Ever since watching My Neighbor Totoro with my husband I have been in love with Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli movies. When we heard that Miyazaki would be coming out with (yet another) final movie we both got very excited. The Boy and the Heron is a truly horrendous title for this movie but other than that it feels like the ultimate culmination of Miyazaki’s career and legacy.
First and foremost the visuals all felt like pieces of other Miyazaki movies. In the best way possible. The tower's exterior and the landscapes very much felt like Castle in the Sky. Whereas the interior felt like Howl’s Moving Castle. The idea of crossing over into another world filled with unusual creatures and magic reminded me of Spirited Away. The Boy and the Heron really felt like it was representing the whole of Miyazaki’s legacy.
Okay now let's get down to the specifics of the story. Most of the Miyazaki movies that I’ve seen are very warm, and comforting. They center around children exploring their emotions and what growing up feels like. There are also some very clear anti-war sentiments in a lot of his films. Those sentiments are echoed in this film as well. That said, The Boy and the Heron is far more intense and emotionally draining then most of his other films. Set just after World War 2 a young boy and his father move away from Tokyo after his mother dies in a fire. Here is where we get to the problems I have; Dad moves in with his dead wife’s little sister…who he got pregnant already. Now I have problems with any story where the parent (normally the father) moves on far too quickly after losing their wife. It hits a little too close to home. Also if any woman looked at me after my mom died and said “I’m going to be your new mom” I would be throwing hands. But to move on, too quickly, with your spouse's little sister is a next level of gross that I just can’t tolerate. I really don’t care about what cultural norms are or were, just because something is normalized doesn’t make it okay. So that kind of killed the movie for me. Especially when Mahito calls Natsuko mother, I literally got sick to my stomach.
However the time they actually spent on the other side was an awesome adventure to watch. Mahito gets to meet and spend time with a younger version of his mother which made me really emotional. The heron really was only relevant for about 25 minutes total so like I said the title of the movie is just terrible. But the idea of people only of the bloodline being able to access the other side really solidifies the idea that Miyazaki wrote this for himself and his family.
That said this movie is such a beautiful telling of grief, loss, and moving on. Mahito starts as a little boy who misses his mom and feels some responsibility for her death, he ends the film as a young man who has allowed himself to love another person as his mother. It was a beautiful movie, a perfect Miyazaki 10/10. I just personally couldn’t fully enjoy The Boy and the Heron because of how personal the story was. It absolutely deserves academy recognition for Best Animated Feature if for no other reason then I think it would be hilarious for Miyazaki to decline to show up again. We saw the original dub because I always want to see movies how they were originally intended but the American voice cast is absolutely phenomenal and I can’t wait to see the English dub as well.
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Very well written. Keep up the good work!
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme