What They Say:
When Kyuta, a young orphan living on the streets of Shibuya, stumbles into a fantastic world of beasts, he’s taken in by Kumatetsu, a gruff, rough-around-the-edges warrior beast who’s been searching for the perfect apprentice. Despite their constant bickering, Kyuta and Kumatetsu begin training together and slowly form a bond as surrogate father and son. But when a deep darkness threatens to throw the human and beast worlds into chaos, the strong bond between this unlikely pair will be put to the ultimate test- a final showdown. Can the two finally work together using all of their combined strength and courage? Don’t miss the critically acclaimed film The Boy and The Beast!
The audio presentation for this release is pretty strong overall as we get the original Japanese language track with a theatrical 5.1 mix as well as the English dub, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The film works some solid action sequences, though not quite as big as Summer Wars in some ways, as it’s a more personal film with up close fights. But these have some great directionality to it and real impact as they unfold, making them pretty exciting to listen to. The score is a very good one with some subtle pieces throughout while the larger moments swell perfectly to bring the action to the forefront and support it. Both language tracks work solidly with excellent placement where needed, some decent effects along the way, and an engaging presentation throughout from big to small moments. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally in theaters in 2015, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by Studio Chizu, the film has the kind of strong visual design that we’ve come to expect from Hosoda’s films where there’s a lot of detail to the backgrounds for both worlds and some very detailed and fluid pieces to the characters. There’s a simplicity to their designs that makes the detailed moments stand out more, such as the expressiveness of the faces or the bristling of fur, and the transfer brings all of it to life well. There are some strikingly vivid moments throughout but it avoids being a constant attraction, instead using it to highlight things as opposed to be a constant barrage of delights. The end result is something that feels grounded even when fantastical and that just adds a great layer to it. The transfer is spot on and very engaging here.
The packaging design for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs for the two formats while also being wrapped in an o-card that replicates the case artwork. The front cover is a familiar image of the two leads together posing while in Kumatetsu’s world where we get a look at the variety of creatures and designs in the background that’s subtle but distinctive overall. The softness of the blue in the background works well to blend into the format strip along the top. There’s a lot of good colors here that catches the eye without being over the top, making it an appealing cover. The back cover provides for another decent expansive cast shot along the top as well as a strip of shots from the film itself. THe premise is well covered and easy to read as are the extras while the remainder has the overly big chunk of UltraViolet information and the standard and well done technical grid that covers both formats. The case itself has artwork on the reverse side that uses the same as the back cover strip but expanded and fuller, making for something you want to swap around to check out and enjoy.
The menu for this release goes very simple with just a clip of movement through a crowd that’s done with a strong blue/green filter that mutes the whole thing a lot in a way that feels weird once you see it within the film. The logo is kept simple through the middle while the navigation strip along the bottom works a nice shade of blue with clear and easy to read text for the selections. The menu may not be one that stands out but it’s functional and gets the job done, though you wish it had a bit more personality and design to it.
Sadly, the only extras we get here are a few teasers and trailers.
Mamoru Hosoda has been on a good run of films for a few years and came to a lot of prominence after his work on Summer Wars and Wolf Children, though he gained a lot of fans with his work The Girl Who Leapt Through time quite a few years ago. With his newest feature film, The Boy and the Beast, he’s proving once again that he knows how to put these films together with skill and seeming ease in that we get new and interesting worlds each time that leave you wanting to know more. Yet at the same time you feel as though it’s complete in a way that you get the right kind of closure to it since you know you’re not likely to get more. It’s a fine line to walk and one that most creators, or at least backing partners, prefer to avoid as they enjoy creating works that can be mined quite a lot.
With this film, Hosoda works an angle that I like a lot in that we get some real honest and true progression of time rather than everything taking place within a small period. It’s one of the reasons I enjoyed Wolf Children as much as I did because it showed us a range of years and how characters grow and change and how relationships are impacted by it. The film works the story of the boy, Kyuta, a nine year old who has lost his mother and whose father left some time ago amid a divorce. While there appears to be some money within the family and there are those that will take him in to care for him – noting that he’ll never want for anything – all Kyuta wants is his father and is intent on getting revenge on the rest of the family for denying him. The anger of a nine-year-old over the loss of his mother, his sole provider, is something that you can connect with easily and they sell it well here to make it feel honest and meaningful as he runs away into the city at night, uncertain of what to do.
It’s amid all of this that he accidentally meets Kumatetsu from the Beast Kingdom, a world unseen by humanity and the darkness that all humans contain within them. Kyuta’s overhearing of how Kumatetsu is looking for a pupil and would even take in a human gives Kyuta an out, though amusing Kumatetsu would even take a dishrag as he goes on about. What Kyuta discovers is that within the Beast Kingdom there’s a challenge that Kumatetsu is part of as the currently lord of the realm is getting ready to retire and use the gift he gets to ascend and become a god. Kumatetsu is hoping to take over as the next lord and he’s in direct competition with Iozen, who is most beloved, highly skilled, and definitely gifted in many ways with family and pupils. Kumatetsu, by contrast, isn’t liked all that much as he’s temperamental, chaotic at times, and not someone that others get along with, though they don’t hate or dislike him. He’s just… not Iozen.
You can map out the struggle that Kumatetsu and Kyuta have as Kumatetsu isn’t interested in Kyuta as a pupil for a range of reasons – including that Kumatetsu really isn’t a great teacher – and Kyuta struggles with how Kumatetsu presents himself and the kind of resentment and anger that’s part of Kumatetsu’s makeup. What we see is how Kyuta begins to become a part of things, a rarity here where humans aren’t usually found, and begins to win over Kumatetsu through a number of different methods. That we see this take place over the course of eight years or so is great and it shows how Kyuta changes and how he changes Kumatetsu because of it. So when the film shifts to Kyuta discovering passage back to the world of humans and connecting with people and more there, it opens some interesting rifts for the leads to deal with as well as the larger path that Kumatetsu is on to try and become the lord of the Beast Kingdom. Admittedly, like a lot of movies, you can map out most of what’s going to happen here and then savor the execution and small twists that come in along the way.
And The Boy and the Beast does this well. With the first half largely dealing with nine-year-old Kyuta and his understanding of the place and winning over Kumatetsu, it’s charming and fun and full of its own kind of energy. When it shifts to the back half of the film with and older Kyuta that’s a bit more sullen, uncertain of his place in the world, and the discovering he’s missing his own world after seeing it again, you struggle with what path you hope he takes and then work through understanding why he chooses the path he does and those new people that enter his life. Though it’s easy to view Kumatetsu as the lead and he does have a large role here, this is really Kyuta’s film and his journey from child to man and becoming just as worthy of becoming the lord of the Beast Kingdom is thoroughly engaging and exciting to watch.
The Boy and the Beast had a strong theatrical run in Japan where it did just under $50 million US and further cemented Hosoda as a creator to watch. With a theatrical cycle to work with there’s definitely a lot of appeal in seeing how his self contained works come together and The Boy and the Beast is definitely a strong one. One that I think I’ll end up liking better than Summer Wars when all is said and done, though it won’t top Wolf Children. This film tells a very good coming of age story with a look at what family is, how we grow and change as individuals, and the impact we have on others over the course of years. There’s a lot to like here and dig into that can make for some great and lengthy conversations, which is the best kind of film.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Original Teaser, Trailers
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: June 7th, 2016
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.