is not easy apprenticing under the bear-like Kumatetsu, but at least the human
boy Ren will not have to deal with a lot of brooms or pails of water. Cleaning
up is not a high priority for his slovenly master. Kumatetsu is a fierce
fighter but he cuts a shabby figure in the beastly realm of Jutengai.
Naturally, the two outcasts will eventually start learning from each other, but
there will be no easy shortcuts taken in Mamoru Hosoda’s original anime feature
The Boy and the Beast (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.
would rather live as a runaway on the streets of Tokyo rather than endure his late
mother’s odious relatives, who legally denied his father any custody right
because that is the sort of thing they do. Fortunately (probably), Ren catches
the eye of Kumatetsu not long after he starts living rough. The moody warrior
often comes to distract himself in the human world with his snarky chimp-like
crony Tatara. Seeing some fire in Ren’s eye, Kumatetsu half-jokingly offers to
make the human his apprentice. Of course, training humans is strictly forbidden
in Jutengai, but when Ren inadvertently follows them into the animal dimension,
they are sort of forced to accept the arrangement.
Kumatetsu needs Kyuta (as he rechristens Ren) as much as the human needs him.
The blustery warrior plans to challenge the vastly more popular Iozen to
succeed Jutengai’s ruler Soshi, but no disciples have ever put up with the
beastly beast’s raging temper for more than a day—until Kyuta came along. They
will work for their breakthroughs the hard way, but they will have the wise counsel
of the pig-like monk Hyakushubo and the bafflingly indulgent Soshi. At some
point Kumatetsu will face off against Iozen, but the latter’s mysteriously
sinister son Ichirohiko will be a dangerous wild card, targeting Kyuta and his
master, without regard for honor or custom.
Boy and the Beast might be anime,
but it is still probably the best coming of age film you will see all year. It
covers approximately ten years of Ren/Kyuta’s life, during which time he will
come to terms with his relationships with Kumatetsu and his human father, while
also haltingly courting the scholarly human cutie, Kaede. Honestly, there are
some real emotional kickers in the film. There’s also a tractor-trailer load of
fighting, all of which Hosoda renders with great gusto.
Granted, the anamorphic tradition in anime is
long and sometimes distinguished, but with Jutengai, Hosoda engages in some
rich and wide-ranging world-building. He also creates an extensive cast of
well-developed supporting characters. Hyakushubo has some particularly
memorable moments (appealingly voiced for the English dub by Alex Organ). It
definitely goes for the heartstrings down the stretch, but there is nothing
cheap about the film’s sentiment. Hosoda earns it fair and square. Highly
recommended for all animation fans and those who enjoy genre tales set where
science fiction and fantasy overlap, The
Boy and the Beast opens this Friday (3/4) in New York, at the Angelika Film
Center and the AMC Empire.
Labels: Animated films, Anime, Japanese Cinema, Mamoru Hosoda