The Boy and the Heron (2023)


Released:  Friday, December 8, 2023  
Length:  124 minutes
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Genre: Anime, Action/Adventure
Rating: The Boy and the Heron is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of AmericaSome material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

The Boy and the Heron Synopsis

“The Boy and the Heron” is a fantasy film with an element of semi-autobiography. Its Japanese title, “Kimitachi wa Do Ikiruka” (published in Japan by Shinchosha), literally meaning “How do you live?”, is borrowed from an eponymous novel by Genzaburo Yoshino that filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki was given in his youth by his mother. What's more, certain events from Miyazaki's childhood are depicted in this new animated feature for the first time ever.

Its story takes place in a past Japan that still exists vividly within Miyazaki's memories.

After losing his mother in a fire in Tokyo, eleven-year-old Mahito moves to the countryside with his father Shoichi to take up residence at the Gray Heron Mansion, a fusion of Japanese and Western architecture on a sprawling leafy estate. Mahito struggles with his complex feelings toward his bold and forceful father, as well as his new stepmother Natsuko, who also happens to be his late mother's younger sister. Isolation and alienation drive Mahito to self-harm and shut himself off inside his new home. Everything changes when he is visited by a gray heron, who eventually reveals himself to be the avian guise of a shapeshifting "heron man".

The estate was once the abode of the Granduncle, who is said to have become mentally unstable from reading too many books, and ultimately vanished into thin air. The mansion is staffed by several elderly maids, who watch over Mahito. Led by the gray heron, Mahito ventures further into the dark corners of the estate, where time and space begin to warp, dreams and reality blend into one another, and a world far beyond exerts an inescapable pull.

He sets foot into a world where life and death exist on the same plane. After passing through a gate, he meets Kiriko, a fisherwoman who bears a similar scar on her head, who introduces him to the secrets of the world. The Warawara, creatures who embody both life and death. Pelicans who continue to soar high into the sky despite the injuries it causes them. A parakeet king leading legions of his fellow birds, who are caricatures of human mass society. Himi, a girl with the power to wield fire.

Mahito and the heron man delve deeper and deeper into this world — which appears to be a simulacrum of our own — that has suddenly sprung into being and lost all balance and control.

Why has Mahito been led into this domain shared by the living and the dead? Is his late mother actually still alive? Who is the mysterious maiden Himi, and what does the Granduncle, who maintains the equilibrium of this world, want from Mahito...?

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The Boy and the Heron Courtesy of Studio Ghibli. All Rights Reserved.

The Boy and the Heron images are Courtesy of Studio Ghibli. All Rights Reserved.

Movie / Film Review
Considered to be semi-autobiographical, The Boy and The Heron, evokes strong emotions even while the viewer is left uncertain to where the adventure is taking them.
Full Review | Grade: A

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