Hayao Miyazaki's "The Boy and the Heron". A review by a Ghibli-loving Japanese!!!

12/20/2023

Anime&comics Review

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The latest film by Hayao Miyazaki after a 10-years absence!!! "The Boy and the Heron" is now showing in North America!!!

Studio Ghibli's latest film "The Boy and the Heron" directed by Hayao Miyazaki, opened in theaters here in North America on December 8. Since it was released earlier in Japan, we could only see reviews of it, but now you can finally see it in U.S. and Canada! In this article, I would like to share my thoughts as a Ghibli lover!!!

⚠️I am only stating my personal mere opinion. I would be happy if you could read it from the viewpoint of "I saw this and thought like this" rather than what the facts are🎞️

The English title is "The Boy and the Heron"

Image: Studio Ghibli

Hayao Miyazaki's film "The Boy and the Heron" was acquired by GKIDS Films, a U.S. company, for screening rights. Studio Ghibli has a policy of not revealing information in advance, and we don't get to see much preview footage. I'm sure there are many people who are happy that long-awaited screening has finally been announced.

In the U.S. and Canada, it will be screened from December 8, 2023, and you can see both the Japanese version and the English dubbed version. It's a must-see!!!

💡The Japanese title is "KIMITACHI HA DOU IKIRUKA". It means How do you live? 

What is the original story??

First of all, there is no doubt that the title was taken from Genzaburo Yoshino's book "How Do You Live?" which also appears in this film. (In the movie, the main character: Mahito is reading this book.) However, the content of the book is about the main character's study of anthropology and philosophy, which is too different to be called an original work, so it does not seem to be an original work.

  


In addition to this book that came out in this work, fans have whispered, "Could the contents be linked to this book?" by John Connally, "The Book of Lost Things". Set in London during World War Ⅱ, it certainly has some similarities, but it doesn't seem to be an original work as well...However, both books are refferred to in many media as "indispensable books for life," so it seems clear that they were influential.

Impressions for the first time

Image: Studio Ghibli

⚠️Please note that from here on, this is completely just my personal opinion and has nothing to do with the facts.

The first things that came to my mind when I saw this film was wondering if Hayao Miyazaki had any traumatic childhood experiences. Why? I can't explain it well, but it was clearly different from Hayao Miyazaki's previous works. Whereas the previous films were fantasy worlds created by Hayao Miyazaki, this film made me feel as if I were peeking inside his head, and I felt a little creeped out.

In previous works, for example, "Sprited Away". It was a bathhouse for 8 million gods, a dragon god, etc. It was a work that even children could watch by intertwining mythology and philosophy. And everyone loves "My neighbor Totoro". This was another beatifully depicted fantasy between Totoro, the guardian god of the forest, and a pure child. Speaking of forest guardians, we must not forget "Princess Mononoke". In this work, with a powerful touch, depicted the harmony between human desires and nature.

As can be seen from the above, while the previous works had a strong message, this work seemed to be something like an emotional release. Rather than conveying something, I felt like "I saw Hayao Miyazaki!!!!!".

Realistic expressions that are not typical of Ghibli's works

Image: Studio Ghibli

⚠️There are a few spoilers!⚠️


What impressed me most of all was that the father of the main character, Mahito, remarries his wife's sister after her death. And, without much time to wait, she gets pregnant right away. Mahito's mother dies in a fire while she is in the hospital, and only about a year later, a "new mother" appears. This scene is so vivid and bizarrely distant that one is forced to wonder why this presence is necessary. 

Furthermore, there is a scene in the middle of the film where the father comes home and Mahito catches him kissing his remarried wife. IT'S A GHIBLI SCENE!! Until now, Ghibli films have not portrayed such human rawness. That was good, and that is why it should have been an animation that we wanted to show to children. However, this work "dared"to show that. I was impressed by the fact that it expressed pain, which I felt bad about.

Director Hayao Miyazaki overlaid on Mahito

Image:Studio Ghibli

Until now, I had no interest in Director Hayao Miyazaki, even though I have always said I liked Ghibli's works. (I was only aware that he was a great director💦) However, for some reason, after watching this film, I felt the first time that I wanted to know Director Hayao miyazaki.

The father of the Mahito in this work runs a factory of fighter planes and is depicted as being very wealthy in this time period. The father is described as somewhat arrogant and a man who solves problems with money, as if he is an adultist.

Director Hayao Miyazaki, in fact, had an uncle who was the president of Miyazaki Aircraft Kogaku, an aircraft manufacturer, and his father was the factory manager of that plant. Because the company manufactured parts for fighter planes used in the war, Hayao Miyazaki lived a wealthy life despite the war. He felt a sense of guilt and had a strong conflict.

Although it is speculation as to what kind of man the director's father actually was, since only his own testimony is available, it is said that his father, as seen by the young Hayao Miyazaki, was a man who had no sense of guilt for being complicit in the war. Hayao Miyazaki himself also said that his father was a man who played around with woman a lot, perhaps because he was wealthy.

In this work, there is a scar that Mahito says was inflicted by a bully, but in fact he inflicted it himself. If this Mahito symbolizes the director himself, it did not seem to be a self-inflicted would against such a conflict. I have another memory of him that the director talks about a lot,

My six-year-old brother and I sat with our feet in the drainage ditch under the guard and even had a futon and tatami mats propped up on top of us. It was hot and painful, and I sometimes think back to that time that I really thought I would have lost my house just like that or died. Finaly freed from the pressure of the futon and tatami, I rode in the back of the truck with my father and brother. At that moment, a mother and a little girl ruched to us and said, "Please give us a ride!!!". The memory of running away without a mother and a little girl, who had rushed to us at that time, has haunted me for a long time.

Source:"夢と狂気の王国"/2013

 

This memory of the director, which he may have spoken casually, but which tormented him for a long time, must have been traumatic because of his distrust and anger toward his father, who was absolute, and his guilt toward himself.

Distrust and trauma toward parents in childhood. This clings to our thoughts for quite a long time. It feels like a small thorn stuck in my side. I don't have any particular feelings. I am not pessimistic. But the blur remains. It is not purified. That kind of feeling. (Don't we all have a little bit of that?)

Hayao Miyazaki's previous works are, "I wish it had been like this." whereas this film "This is how I actually am. I have lived this way. But that's human nature, and right and wrong are with us." I felt that it was a philosophical work.

"Good and Evil" are eternal themes in philosophy. Perhaps his father's actions, which seemed evil to Hayao Miyazaki as a child, might have been good in the context of that era. Also, the stepmother who cries out in the film," I hate you!" may not be evil. In this way, this work could be called "the culmination of Hayao Miyazaki's work".


"The Boy and the Heron" was created by Hayao Miyazaki, who even retracted his retirement announcement. I feel his strong desire to depict something that he has never depicted before and that he has been avoiding. This film is more like "Ghibli for Adults" than an animation that can be enjoyed by children.

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