ODirector Mamoru Hosoda uses universal character dynamics in
to show growth is a lifelong pursuit. By Charles Solomon.
ver the last decade, Mamoru Hosoda has established himself as one of the most interesting writer-directors working in animation with a string of original, compelling features: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006), Summer Wars (2009), Wolf Children (2012) and The Boy and the Beast (2015).
Although it was the No. 2 box-office earner in Japan in 2015 — pulling in ¥5.85 billion (about U.S. $48.6 million) — The Boy and the Beast had only a brief Oscar-qualifying run in America (in Japanese) and failed to attract much attention. Funimation released March 4 the English dub, which should help bring the film the audience it deserves.
After the death of his mother, sulky Kyuta (Eric Vale) runs away from his stuffy relatives. As he roams Shibuya, he stumbles onto a passageway to the Juntengai, an alternate city of monsters. There he encounters Kumatetsu (John Swasey), an ursine martial artist who may become the next ruler of the realm.
Kumatetsu is loud, crude, slovenly and bad-tempered. Kyuta’s repulsed by his demeanor but attracted by his strength. He asks for training. These characters don’t form a touchy-feely Daniel-Mr. Miyagi bond. They squabble and learn and grow, a process Hosoda captures by juxtaposing slapstick and reflective sequences.
Hosoda discussed making Boy and Beast in a recent email interview, beginning with his thoughts on the unusual master-student relationship at the heart of the film.
“During the growth process, children experience turmoil and a sense of things lacking within them,” he says. “I wanted to depict that not in a dualistic ‘light and dark’ way, but in a positive way, as part of the processes necessary to growing up. Everyone loses sight of their own identity at times, and children live with the burden of their insufficiencies. Adults tend to look for the ‘right answer,’ but it’s the process that’s important. I wanted to scrupu-