Not Hayao Miyazaki’s Last Film

Boy that Heron had the creep factor.

I didn’t have much time off work over the holidays just my usual days off but got Christmas off. My last day off I decided to take a solo date that morning to go see Hayao Miyazaki newest film “The Boy And The Heron“, which was suppose to be his last film for good but rumoured to not be the case when reading trusted news articles. If anything learning about Miyazaki over the years and watching his documentary, he is a man that will do what he loves still the day he dies. No initial interest was there for me at first when circulating in the media, he may release his newest film this year but not till watching the english dub trailer did then my interest was peaked. 2013 The Wind Rises was the film makers last film, long time and I didn’t watch till much later on but enjoyed quite a bit even though. Howl’s Moving Castle and Nausicaa are my favourites by him but The Boy and The Heron possesses a different atmosphere to any of his other works entirely, I welcomed this personal change he put out into the world whether being his last work or not. 

Miyazaki Gets Personal 

If you have ever see a Miyazaki film you know the man’s ideas and heart are in every single one but “The Boy and The Heron” or translated “How Do You Live?” an intimacy of connection is between him and this work that you don’t notice until later on. It’s the first of his works where from past and present Miyazaki history has been embedded and taken reference among the story. This film is set in early 1940s during world war II, towards the end of the war where Miyazaki and main character Mahito were caught up in. A near loss of Miyazaki’s own mother and Mahito’s mother dying in a hospital fire has a strong imprint. Inspiration is taken from also the 1937 novel “How Do You Live?” by Genzaburo Yoshino diving into the themes of human will, grief and loss in combination together between creator and creation were delivered a sentimental piece from Miyazaki which is beautiful. Did I also mention Miyazaki love of birds is most apparent at all times, haha. Taken all of these into account leads to a new appreciation for film, it’s not until taking the time to process to let what you just witness sink in, then are your eyes more open than before.

 To Grieve, To Accept, To Live

The beginning of the film begins with a sad and mute atmosphere from the distraught struggle on young Mahito’s face as he loses his mother in a hospital fire, thus begins ability to deal with the pending grief that comes to build up. His father remarrying his mother’s young sister is a kick in the guts of new acceptance which Mahito is reluctant of coming to terms with. The introduction of a grieved boy who is petrified from grief itself is all around from his facial expressions and defiant actions. Mahito’s feelings are a transparent reflection of the process we find ourselves in to not accept what is or has happened, Mahito’s feelings go on a long journey when a Heron calls to him to come see his dead mother and transported to an alternate reality of the dead where the living entering is taboo. The heron I understood is a important character being the gatekeeper will call between reality and no reality and acting as a guide for Mahito but I found it a bit perplexing despite knowing the purpose of the Heron’s character. The heron was not on anyone’s side really, a very fickle bird through its actions sometimes is why I was left perplexed but again understood the purpose. 

A lot goes on in this film and at one point felt cluttered together with the different stage of world Mahito was in. I understood the concepts behind them especially these tiny white spirits known as Warawara, which represented the born stage of humans going up to the living world. But a lot cramped together made for the breakdown of the vital film themes confusing for me at times, to me weighed down the film a bit. Despite the one clear takeaway I got was Mahito had a choice to dive into his malice grief or not. Clear message in this important scene of the title of the film How do you live? What do you choose?


Animation Galore 

One of studio Ghibli best knowns is the use of cel animation, exquisite hand drawn animation. They are like the old disney from 1940s and later, a disney I love where majority of all the backgrounds were hand drawn and watercolor was used regularly. Nothing can replace something as timeless as that. Ghibli animation is that timeless walking into the fantasy realm in this film, the sky and free space all around speak of a boundless, untied aura in this alternate space. A coastal setting I felt was most appropriate for the atmosphere Miyazaki was creating of the living and the dead. The detail of Mahito’s new housing when he first arrives is just gold, that volume of detail reminded me of Howl’s castle, a interesting design and unsightly mess but such beauty spoke about Howl’s home. Nothing is cut short if anything when it comes to Ghibli’s animation, there is such connection always between the story and the surroundings. That is not easy to convey across easily. 

English Dub Best

The Chosen few for the English Dub cast of this film was amazing, I went to see the dub specifically for one actor in particular whom we know as Edward Cullen. Mr Robert Pattinson stars in his first ever voice over work and it’s a stunning performing playing the complex character of the heron. When the film came out all I heard was about Rob’s performance that it was unlike you had heard from him and indeed can clarify the masses are right. I just sat there and went, HOW? how is this man doing this malice, rough voice for a odd bird. He amazed me again, he amazed me in Batman, we have found a new respect. Christian Bale makes a return playing Mahito’s father, wonderful to hear his voice because all I can hear him as Howl himself. Dan Stevens was a interesting addition as a parakeet and goblin guy Willem Dafoe playing a dead pelican. The dub was phenomenal for me, everyone played their roles with respect and pose, you can hear through their voices and brought all of the characters to life. 

So,  The Boy and The Heron for me was a good watch, it’s still not my favourite among the ghibli others but Hayao Miyazaki own personal connection to this work is the stand out. How Do You Live? question is conveyed to make us think about something that we wouldn’t give the time to think of among our busy lives. Are we living how we wish too and are we being true for ourselves? To not give into malice and negative but find a silver lining and grab onto that purpose. To not give in to the pent up grief and become a mute box because you’re not living then. Truly is a movie where you reach your own take away from the film and you’ll like or don’t. 

What was your take away from the film?

See you in the next post! 


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