The Boy and The Heron Image

The Boy and The Heron

By Josiah Teal | December 12, 2023

Originally rumored to be the final film from master animator Hayao Miyazaki, The Boy and The Heron takes viewers to Japan in the heart of WWII. The narrative focuses on Mahito Maki (Soma Santoki, Luca Padovan in the English dub), who has just lost his mother in a hospital fire. Mahito soon finds himself thrust into a fantastic world of sailors, Parakeet Kings, and hungry Pelicans, all brought to life in gorgeous hand-drawn animation. Despite the noticeable lack of marketing and promotion, The Boy and The Heron, like many Studio Ghibli films before it, is “event cinema.” The kind of film that pulls audiences out of their homes to see something extraordinary on the big screen.

“…finds himself thrust into a fantastic world of sailors, Parakeet Kings, and hungry Pelicans…”

Unlike prior Miyazaki films, The Boy and The Heron takes a semi-autobiographical approach. Like Miyazaki, the young Mahito left Tokyo with his father in his youth as WWII escalated in the Pacific. Every film in the Ghibli catalog feels personal and resonates with deep emotional subtext, but The Boy and The Heron pushes those emotions even further. As Mahito spends more time living in the countryside, he meets a grey Heron (Masaki Suda, Robert Pattinson), who claims Mahito’s mother is waiting for him in another world, hidden from ours. Dealing with grief and still mourning his mother, Mahito attempts to rid himself of the pestering Heron before his soon-to-be stepmother Natusuko (Yoshino Kimura, Gemma Chan) goes missing in the woods.

Mahito and one of the elderly maids from his mother’s estate track Natusuko to a mysterious tower in the woods, a place Mahito was forbidden from exploring in his first days in the country. After a brief showdown with the Heron, Mahito falls through our world and lands in a soaring world of spirits and sweeping waves on the high seas. It’s the classic: Alice has gone down the rabbit hole moment, or for Miyazaki, night falls at the amusement park in Spirited Away. Mahito will face his grief, and audiences will witness yet another dazzling coming-of-age story from the man who brought us some of the best animation ever committed to the screen.

The Boy and The Heron (2023)

Directed and Written: Hayao Miyazaki

Starring: Soma Santoki, Masaki Suda, Aimyon, Yoshino Kimura, Takuya Kimura, Shohei Hino, Ko Shibasaki, Kaoru Kobayashi, Jun Kunimura, etc.

Movie score: 10/10

The Boy and The Heron  Image

"…like many Studio Ghibli films before it, is 'event cinema.'"

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  1. Jeff Maddox says:

    Such a satisfying movie

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