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Recommended age 8-18
24 minutes
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BOY AND THE HERON, THE cover image Click to play video trailer
The Boy And The Heron, directed by Hayao Miyazaki is a very unique Japanese film. The amazing high quality sound effects and suspenseful background music are spectacular. However, this film does get confusing very quickly.

This semi-autobiographical animated movie follows the story of young Mahito Maki (Soma Santoki), who tragically loses his mother in a fire and moves to the country with his dad Shoichi (Takuya Kimura) and his step-mom Natsuko (Yoshino Kimura). Action soon rises after Mahito interacts with a talking gray heron (Masaki Suda) who is revealed to be a shapeshifting avian guide. The gray heron alludes to Mahito's mother still being alive and Mahito goes on a journey to find her.

The sound effects in The Boy And The Heron enhance the film tremendously. Even though this film is animated the sound effects make it seem almost as if it is a live action film. From realistic deep footsteps to the realistic sounds of crashing ocean waves; sound director K�ji Kasamatsu absolutely brought this movie to life. I also enjoyed the background music throughout this film. The music by Joe Hisaishi creates suspenseful and surprising moments that kept me engaged throughout my viewing experience. My favorite scene in the movie is when Mahito and a fisherwomen named Kiriko (K� Shibasaki) watch the Warwara (creatures whole embody both life and death) be released into the normal world. The music is beautiful and creates a sense of awe and wonder. Who could forget the gorgeous animation by the world renowned animator Hayao Miyazaki? Every scene in this movie is animated to perfection. For example, when Mahito first enters this new world he lands on an island surrounded by a vast deep blue ocean and stormy clouds. The ocean waves crash very fluidly and the clouds are different shades of purple and move very realistically. The detail and fluidity of the animation does not go unnoticed. As much as I like this film, I did find it somewhat confusing. Over the course of two hours we primarily follow the main character searching for his mother, but this plot is somewhat drowned out by many other side plots taking place, which makes things murky and difficult to track.

The film's message is to not let grief hold you back and to find different healthy ways to move on. However, this film delivers this message in a very confusing way. It's important to note that this movie contains mentions of self-harm, minor cursing, gore and small jump scares that could be frightening to younger audiences.

I give The Boy And The Heron 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases in theaters December 8, 2023. Make sure you give it a watch!

By Tia O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

The film The Boy and The Heron is unlike any film I've ever seen before. I was in awe with the beautiful scenery and the music that goes from simple piano notes to complex orchestrations.

The storyline follows a family living during a time of war in Tokyo. Tragically, the main character, Mahito Maki's (Soma Santoki) mother dies in a fire at the hospital where she works. Years later, Mahito and his father move from Tokyo to start a new life with his new step-mother. Outside this new home, Mahito is drawn to a gray heron that seems to be taunting him and leading him to a tower on the property. His step-mother, Natsuko, (Yoshino Kimura) disappears and Mahito follows the heron into the tower in search of her. Entering the tower brings him into another world where he meets his mother from another time and together they race to find Natsuko while battling many obstacles such as pelicans, parakeets and the heron's sneaky and selfish ways.

I love the character, Kiriko (Ko Shibasaki), both in her younger and older self. She is helpful and fierce and stays by Mahito's side. The ship she lives on in the strange tower world is so beautiful and the idea of her taking care of the warawara before they float into our world and are born as human beings shows how nurturing she is. I really enjoy how this movie makes me think and make connections between parallel worlds. I knew that Lady Himi was going to be his mom and when I realized that he was meeting her during the year she vanished into the tower when she was younger, my mind was blown as the puzzle came together. I was also shocked when Natsuko said that Mahito's mom is her sister! There are many twists and turns in this film that kept me on the edge of my seat. The artistry in the animation, by Hayao Miyazaki, is really neat to watch and made me want to research and learn more about the film and about anime.

The film's message is to find acceptance after the loss of a loved one and to find peace during a time of turmoil. Mahito struggles with personal grief while his country is also struggling during a period of war.

I give The Boy and The Heron 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. This film releases in theaters December 8, 2023.

By Avalynn G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

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From Academy Award winning and internationally acclaimed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, The Boy And The Heron follows the incredible journey of young Mahito. After he experiences the tragic loss of his mother, Mahito settles into a new town that is anything but ordinary. After several strange encounters with a grey heron, Mahito goes on a search for his mother that leads him to a magical world unknown.
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