You know the saying about how people argue with those who are exactly like them? You’ll be getting a large dose of that in The Boy and The Beast. Whether it be Naruto arguing with Sasuke, Natsu yelling at Grey, etc. we see the usual cliche of people who are close and share some personality traits with each other argue time and time again, mostly because they love each other. So get ready for watching the typical growing pains you get from an adopted boy and bear father figure in this movie.
In The Boy and The Beast our main protagonist Ren is a runaway in Japan after his mother passes away when he is just 9-years-old. Since his father isn’t around to take care of him, other family members offer to take Ren in, but instead Ren decides to live on his own. It was during this time when he has a bizarre encounter with his future master in Kumatetsu. Ren tries to follow the beast and ends up in a world of beasts called Jutengai. It was here, thanks to Tatara and Hyakushūbō, we learn that Kumatetsu is seeking to become the next lord of this world before his rival (Iozen) does. While both Kumatetsu and Iozen are similar in strength, Iozen has a leg up on Kumatetsu since he has a family of many disciples in his dojo. This is where Ren comes in and Kumatetsu tries his hardest to make him his apprentice (mostly because everyone else always runs away from him).
Ren is at first very reluctant to follow the bear, but after seeing how much of an outcast Kumatetsu is in this world, Ren decides to stay there and train. During this time Ren learns about how Kumatetsu was all alone back when he was a child and had to figure out everything on his own. And Kumatetsu starts to see a little of himself in Ren. The two help each other train in what starts to become a beautiful father/son relationship. The movie is a coming of age story, as we watch Ren train under Kumatetsu in the beast world. We watch as the two learn from each other to reach the goal of becoming a better fighter. We are also given some hilarious moments watching Kumatetsu awkwardly try to explain his way of fighting throughout this process, as well as the typical arguments that families are all too familiar with.
What’s nice is that it doesn’t just stop at Ren learning about fighting. This isn’t a story about a human becoming a warrior in the Beast Kingdom. Once he’s 17-years-old, Ren returns to the human world where he meets a girl named Kaede in a library. This is where the movie becomes just like Tarzan and Jane, with Kaede teaching Ren literature, as well as other topics that would be common knowledge for those trying to enter college. This segment felt somewhat anticlimactic (viewers should have expected an arc like this). The latter half of the movie wasn’t dull, following the time where Ren’s father comes back into the picture (completely in shock that his son is still alive), causing a strained relationship between Kumatetsu and Ren.
Having described the background info about this movie, what did I find enjoyable about it? What immediately grabbed my attention in this film was the spectacular background scenes viewers are treated to. I found myself enamored with how vibrant many of the color schemes were from scene to scene, especially beauty shots of the Beast Kingdom. When looking at Kumatetsu’s first fight against Iozen in the movie, I was struck by how beautiful the red jacket looked in the sea of other colors all around.
However, it wasn’t just the static shots during this particular scene that I enjoyed. The dynamic camera action that follows Kumatetsu taunting his opponent was fun. The fight itself could have been followed a little better with the “camera”, but that was only a small critique when talking about this battle. Overall, there were a lot of backdrops in this movie that I enjoyed.
This movie has a ton of emotional appeal for those who have kids or want to have children. The feelings that pop up when watching this series will make you think about parenting. I was lucky enough to have parents who wanted me to succeed and felt joy for the things I accomplished. You get that feeling with Ren and Kumatetsu after the two start working together to train. As Ren ages, he turns into a solid young fighter that is the envy of his peers. Even though Kumatetsu doesn’t admit it, he’s obviously proud of the man Ren has become. On the flip side, when Kumatetsu wins the official battle to become the new lord, Ren is seen cheering for him and congratulating his only true father figure.
While it isn’t a love story in the sense of boy meets girl, the love that is shown throughout this movie between the two characters was comforting and rewarding to see blossom, and it felt as organic as an actual living breathing family.
Some anime movies make it tough to determine what type of audience is suitable to view it, but The Boy and Beast has no such issues. This film can be seen by people of all ages; it felt safe even for small children to watch, despite the brutal attack Kumatetsu suffers. This is great because the broader the audience, the more eyeballs it can grab. While watching this film, I didn’t feel I was just watching an anime movie. I was watching an animated movie that should have no trouble breaking through the barriers that some have put up against the anime genre.
Not everything about this series was great, as there were instances where the camera would slowly pan left or right in scenes where someone was talking, or when something was going on. For example, when Ren fights off the people who are bullying Kaede, it starts off with the bullies having the upper-hand, and the camera pans slowly to Kaede’s female attackers mocking Ren’s efforts. Then the female bullies start to have an odd look on their faces as they leave the scene, with the camera again slowly panning to show Ren standing among three bodies on the floor. This effect happened a few other times, especially when Ren was talking with Kaede, which I felt made the movie seem longer than it was. It didn’t find it as aesthetically pleasing as I thought I would, despite the many other beautiful scenes in this film.
Also, some scenes dragged on in ways the director would not have anticipated, such as when Kumatetsu is chasing Ren in circles during an argument at dinner, or Kumatetsu trying to train Ren about the “sword in his soul.” Those scenes were dragged out and could have been done in less time while still making the points that these two will butt heads and Kumatetsu was still new at teaching. That seems to be the main complaint about this movie, which things were overly explained or boring. While I wasn’t completely bored with this film, there were instances where I was hoping things would move along.
This movie’s English dub was done by FUNimation, and I cannot give too many superlatives to describe how much I enjoyed the cast. John Swasey as Kumatetsu was perfect with his gruff, gravely voice that matched how I envisioned this character. He had the voice perfectly nailed of a bear that has had a hard life, but who could also be loving in his more powerful moments. I was also impressed with both Eric Vale (seventeen-year-old Ren) and Luci Christain (nine-year-old Ren). While I’ve heard Luci Christain’s young boy voice before, this time it certainly felt compelling in the scenes that called for a dramatic performance. Plus Vale conveyed the emotion of angst, which couldn’t have been easy, and he should be applauded for that.
Ian Sinclair and Alex Organ’s supporting roles were nothing but astonishing. Next time there’s an award show about best supporting voice actor in a movie, it should be given to them both, as I found myself more interested in those two than any other characters. Organ in particular was articulate with his character and nailed the strong teacher role that was called upon, especially when he believed Ren was going to go after Kumatetsu’s assailant in a blind rage. And Ian Sinclair did a great job giving his character life, making him a funnier teacher. It’s almost as if he watched the Lion King’s character Rafiki to get the kind of performance viewers were given. Other performances blew me away (such as Austin Tindle as an older Ichirōhiko or Chuck Huber as Ren’s father). All of these actors deserve credit for their performances.
The Boy and the Beast is a beautiful movie that depicts the joys of parenting, which is not something I thought I’d ever say. It was quite the tear-jerker, with scenes where a simple hug or “I cherish/love you” moment could have solved many problems. However, watching Ren grow into a fine young man serves to show that Kumatetsu was a great parent and one that Ren will never forget. The two are now one, as Ren continues to live his life with his father and hopefully with Kaede. It felt like the right time to end the movie where it did.
Pros: Beautiful backdrops, dynamic camera angles, the theme of parenting, touching moments, terrific dub cast.
Cons: Slow panning was an odd artistic choice, scenes seem to drag on.
C.J Maffris is an editorial writer for Toonamifaithful.com and GeekEInc.com. Feel free to follow C.J on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris