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The Boy and the Heron

What is reported to be Hayao Miyazaki’s final feature film hit theaters in early December, and he has once again proven that his creativity and expertise know no bounds. The Boy and the Heron follows the story of Mahito, a young boy grieving the loss of his mother during World War II, as he and his father move to the family’s estate in the Japanese countryside. Restless, the boy spends his time exploring his new surroundings and encounters a pesky, talking heron who leads him to an ominous tower on the outskirts of the property. After his pregnant stepmother disappears without a word, Mahito enters the tower, embarking on a mystical journey full of grief, acceptance, and a ton of birds.

Image Credit: Studio Ghibli

From the inimitable character design and development to the fluid animation to yet another heart-stopping score from Joe Hisaishi, nothing in this film disappoints. The plot, an amalgamation of Miyazaki’s past films with its own twists, is amazingly complex while still managing to hit you right where it hurts (in a good way, I promise). Mahito is one of the most compelling and transformative Studio Ghibli protagonists. He begins the movie grief-ridden and resentful from losing his mother and ends his journey having gained acceptance, realizing that sometimes stories are simply out of our control, and must come to an end.

Like all good Studio Ghibli films, The Boy and the Heron certainly isn’t lacking in pompous, dictator-like antagonists and cute little creatures. Despite the melancholy tone of it all, it leaves you with the same feel-good, warm, and fuzzy sentiment as the other Studio Ghibli films that raised our generation. The autobiographical elements and the underlying tone of finality, however, make this feeling linger a little longer and feel all the more special. 

Warning: this WILL have you in your feels and questioning why you are crying over an 83-year-old man’s retirement, but would you really have it any other way?

Florencia Bendersky is a freshman in the College.


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