies for the elements of war-torn Japan, The Boy and the Heron was also reminiscent of Spirited Away, with the coming of age journey but I felt like this film didn’t explore that side of the story as meaningfully as it could have.

I would never-not recommend a Studio Ghibli film but this wouldn’t be my recommendation to get you into the anime genre. 

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