LFF film review: The Boy and the Beast Print
Written by Ivan Radford   
Friday, 16 October 2015 16:37

Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Cast: Kumiko Asô, Rikî Furankî, Suzu Hirose
Showtimes: 18.15, 16th / 15.15, 17th

A little over a year ago, Studio Ghibli announced that it was shutting its doors, possibly for good. Who would make animations to enchant audiences the world over now? While Ireland's Tomm Moore continues to make a convincing case with the mesmerising Song of the Sea, he's got competition: Mamoru Hosoda, director of Wolf Children, whose latest is a thrilling tale of friendship and fighting.

The tale follows Ren, a young boy who finds himself alone when his mother passes away, years after his dad left. But we're first introduced to the kingdom of Jutengai, a parallel world full of beasts. There, the contest is fierce to become the new Lord. The challengers? The honourable Iozen and the towering Kumatetsu. There's only one catch: the latter needs an apprentice.

All this is related to us by burning embers, who fly around the screen, reassembling their scorches into people, buildings and places - a dazzling prologue to an equally beautiful 120 minutes, which swoops, swings swords and throws whales into crowded streets with colourful imagination. There are no prizes for guessing what happens when Ren and Kumatetsu cross paths, but their tale of paternal figure and young role model is impressively complex, taking time to acknowledge both Ren's real dad (something that a lesser family flick would overlook) and the fantasy universe's detailed mythology. The result packs in emotion and action galore: think How to Train Your Samurai Dragon, or Free Willy (So That You Can Punch Him in the Face). And yet there's still time to pause for a brief romantic subplot featuring Our Little Sister's Suzu Hirose, some classic literature and a welcome reminder that education is a key part of growing up and becoming strong.

Epic battles, heart-warming feelings and the merits of using libraries? The Boy and the Beast has everything you could want. The future of animation in a post-Ghibli world just got a little brighter.