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Kimitachi wa dô ikiru ka
FEATURING: Voices of Soma Santoki, , , , Aimyon, , Shōhei Hino, (Japanese); Luca Padovan, , Gemma Chan, , Karen Fukuhara, , (English dub)
PLOT: A Japanese boy who has lost his mother during WWII meets a mysterious heron who guides him into a fantastic netherworld where the living and dead co-exist in a bizarre ecosystem.
WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: It’s got that otherworldly Miyazaki character design, and enigmatic surprises galore. My high hopes were met in an early scene where the heron conjures a choir of fish and a cloak of frogs; once the protagonist enters the tower, the strangeness doesn’t let up.
COMMENTS: The venerable Hayao Miyazaki may be the only man alive still building new Wonderlands, making animated movies that feel like children’s literature. Disney/Pixar has a clear format: pick a clear theme—high fantasy, the four classical elements, Day of the Dead—add clear villain and clear comic relief, along with a clear moral to nod at. Miyazaki’s stories are psychologically complex and character driven, with bespoke worldbuilding that borrows from nothing but his imagination and the story’s demands. His hand-drawn animations are artistic rather than technically dazzling, and although he directs action nearly as well as his Western peers, his spectacles arise naturally rather than in response to script beats. While perhaps not quite up to the exemplary standard set by Spirited Away, The Boy and the Heron is a welcome return to the “big fantasy” genre, and sits comfortably alongside Miyazaki’s best work.
But, it must be said that The Boy and the Heron is oddly paced. The movie spends the first 45 of its 120 minutes in the real world. This drawn-out prologue is not at all unpleasant; we get to know Mahito extremely well, his relationship with his kind but distant father and his polite resentment towards his new stepmother (formerly his aunt). The seven old women who attend on the family at its estate and squabble over rare tobacco provide comic relief; whereas the other characters are drawn naturalistically, these old ladies are kindly caricatures, squat, with trademark features like bulbous red noses or eye-doubling spectacles; their cartoonish co-existence alongside the more elegant characters makes them resemble Snow White‘s seven dwarfs. Most importantly, this section develops Mahito’s relationship with the titular heron. At first, it is a rare and noble bird that takes an unusual interest in the boy. It gradually becomes an annoyance, slowly learning to speak, mocking Mahito while drawing him towards the mysterious sealed tower. The heron’s appearance also grows increasingly grotesque, as he reveals rows of Continue reading APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: THE BOY AND THE HERON (2023)