The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Review: Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Boy and the Heron” is a beautiful yet complicated tale on loss, grief and closure

Photo via Rotten Tomatoes.

“Anime was a mistake…” thankfully, not this one. From the renowned Hayao Miyazaki and his award-winning company, Studio Ghibli, comes his most recent film, “The Boy and the Heron.” This dreamlike odyssey puts us in the shoes of the seldom-spoken but steadfast boy named Mahito.

After losing his mother in a hospital fire during World War II, his father moves him to the countryside to gain a new life alongside his pregnant stepmother who happens to be his late mother’s sister. Here, Mahito experiences many changes as he tries to accept his new reality before having it all turn upside down when a gray heron harasses him into coming into a realm of magical creatures and deadly obstacles.

This tale deals with themes of loss, grief, and closure. The pacing was very strange yet complementary to other Ghibli films as it meanders between relaxed and easygoing fare to death-defying action and intense scenes.

Not only was this not your typical film, but in Japan, the only marketing for the picture was simply just a poster. This intrigued many people but caused a lot of skepticism. Fans don’t need to worry, since the animation is as crisp and pristine as ever with Ghibli artists being masters at hand-drawn animation, with the stand-out being the food as longtime viewers of the studio know.

Plot-wise, the film was very straightforward at the beginning but then shifts into a surrealistic world that turns into a nightmare. It’s part “My Neighbor Totoro” and part “Spirited Away,” to make a general comparison.

The English dub for the film was very interesting as the heron was voiced by Robert Pattinson of “The Batman” fame. He put on a faithful and eccentric voice to the Japanese version of the character from the clips that I saw of the Japanese dub.

This is not a film for people new to Studio Ghibli movies. While it won’t rip your heart out like “Grave of the Fireflies,” it could be very emotional if you have ever lost anyone close to you. Strangely, the film was very serene—even with intense themes and grand set pieces. While this serenity is a trademark of all Ghibli films, I felt it tenfold here, a dream-like state where the film and I became one.

The story can also change on a dime and feel very convoluted. Many parts after the middle of the film caused me to scratch my head, to the point that when looking up summaries and explanations, I saw a quote from Miyazaki, “Perhaps you didn’t understand it. I myself don’t understand it.”

This film recently won the Academy Award for Best Animated Film and it gathered other awards such as the BAFTAs. While this was not my favorite Ghibli movie, it deserves its flowers as the animation and story are timeless. Story-wise, the film felt very jumbled, but if you can let yourself go along for the ride, this bird will fly you to animated bliss.

3.5 Heron Feathers out of 5.

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