December 2, 2023

“With The Boy and The Heron, Hayao Miyazaki delivers another masterpiece. This film explores dark and mature themes but it is also a beautiful and touching coming-of-age journey. “

Ten years after The Wind Rises, Hayao Miyazaki is back with a new anime – The Boy and The Heron. This new film from Studio Ghibli released in July in Japanese cinemas. Obviously, it was a huge success at the box office, staying in the top 10 for two months. The film is now making his way overseas. The international roll-out started in Taiwan on October 6, followed by France on November 8. Next is the US on December 8 and the UK on December 26.


There has never been any miss with Studio Ghibi and The Boy and The Heron doesn’t change the rule. It is a studio that means quality and that has always strived for excellence. With his new film, Miyazaki delivers another masterpiece. Even though the title of the film in Japanese refers to a novel of the same name (How Do You Live? (君たちはどう生きるか Kimitachi wa Dō Ikiru ka)) by Genzaburō Yoshino (this novel appears in the film), this is an original story. It takes place in Japan during World War II. Mahito Maki (Soma Santoki), a young boy, has lost his mother during a hospital fire in Tokyo. Because of the war, his family moves to the countryside where his father remarries his late wife’s young sister Natsuko (Yoshino Kimura). There, Mahito struggles to settle in this new town, still grieving his mother. Everything changes when he meets a talking Heron who informs him his mother is still alive. This leads him to his family’s abandoned tower, taking him to another world.

This film is a personal one for Miyazaki as it is semi-autobiographical. Indeed, he based Mahito after his own childhood. Miyazaki also lost his mother and had to move from the city to the countryside during the war. In many ways, it acts as a coming-of-age where Mahito has to learn how to live after his mother’s death. It may take place in a time of war but the themes it explores are universal like grief and loneliness. Undoubtedly, this is a mature and dark film. Animation doesn’t mean it is for kids. Through the use of this fantasy world, Miyazaki sends Mahito on a journey where he learns about life. Mahito learns how to get through his struggles. It is a beautiful and touching journey. This is what I love about this film, Miyazaki tells such a compelling, complex and sincere story with the use of fantasy elements. Not everything has to make sense but that’s what life is.

Sadly, the international title misses the point of the film. The original title How Do You Live? is just perfect. Not only does it references the book that appears in the film and that is important emotionally to Mahito but it also asks the question that this film asks. How do you live? Throughout this film, Mahito has to decide how does he live after this tragedy, what does he do to move on. It carries so much meaning, I don’t understand the change of title for international markets.


Moreover, Miyazaki’s visual style is truly wonderful. The scenery is always a real sight to behold. The attention to details, it almost feels like paintings. Ghibli’s animation style has always been one of its kind and it still continues to be. This time, this film is released in IMAX so if you can see it in that format, please do so.

Joe Hisaishi and Miyazaki have once again reunited for The Boy and The Heron. It is a collaboration we always love to see. Hisaishi’s music score perfectly matches Miyazaki’s storytelling. It is a moving and powerful score. On top of that, Kenshi Yonezu is in charge of the theme song called ‘Spinning Globe.’ It nicely sums up what this film is about. This song is at the same time bittersweet and hopeful. It is a fitting song for this film.


Finally, as always Studio Ghibli has gathered an amazing voice cast for this film. Soma Santoki (The Days) voices Mahito. He delivers a heartfelt performance showcasing all of Mahito’s vulnerabilities – his fears, his sorrow … The Heron is a weird role that just feels right for Masaki Suda. And Yoshino Kimura is gentle as Mahito’s aunt and stepmother. While Aimyon brings a lot of energy to her character Lady Himi.


With The Boy and The Heron, Hayao Miyazaki delivers another masterpiece. This film explores dark and mature themes but it is also a beautiful and touching coming-of-age journey.

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