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Release Date: 12/01/23 [Cinemas]
Genre: Animation. Adventure. Drama.

Studio: Studio Ghibli.

"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. A semi-autobiographical fantasy from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki." 


The Boy and the Heron is a great many things, including its creator’s 12th film; a personal and auto-biographical story; a fantasy journey akin to Alice Through the Looking Glass; an ode to friendship; a coming-of-age story; a study of destruction, grief and imagination; and a hand-drawn, gorgeous work of art. 


Above all, this film is a thoughtful tribute to long-time fans of Studio Ghibli writer, artist and Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki, who refers back to themes, scenes and characters from some of his most cherished past works including Ponyo, My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Howl's Moving Castle.


82-year-old Miyazaki came out of retirement (for the second time) to create The Boy and the Heron, his 12th feature film, for his grandchildren. We can all be thankful that he did.


Beginning in somber notes and colors and moving a bit slowly, not unlike The Wizard of Oz, this film soon breaks into dazzling rainbow hues and a fast-paced adventure – and some of the most stunning art ever seen in animation - once the main character enters a magical world filled with both friendly and frightening characters.


It’s not surprising that Mahito is eager to enter a magical world. War has devastated his real world, with his mother dying in a hospital fire in Tokyo. Over the course of the film, we see him journey from a sad, grieving boy to a brave warrior on a hero’s journey who is capable of saving the earth.


Watching a new film by Miyazaki can feel like coming home because there are so many familiar themes touched upon here, including grief, loss, magic, childhood and natural elements such as water, sunlight, clouds, wind and stars. 


More specifically, there are scenes with frogs and fish in The Boy and the Heron that recall the many fish scenes in Ponyo; there is a tree tunnel that is reminiscent of My Neighbor Totoro; there is a mysterious castle/tower that gives Spirited Away vibes; there are magical portal doors a la Howl's Moving Castle; and the adorable new Warawara characters here remind me of both the soot sprites of Totoro and Spirited Away and the forest spirits of Princess Mononoke.


Ultimately, the movie felt like a message directly from Miyazaki right to our hearts, as perfectly summed up in this quote from The Boy and the Heron: “Whether this world becomes beautiful or an abomination is entirely in our hands.”

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