What They Say:
After becoming a father, Hosoda used his personal experience to shape the story of Kyuta and Kumatetsu in The Boy and the Beast by exploring the trials of fatherhood and the bonds of those we surround ourselves with. And, by weaving in influences from Japanese folklore, he created the vividly rendered beast world of Jutengai that contrasted with the human world’s modern, bustling city of Shibuya.
For this viewing, I watched the Blu-ray English Dub, which is offered in 5.1 Dolby TrueHD. The Japanese track is also offered 5.1 (and on the DVD, both tracks are given in 5.1 Surround). The audio is crisp and clear, with some really nice directionality—both left/right and front/back—on the sound effects and dialogue. The was no dropout among any of the channels.
Visually, this movie is very impressive. The transfer to BD came through nicely, with crisp colors and smooth animation. I like the character designs of all of the various beasts. Kumatetsu, in particular, has some great facial expressions, and the action looks great.
Some great stuff in the packaging, too. The movie comes in a standard size BD case, which holds both the BD and DVD. The cover is reversible, with one side having the title and all the technical details like normal, and the other just being images. But the central theme of each side is a picture of Kyuta and Kumatetsu posing with their swords, which is important because there is a red plastic sleeve that slides over the whole set that has a window cutout that looks through to them. It’s slickly done.
Also in the set—coming inside the plastic sleeve, but separate from the BD case—is a “Companion Book” with a series of interviews with the creators of the movie along with some pictures and other helpful information. It’s a great little booklet that adds well to the whole thing.
The menu on this disc has an animatic of various scenes from the movie playing while the main theme plays in the background. The selections are available along the bottom and switching between menus just changes what’s available to select and doesn’t change the screen. It’s well put together and easy to follow, exactly what you’d want in a menu screen.
Aside from the booklet mentioned in the Packaging section above, this set also has quite a few other extras. There are featurettes about the “Making of,” interviews with the cast, various promos and other TV specials, and finally a bunch of trailers and TV spots. This reminded me a lot of the sort of stuff we used to get regularly on releases back during the anime bubble of the 2000s that is sadly missing on a lot of releases now. There’s a lot here to sink your teeth in. The only odd thing is that the extras are BD only, and usually it’s the other way around. So if you only have a DVD player, then you will miss out, unfortunately.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Boy and the Beast is a movie that came with a lot of buzz. An official entrant in any number of film festivals around the world (and not just animation festivals), it arrived on my doorstep with a lot of hype to live up to. And boy did it live up to it.
Ren’s parents are separated, and he lives with his mother as he holds a grudge against his father for the divorce. When his mother dies, he runs away rather than going to live with his father. Alone on the streets of Shibuya, Ren finds himself face-to-face with Kumatetsu, a beast and bad-tempered warrior with a sarcastic sense of humor and a love of putting others down. Jokingly, he suggests that Ren should become his apprentice, and when he leaves, Ren follows, unwittingly crossing over to the beast world where he is even more alone.
Yet, when the Grandmaster of the beasts meets Ren, he decides that Ren is just the person Kumatetsu needs in his life and demands that Kumatetsu takes Ren on as his apprentice. Kumatetsu has no choice but to acquiesce, giving Ren the new name of Kyuta (as Ren refused to tell him his real name). Kumatetsu has no idea how to teach, and even if he did, Kyuta would be too hard-headed to listen, and so together, the two of them begin to learn that sometimes going it alone isn’t always the best option.
The Boy and the Beast has a lot of great action. The first time we really see Kumatetsu, he’s fighting a duel with Iozen, and the action just ramps up from there. Kyuta has his own share of battles, and the movie climaxes on a big fight scene. But while the action is well done and provides nice popcorn moments, it is not the crux of the story and not, ultimately, why The Boy and the Beast is so good. Rather it is in the growth of both Kyuta and Kumatetsu and where it leads the both of them. In his grumpy way, Kumatetsu provides Kyuta with the structure and guidance he lost when his mother died and when he rejected his father’s aid. Kumatetsu shows Kyuta what the presence of a father can do for a boy, so when Kyuta is able to return to the human world, he understands that he needs to track down his real father and begin to mend the bridges that collapsed when he ran away years ago.
And on the flip-side, Kumatetsu’s gruffness is a façade—deep down, he is insecure about his own abilities and worth, but rather than work to prove that he belongs, he instead pushes everybody away so that they cannot see his failure. Kyuta, though, keeps coming back. When Kumatetsu is battling with Iozen, Kyuta is the only one cheering Kumatetsu on and urging him to be better. And every time Kumatetsu pushes him away, Kyuta returns. But despite this, Kyuta doesn’t put up with Kumatetsu’s nonsense, either. Kumatetsu might officially be Kyuta’s master, but Kyuta does not let him get away with acting like a spoiled child. And this stiffens Kumatetsu’s backbone, allowing him to become the warrior and leader that he has the ability to be.
While there is plenty of action to sink your teeth into, it is the relationships that drive this movie. Kyuta’s growth as a boy and man, Kumatetsu’s growth as a man and warrior, and growth of their understanding of the world around them make this a wonderful coming-of-age tale. It’s a real human story about two loners who find the world a little richer when they let others in. The relationships between Kyuta and Kumatetsu and Kyuta and his real father are beautiful and well-developed and act well as the anchor for the action surrounding Kyuta’s life. Aside from the movie being top-notch, it’s also obvious that Funimation cared a lot about this release and has given it a lot of nice little touches and bells-and-whistles that we don’t see much anymore. Great movie. Great release. Highly recommended.
The Boy and the Beast Exclusive Making Of, Cast Talk: The Best of The Boy and the Beast, Film Countdown Special, Promo Videos, Studio Chizu x ZIP! Collaborations, Original Japanese Trailers, TV Spot Collection, Trailers.
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A-
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: July 4, 2017
Running Time: 119 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p (BD)/480i/p (DVD)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 HD Native
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, LG BP330 Blu-ray Player w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System