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‘The Boy and the Heron’: Why You Should Make It the Next Movie You Watch

What we know so far about Studio Ghibli’s newest film, and why it’s worth a trip to the movies this December!

Image of a young boy from Studio Ghibli's The Boy and the Heron. Mahito is alone in the frame and with a band on the side of his head.
Main caracter Mahito voiced by Luca Padovan. Credit: Studio Ghibli

The beloved animation company Studio Ghibli has returned with a magical new film. The Boy and the Heron promises a new adventure full of every reason we love Ghibli: stunning animation, loveable characters, immersive musical scores, and wonderfully imaginative stories.    

The announcement for The Boy and the Heron came as a pleasant surprise. Renowned director Hayao Miyazaki had announced retirement before working on the supposed final film, How Do You Live, renamed for the international audience as The Boy and the Heron.

However, Miyazaki’s stance on whether he will retire is up in the air – which comes as great news for Ghibli fans! The preliminary news on the film came with a unique promotional approach. A poster and few details were granted, but everything else was left as a mystery.  

Image of a hand-drawn heron.
The first poster for The Boy and the Heron. Credit: Studio Ghibli

About the Film

Now, with the mystery unveiled, we’ve learned The Boy and the Heron follows the young Mahito as he ventures into a fantastical world shared by the dead and living in search of his mother, who might still be alive. Studio Ghibli further describes the film as “A semi-autobiographical fantasy about life, death, and creation”, with deep themes brewing a perfect film.

Cast

A great film certainly needs a great cast, and all eyes are on the English voice cast of The Boy and the Heron. Some of the most recognized names include Christian Bale, Dave Bautista, Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson, and Florence Pugh. 

Christian Bale returns for another voice acting role in the Ghibli universe, having voiced Howl in Howl’s Moving Castle (2004).

Image of wizard Howl from the film Howl's Moving Castle.
Bale’s character Howl in Howl’s Moving Castle. Credit: Studio Ghibli

Robert Pattinson debuts his voice acting work as the titular character, the Gray Heron, and is already impressing audiences with just the trailer.  

Worth the watch? Yes!

Studio Ghibli has proven time and time again their absolute talent with crafting wonderful films, but does The Boy and the Heron uphold the Ghibli film foundations? Let’s review the qualifying factors.

Animation

If there’s one thing Studio Ghibli is known for, it’s the distinctive hand-drawn style of its films. The addition of vivid color palettes in the settings and characters are a significant reason why Ghibli films are so visually immersive. Take the colors of Ponyo (2008) as an example of the beautiful animation.

Image of a young girl and fish next to her. Vivid colors including scarlet, golds, and blue make up the image.
Ponyo and her sisters in the sea. Credit: Studio Ghibli

The colors of The Boy and the Heron don’t fall far behind in their radiance. Even more, Studio Ghibli returned to the hand-drawn creation of the films with The Boy and the Heron, an important step after the mixed reactions to the 3D animation of Earwig and the Witch (2020).

Characters

Interesting characters are another component of the Ghibli film formula. In this category, Mahito shares many traits with Chihiro of the Oscar Award-winning Spirited Away (2001). Both are young protagonists who are tasked with understanding the mysterious and magical world they’ve stumbled into. Like Chihiro, perhaps Mahito will learn to be courageous and venture into the unknown to save himself and others.

Image of the film Spirited Away with a young girl holding onto a blue and green dragon specimen.
Chihiro in Spirited Away. Credit: Studio Ghibli

Musical Score

Like with every Ghibli film, we can expect a powerful and moving musical score from The Boy and the Heron. According to the GKIDS official website, composer Joe Hisaishi also worked on Miyazaki’s newest film. The enchanting scores from Hisaishi’s history with Ghibli films are always the cherry on the top to experiencing the magical stories. Hisaishi’s music is ideal even outside the Ghibli films, perfect for a study session or relaxing nighttime playlist. Take a listen to one of Hisaishi’s most applauded songs from Howl’s Moving Castle.

Story

At the core of every film is the story that drives it. Studio Ghibli films tend to follow themes such as connection, personal growth, adventure, and nature. All of these elements work together to create inspiring stories for viewers. With The Boy and the Heron, there’s an exciting attachment to the film being a semi-autobiographical story from Miyazaki. The brilliant mind that has produced several Ghibli films grants a personal touch to the film, and we can only wait to uncover what it is.

Cute Creatures and Food

Ever seen food in a film you just with you could reach out and grab it? Ghibli loves placing yummy meals that are even more enticing by the vibrant colors. The bakery setting in Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) is a prime example of this. If The Boy and the Heron wakes our taste buds, don’t be too surprised.

Image of a chocolate cake with a drawn girl, Kiki, on a boom.
Cake from Kiki’s Delivery Service. Credit: Studio Ghibli

Apart from loveable characters are the loveable creatures. They’re either individual characters like Totoro from My Neighbor Totoro (1988), or small creatures in numbers like the Sootsprites in Spirited Away. The trailer for The Boy and the Heron features a glimpse at some small floating creatures, sure to be a great addition to the film.

Image of small ghost-like creatures from The Boy and the Heron.
New Ghibli creatures from The Boy and the Heron. Credit: Studio Ghibli

Get your tickets!

So, with all these great elements to a film, are you convinced to watch it? With deep themes of life and death, a great voice acting cast, and awe-inspiring visuals, The Boy and the Heron seems like a great film to close the year with!

The film releases December 8 in theaters across the U.S. Get your tickets soon and prepare for another Ghibli masterpiece.

Written By

Hi! My name is Slane and I’m a writer studying English at California State University Long Beach. Analyzing films, books, shows, and characters is a great passion of mine.

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