I first heard about this film from a YouTube video review and was curious to watch it. I've been a fan of anime since I first saw Voltron as a wee youngster. Anime can be really engaging and unique, but it can also be very strange and derivative with the gems being few and far between. Having enjoyed many Japanese films and having been disappointed by many more, I was a little nervous which way this film would go.
The Boy and the Beast is a 2015 action, fantasy, anime film. It's rated PG-13 for language and a few intense fight scenes but is appropriate for most audiences.
A young boy's mother dies leaving him to the care of relatives. He runs away and follows a mysterious man to a world inhabited by anthropomorphic animals. The man he followed is actually a beast who is competing with a more popular beast to be the new lord of this world when the old one ascends to godhood. The beast trains the boy and the two develop a father-son relationship.
Exploration of Relationships. While this movie contains martial arts fight scenes and a plot about who will be the next leader, the story of the movie is about a young boy growing up and discovering a father figure in his sensei, and his sensei growing up discovering a son in his apprentice. The movie does an excellent and thorough job of exploring what it means to be a father and many of the dynamics that are involved in the father-son relationship. The young boy grows up and finds his real father and that relationship is explored and contrasted. I've never seen the subject handled so well, even in live action film or print.
Characters. The characters were all very likable, unique, and sufficiently developed. I found myself actually caring what happened to them.
Animation. The animation was suburb. It was very smooth with the characters' movements doing an excellent job conveying their emotions. You could follow the movie and understand what was going on even without the dialogue.
Art Direction. This film was gorgeous to watch from the background paintings to the character designs, to the colors, to the music. Even if the story had been awful, the visual would have been worth watching the movie for.
Pacing. This movie is a Japanese movie and is evenly paced and slowly developed like a typical Japanese movie, so to a Western viewer it feels a little slow.
Predictability. There is conflict in the film and a question of who will be the next lord, but everything is resolved exactly how you think it will be with no real surprises or no real suspense. It did not affect the enjoyment of the film, but it was a missed opportunity.
What I Would Like to Have Seen
I wouldn't not have minded if the story had moved a little bit quicker and had a few surprises. I did find myself checking the clock and actually watched the movie in two sittings, because I got a little stir crazy after the first half hour.
The Boy and the Beast is a beautifully animated, beautifully told story about the relationship between a father and a son. Being a Japanese film, it was a little slow by western standards, but the story, characters, animation, and fight scenes are so well done that it is very enjoyable to watch and leaves you with a good feeling at the end. I give it a solid 4 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.