The Boy And The Beast
Bryn Apprill, Kumiko Aso, Morgan Berry
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“…never quite as transcendent as it might be…”
The Boy And The Beast begins with a prologue, setting up a typically convoluted, pseudo-esoteric anime premise: a world of beasts where men compete to become lords, and lords possess the capacity to willfully reincarnate into gods.
The homeless orphan, Kyuta, stumbles into this world by pure happenstance, finding his entrance via a narrow alleyway. He is soon taken into the care of Kumatetsu, a warrior beast who raises and rears him in the ancient martial arts of his people. As Kyuta grows into a young man, he is forced to confront a great darkness which threatens to throw the worlds both of beasts and men into chaos.
The biggest problem with The Boy And The Beast is that for all its fantastical leanings, it isn’t terribly original. The world of beasts exists principally as a facsimile of archaic Japan, and it is only by their irregular appearance that the beasts vary substantially from humans. Similarly, the young-warrior-in-training plotline is a trope used and re-used exponentially, an archetype of both Japanese and western storytelling.
Having said that, most storytelling is inevitably archetypical by degrees, and the critical demarcation is whether the treatment rendered it is expedient. What The Boy And The Beast has going in its favour is that its familiar characters are likeable, and that its central relationship is rendered with a depth of heart and humour. There are genuinely touching moments throughout the film, especially a montage of several years’ passage wherein the bond between Kumatetsu and Kyuta is elucidated.
The Boy And The Beast, however, is never quite as transcendent as it might be, and certainly not in the manner of movies like Spirited Away or Grave Of The Fireflies. What it lacks is a certain cinematic gravitas: its pacing and exposition are too cumbersome, and it leans towards being more cartoonish than it should. Still, in terms of thoughtful anime, The Boy And The Beast is above average.