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By Raziah Khanum on

Reviewing The Boy and the Heron

Volunteer blogger Raziah shares thoughts about the newest film from Studio Ghibli.

As someone who has loved Studio Ghibli movies ever since she was little, I was ecstatic when I first heard of Hayao Miyazaki’s new film, The Boy and the Heron. The movie was released in December 2023 and has already won multiple awards, including the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film 2024.

The movie revolves around Mahito, a 12-year-old boy struggling to adjust to a new town after his mother’s passing—until he is told by a talking heron that his mother is alive. The story focuses on Mahito’s search for his mother in another world, which he enters through an abandoned tower.

Like Miyazaki’s other featured films, The Boy and the Heron is a stoic movie that captures you with its ethereal animation style. It evoked a sense of nostalgia for me with the serene and distinctive graphics that initially drew me to his works. Complementing these stunning visuals is the magical original soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi, which transports you to the fantasy world of Ghibli.

There are numerous parallels with and references to earlier films like Spirited Away and Grave of the Fireflies in the film. Miyazaki likely did this purposefully as a nod to his career and a possible farewell. This movie symbolises his legacy, an overarching theme within the narrative that is illustrated by the fantasy world and a character called Great-uncle.

The movie uses typical Studio Ghibli compositions, intertwining life’s dark reality with elements of a fantasy world. Miyazaki elicits deep emotions while exploring the impact of grief and the challenges of coping with it, particularly as a child. He cleverly focuses on the protagonist’s actions to depict his difficulty adjusting without his mum. Mahito is left to navigate his grief, which is portrayed both literally in brutal reality and metaphorically through its fantasy aspects.

The story is full of symbolism and hidden messages, which can sometimes be overwhelming, but it still doesn’t detract from the intense and lingering emotions this film will provoke. It’s a movie that requires time to appreciate its convoluted narrative fully.

Whether you are a big fan of Miyazaki and the Studio Ghibli franchise or just looking for a beautifully animated movie, I highly recommend The Boy and the Heron. It’s a breathtaking film that will undoubtedly get you deep in your feelings and in awe of the visuals.

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