The Boy and The Heron no spoiler review of the protagonist's story
Movies

The Boy and The Heron blends grief with magic

The Boy and The Heron

Hayao Miyazaki’s latest Studio Ghibli film, The Boy and The Heron, is a masterpiece of magic and emotion. The animation is fluid and breathtaking, as expected from a Studio Ghibli film, but with better technology, the animation is smoother than their older films like Spirited Away or Kiki’s Delivery Service. Still, it retains that charm from the classic films they have produced. Nature plays a huge role again, catalysing every major event in the movie. How exactly does it portray grief through magic? 

Miyazaki has based many of his works on his mother, Yoshiko, and The Boy and The Heron is no exception. The main character, Mahito Maki, loses his mother in a hospital fire and ever since his father’s remarriage to Mahito’s aunt, he has been coping in a self-sabotaging way. He is distant with his parents and other people, he breaks his head with a rock after a school fight and intentionally gets himself into terrifying situations. However, after his stepmother mysteriously disappears into the forest, he takes charge and shows an incredibly brave side of him. 

The protagonist, Mahito Maki

The protagonist, Mahito Maki

Why is the Japanese title so different from the English version? 

The original Japanese title translated to “How Do You Live?”, is a reference to something that Mahito discovers later in the film. It’s a bittersweet moment between his late mother and him, a sign he probably unknowingly craved. Throughout the film, we witness the comparison between his stepmother and his birth mother and wonder how harrowing this must be for a boy as young as Mahito. He is plagued with dreams of her death, hearing her call to save her. The grey heron of the title ends up using this against him and eventually Mahito deliberately falls into the trap. His journey in this mysterious world is a concept unique and truly can only be executed by Studio Ghibli. It shows us the importance of family and friendship, and accepting your emotions. 

Mahito Maki meets a mysterious person

Mahito Maki meets a mysterious person

What role does the titular Heron play in the movie? 

Well, the grey heron or The Birdman is quite an interesting character. Initially quite malicious and mischievous towards Mahito, the two eventually learn to work together in the other world. Their journey towards friendship is steady and slow, portrayed quite naturally, despite their initial strange interactions. The visual style of the heron is eccentric and unnatural, the opposite of their beautiful surroundings, and yet piques the curiosity of the audience. His taunts at Mahito are, at first, threatening and sinister but you quickly find out his true nature. Through this revelation blooms a beautiful friendship and, of course, comedic relief. 

Mahito Maki and The Birdman make amends

A treat for fans of fantasy 

The Boy and The Heron is, overall, a must-watch for Studio Ghibli fans but also anyone in love with fantasy. It brings back the nostalgia of the strange little creatures as well as the strong female characters. You also get inspired by Mahito’s bravery and acceptance of his emotions. From the gorgeous visuals of the surrounding environment and its portrayal of magic, it’s a delight for the audience. It is a brilliant perspective on grief through the eyes of a child. No matter what genre you prefer, the latest Studio Ghibli creation is an unforgettable journey. 

Mahito and Kiriko witness the powers of the mysterious person


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