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The Boy And The Heron

Farhad Dalal
Farhad Dalal
4 Star popcorn reviewss


This has got to be one of the most beautiful and unique animes that I may have watched in the last couple of years since Suzume! My fascination for animes began a few years back when I did watch one of the most heartbreaking films of all times, Grave Of The Fireflies. The scar that the film left on me did bring a sense of curiosity as well related to some of the other animes which were being rolled out then. And since then, I have been privy to a whole lot of anime films that have enchanted me with their world of magic and the elementals. It was during this period that I had watched another great anime titled Spirited Away, one of my first films of legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. And even as he turns a tender age of 83, he has bagged another oscar for his latest film The Boy And The Heron, a film that won the best animated film at the academy awards this year. But its India theatrical release remained a mystery even as loads of cinephiles back here keenly awaited its release. It was only when Warner Brothers picked the film for its release, that the film made its theatrical release in India. And with much curiosity, I ventured into the mysterious world of The Boy And The Heron. So then does The Boy And The Heron manage to impress, let’s find out.

Story & Screenplay

Set against the backdrop of the second world war, The Boy And The Heron follows the story of a young boy grieving the death of his mother, and yet to accept the presence of his father’s new wife, who enters the mysterious world while being lead by a heron who claims that his mother is still alive. Now, the best way to actually enjoy this story is to actually know very little about it. Because given its premise, it is easy to be swayed with the fact that this might be an emotional ride of sorts. At its core, the emotions are there but if you are familiar with the works of Hayao Miyazaki then the drama would be laced with magic and an imagination that is very unique in its own right. So I would say that the screenplay here standing at a little over 2 hours is a niche and you need to surrender to the vision of the filmmaker to truly enjoy this beautiful tale of love, loss and acceptance. 

The drama begins with the introduction of the protagonist who wakes up to the fact that his mother has passed away at a hospital ablazed during the second world war. Even as the protagonist doesn’t quite come to terms with it, he is acquainted with his mother’s sister who will be his new step-mother, even as she is pregnant with a child of her own. And as they shift cities to the countryside, there is a sense of awkwardness coupled with grief wherein the vulnerable side of the protagonist is on full display. So you do see him simmering with anger to the point of hurting himself with a stone following a fight with his friends at school, even as he finds it hard to adjust to his new environment. Amidst the setting, is a heron who frequents the mansion and tries to interact with the protagonist in the most mysterious manner. The secret lies beyond the realms of this world, wherein a magical and mysterious world awaits the presence of the protagonist with the knowledge of his mother being alive! 

The proceedings are magical and so unique to the style of storytelling that is familiar to Hayao Miyazaki that if you anticipate a string of emotions in store for you then there ain’t any in the offering. This is because the emotions are pretty much in the underlying layer while being very gentle in nature as opposed to being in your face. The idea is to allow the viewers to feel the numbness of the protagonist who has feelings suppressed deep within him, even as he hasn’t quite come to terms with his reality. And hence, the decision to take the protagonist away from his reality, and into an imaginary astral world was the start of acquainting him with the fact that ‘life’ does exist in a different capacity elsewhere. This, even as the protagonist reluctantly acquaints himself to the new world in search for his step-mother while meeting a few familiar entities along the way. 

One of my favourite aspects of the drama was the themes that it wished to portray. The concept of the astral world is seldom used in the mainstream format, and here it was equated with the concept of love and hope through a set of blocks. And more the emotions were pure without any malice, the structure comprising of the blocks would be stable. This, even as the protagonist finds himself in the midst of an adventure featuring the parakeets, the heron and his great grandfather along with the presence of a couple of elementals. The emotional thread isn’t non-existential here, in fact it is used as a virtue holding the drama together, something that surfaces towards the end in the most poignant manner. It was a surreal experience of acceptance and peace when the protagonist comes to terms with his reality, in a screenplay that is so unique and beautiful while exploring some complex themes.

Dialogues, Music & Direction

The dialogues are enchanting and poignant, so you really need to be attentive and willing to dig deep with the kind of conversations that are in store. The music is soulful and beautifully goes in sync with the bittersweet vibe of the drama. The BGM is subtle and doesn’t intend to overpower or manipulate the emotions. But the sound design is excellent with every motion lacing the scene with a touch of reality. For instance, if a character is crawling on a wooden flooring, you hear the squeks and impressions of an object touching the wooden floor. The anime itself is brilliant and almost invites you into its enchanting world. The editing is razor sharp and doesn’t hamper the continuity of the drama which was important in a film dealing with a complex theme. Legendary director Hayao Miyazaki does a brilliant job by handling a complex subject with utmost sensitivity. And his vision as a filmmaker is impeccable to the core wherein he allows his imagination to run riot while maintaining the underlying emotions wonderfully well. The direction is truly one of a kind here.


The voiceovers are wonderful to witness here. Takuya Kimura as Shoichi does a pretty good job here. Yoshino Kimura as Natsuko is gentle with her voice modulation that exudes of a lot of warmth. Aimyon as Himi is really heartfelt and deftly dabbles with her voiceover to extract the right kind of emotions. Ko Shibasaki as Kiriko is excellent here while being assertive and caring through her voiceover. Masaki Suda as the heron is playful and extracts a goofy sense of humour with his voiceover. Soma Santoki as Mahito does a tremendous job by representing a voice with suppressed emotions. In fact, the range that he possesses is wonderful to watch in an overall job done brilliantly.


The winner of the Best Animated Film at the Academy Awards this year, The Boy And The Heron is a magical journey of love, loss and acceptance riddled in an enchanting and mysterious astral world that made for one of the most unique and beautiful movie watching experiences this year. Available in a theatre near you and Highly Recommended.

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