The Boy and the Heron is an upcoming Japanese animated fantasy film written and directed by the legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. After a decade long hiatus, this marks Miyazaki’s return to feature filmmaking and his first original story since 2013’s The Wind Rises.
Excitement is building for this highly anticipated movie, especially among fans of Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki’s earlier masterpieces like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. With beautiful hand-drawn animation, imaginative world building, and emotional storytelling, The Boy and the Heron promises to deliver all the hallmarks of a Miyazaki classic.
- Original story not based on the 1937 novel of the same name by Genzaburō Yoshino, though the novel appears in the film
- Protagonist Mahito modeled after Miyazaki’s childhood experiences
- Explores themes of life, death, friendship, and creation
- Hand-drawn animation and Miyazaki’s first feature film in 10 years
- Selected for Toronto International Film Festival and releasing on December 8, 2023 in US theaters
As we get closer to the December premiere, here’s everything you need to know about the plot, characters, release dates, and more for The Boy and the Heron.
Plot Synopsis: A Magical Coming-of-Age Story
The Boy and the Heron tells the story of a young boy named Mahito who moves to a seaside town. While exploring his new surroundings, he discovers an abandoned tower inhabited by a talking grey heron.
Mahito befriends the heron and it transports him into a mystical world between life and death. There he encounters ghosts of people from different eras in history, ranging from prehistoric times to futuristic civilizations.
Throughout this metaphysical journey, Mahito comes to terms with themes of life, death, impermanence, and human connection. The film pays tribute to the importance of friendship as Mahito forms a close bond with the wise heron.
Main Characters: Mahito and the Heron
Mahito – The main protagonist, an elementary school boy who moves with his family to a quiet seaside town. Curious and kind-hearted, he befriends a mystical grey heron.
The Heron – A talking grey heron who lives in an abandoned tower near Mahito’s new home. The heron acts as a guide, transporting Mahito between the worlds of the living and dead. He dispenses wit and wisdom.
Mahito’s Parents – Mahito’s loving mother and father who move the family to the seaside town for his father’s new job.
Ghost Characters – Various ghosts Mahito encounters on his journey, ranging from prehistoric tribes to futuristic warriors. They provide lessons about impermanence and human nature.
Release Dates Across the World
The Boy and the Heron has been steadily released across international film festivals and theaters leading up to its US debut in December 2023. Here are some of the key release dates:
- July 14, 2023 – Japan
- September 7, 2023 – Canada (Toronto International Film Festival premiere)
- October 8, 2023 – UK (London Film Festival)
- October 18, 2023 – US (Animation Is Film Festival)
- November 1, 2023 – France
- December 8, 2023 – US nationwide theatrical release
After premiering at festivals like Toronto and London, the movie opens in most countries throughout October and November 2023. The long-awaited US release comes on December 8, with both theatrical and IMAX screenings confirmed.
Beautiful Hand-Drawn Animation
As expected from Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki, The Boy and the Heron features stunning hand-drawn 2D animation. Every frame is rich with detailed scenery and expressive characters.
The mystical world that Mahito explores is filled with imaginative landscapes, ghostly figures, and whimsical buildings. Colors pop with vibrancy. Miyazaki’s signature aviation scenes will also be present with sequences involving flying machines.
Longtime Studio Ghibli collaborator and lead animator Katsuya Kondō oversees the animation. He worked on classics like Kiki’s Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, and Howl’s Moving Castle.
Expect the same awe-inspiring sense of artistry and visual wonder that Miyazaki’s films are revered for. The Boy and the Heron will be a beautiful viewing experience.
Autobiographical Elements and Themes
Many fans look forward to the autobiographical components of The Boy and the Heron. Mahito’s character and childhood experiences mirror Miyazaki’s own upbringing.
Born in 1941, Miyazaki grew up in the seaside town of Utsunomiya before moving to Tokyo. The post-World War II setting will shape the movie’s backdrop.
Beyond the slice-of-life vignettes, larger themes are explored. Like most Miyazaki works, the story contemplates humanity’s relationship with nature, technology, destruction, and redemption.
