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The Boy and the Heron

Review

By Alexandrea CallaghanPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
Top Story - December 2023
8

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.

reviewpop culturemovieentertainment
8

About the Creator

Alexandrea Callaghan

Certified nerd, super geek and very proud fangirl.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (7)

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  • Mike Singleton - Mikeydred29 days ago

    Hi we are featuring your excellent Top Story in our Community Adventure Thread in The Vocal Social Society on Facebook and would love for you to join us there

  • Natasja Rose2 months ago

    For a bit of context, remarrying in the 1940s was often less a matter of love than of convenience and duty to your children. Mihito's father clearly loves his son, but doesn't really know how to parent, so he remarries his wife's sister, who is bound to care for Mihito more than a random stranger would.

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  • Phil Flannery2 months ago

    This is quite relevant to me right now. My son and daughter are in Japan on holiday. Before they left, we watched as many Studio Ghibli movies as we could, because they planned to visit the studio and museum while there. It is amazing how everyday the stories are, but mixed with fantasy and horror, and statements on the environmental and war. They are quite the adventure. Thanks for your great insights of the Ghibli world.

  • Thank you so much for putting me on to a Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli movie I've never heard about or seen. I'm a huge fan. And I love when Ghibli fest comes around each year. I'm not going to lie, I had to skip past your breakdown of the movie since I want to be surprised when I watch it. Congratulations on Top Story!

  • JBaz2 months ago

    Great review and way to invite the reader to want to see this. Great job, congratulations

  • Taylor Bitz2 months ago

    I'm glad to see a fantastic review of this movie, it makes me want to see it all the more as I am a huge fan of Studio Ghibli films.

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