© Wild Bunch Germany GmbH / Central Film Verleih GmbH

Der Junge und der Reiher (The Boy and the Heron, Kimitachi wa dô ikiru ka)
Japan 2023

Opening 4 Jan 2024

Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Writing credits: Hayao Miyazaki
Principal actors: Soma Santoki, Masaki Suda, Ko Shibasaki, Yoshino Kimura, Takuya Kimura

It’s war in Tokyo and the boy Mahito loses his mother in a huge fire. Life goes on with the help of seven elderly female housekeepers. His father has moved into the countryside to take over a factory. Here he has a girlfriend Natsuko, who is pregnant. Mahito begins a new life with them; he is lonely and has no friends in the new school. His “friend” in the end is a grey heron who follows him, talking continuously. A magical trick allows the bird to become a sort of human, stalking on bird’s legs. Mahito constructs a bow and arrow, using a few feathers from the heron, a useful help when he follows Natsuko who disappears into the woods. Where is she? Soon another young woman comes by on a boat. She is the older sister of Natsuko. Their search takes them to a tower which was built and is still controlled by a great uncle, who sets up contact with Mahito. The uncle wishes that the boy become his successor. And so, the story continues into a new, mysterious world full of more birds such as a parakeet king and many pelicans. Strange white round beings float and fly by.

This anime, or animated film, was sensationally successful—not only in its original country, Japan, but also in France where it soon hit number one. It opened the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. Director Miyazaki began his career in 1963 and has an amazing list of successful films such as My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Princess Mononoke (1997). The Boy and the Heron is partly autobiographical reflecting Miyazaki’s own experiences leaving Tokyo during the bombing of World War II, finding a new life, establishing relationship with his father, etc. Is this perhaps Miyazaki’s final film? He is now eighty-two years old and has been in the film business for over sixty years. The music by Joe Hisaishi fits perfectly, always remaining in background. Although this is an animation, I recommend it for older children and adults. (Becky Tan)

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