The poignant coming-of-age narrative will grapple with existential concepts like the meaning of life and inevitability of death. Signature Miyazaki themes of environmentalism and pacifism are also expected to feature prominently.
What Critics Are Saying – High Praise So Far
Early reviews out of the film festival circuit have been glowing. Critics unanimously praise the emotional weight of the story coupled with the stunning animation.
Many reviews have highlighted the nostalgic, reflective tone that feels like quintessential Miyazaki. The mystical elements have also earned comparisons to Spirited Away.
While the story is more intimate and small-scale than past Miyazaki epics, critics say the exploration of life’s big questions still packs power. It delivers profound messages through whimsical adventure.
The Boy and the Heron is being hailed as a bold new triumph for Miyazaki and a worthwhile decade-long wait for fans. Expectations are sky-high for the December theatrical release.
Trailers and Music – A Sneak Preview
Though full trailers have yet to emerge, a couple brief teasers were released. They depict serene coastal scenery, Miyazaki’s aviation motifs, and hints of the ghostly realm.
Longtime Miyazaki composer Joe Hisaishi returns with the score. His piano-driven compositions are essential to evoking the magical and emotional spirit of Studio Ghibli films. Hints of wistful melodies can be heard in the teasers.
As we get closer to release, fans anxiously await more trailers and soundtrack previews. But the glimpses so far showcase stunning animation and thematic depth true to Miyazaki’s vision.
Miyazaki’s Legacy – One of the Anime Greats
Hayao Miyazaki is almost unanimously regarded as one of the greatest animators and storytellers of all-time. His reputation makes The Boy and the Heron a monumental occasion.
Some highlights of his legendary status:
- Co-founded Studio Ghibli in 1985 which has produced beloved classics like My Neighbor Totoro and Ponyo.
- Directing career spans 50+ years with first feature debut in 1979.
- Known for stunning hand-drawn animation, creative worlds, and resonant themes.
- Became the first non-Western animator to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (Spirited Away).
- His 2001 masterpiece Spirited Away is the highest grossing anime film globally.
- Officially retired in 2013 but returned for this project, his first feature film in a decade.
The Boy and the Heron adds to the legacy. Its introspective story represents a bold new creative era for the 82-year-old master.
The Verdict – A Promising New Anime Gem
With his idiosyncratic imagination and peerless skills, Hayao Miyazaki has created some of the most adored and influential animated movies of all-time. The Boy and the Heron looks to deliver another anime treasure.
Early reviews indicate the film recaptures Miyazaki’s signature magic with its poignant themes, mystical adventure, and hand-drawn animation. The story provides an intimate portrait of post-war Japan through a coming-of-age fantasy.
For devoted Studio Ghibli fans and newcomers alike, The Boy and the Heron promises to be one of 2023’s anime highlights when it finally releases this December. Miyazaki’s first feature film in a decade should be a momentous occasion celebrated around the world.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is Hayao Miyazaki?
Hayao Miyazaki is a legendary Japanese filmmaker and animator, known for classics like My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away. He co-founded Studio Ghibli and is considered one of the greatest animation directors of all time.
Is this a remake of the 1937 novel?
No, though the 1937 novel of the same name by Genzaburō Yoshino appears in the film, this is an original story written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is not connected or based on Yoshino’s novel.
What animation style is used?
The Boy and the Heron uses traditional hand-drawn 2D animation. This has been Miyazaki’s signature animation style throughout his career at Studio Ghibli.
How can I watch the movie in the US?
The Boy and the Heron releases in US theaters and IMAX on December 8, 2023. It will screen with English subtitles since the original language is Japanese.
How long is Hayao Miyazaki’s break between films?
The Boy and the Heron represents Miyazaki’s first feature film in 10 years. His previous film was 2013’s The Wind Rises. He officially retired after that but returned for this project.
The Boy and the Heron symbolizes the grand return of the masterful Hayao Miyazaki. With its magical storytelling and breathtaking animation, it looks poised to capture the hearts of both devoted fans and newcomers when it finally releases this December.