Friday, March 25, 2016

‘The Boy and the Beast’ Tells a Touching Tale About Learning and Loneliness

Bakemono no Ko – translated The Boy and the Beast in English – is a full-length anime feature about a runaway street orphan named Ren who stumbles into a secret magical world of beasts, wherein he is taken in by a bear-warrior named Kumatetsu to be his protégé and is renamed Kyuta.  Though the two of them frequently argue, they gradually develop a de facto father-and-son relationship and learn from each other.

With Studio Ghibli in an indefinite break from making movies, I’m delighted that The Boy and the Beast seems to serve as a statement that other Japanese studios are stepping up, that there won’t necessarily be a drought of fantastic anime films just because Ghibli’s gone.

Indeed, The Boy and the Beast is a very luscious, touching anime film.

It’s not really a perfect movie.  The narrative does have some slow parts, the direction is uneven a few times, and there are some aspects of the story that I didn’t like.  But it’s mostly great.  The animation is visually pleasurable.  The fight scenes are gorgeous.  The characters and their arcs are charming.  And it’s thematically substantial.

The movie significantly explores the philosophy of teaching and learning.  Kumatetsu never had a teacher, and gained the skills he knows by self-study.  Thus, he has a hard time teaching Kyuta since he never personally received any teaching.  Ironically, it was when he became a master to Kyuta that he first gets to experience being taught.  Meanwhile, Kyuta adjusts as a learner by mimicking his master.  As time pass, they gradually develop an effective teaching-learning process, resulting to both their improvements.  Also later in the story, another kind of learning is featured, as Kyuta decides to immerse himself into the human academics that he has neglected.   In a subtle manner, The Boy and the Bear promotes the importance of learning, the appreciation on how it can come in various forms, and that it’s never too late to begin it.

Another theme that the movie emphasized on is loneliness.  Like learning, loneliness is shown to come in various forms, as it has manifested differently on a couple of key characters – including the two lead characters as well as the villain (which I won’t spoil who).  The movie then offers a clichéd but nevertheless heartfelt solution in overcoming it: love.

I love The Boy and the Beast.  Though there’s obvious familiarity in its elements, everything’s so charmingly and organically executed that the overall result is genuinely endearing and heartwarming.

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