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The Comet Chronicle

The Comet Chronicle

The Comet Chronicle

Bliss within chaos: The Boy and The Heron


Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, The Boy and the Heron is the newest addition to the critically-acclaimed line of Studio Ghibli movies. Known for his work on films such as My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Spirited Away (2001), and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), Miyazaki’s ability to gather the admiration of millions is undeniable. 

The animated film follows a young boy, Mahito (Luca Padovan), as he struggles to fit into a new life in rural Japan after the recent loss of his mother. Similar to some of Miyazaki’s previous work, The Boy and the Heron is set amidst an era of war and chaos across the country. Mahito has to learn how to fit in at school and connect with his new step-mother, all while being tormented by a peculiar Grey Heron (Robert Pattinson). Despite the dismal setting, Mahito finds opportunity and adventure on his journey to find his step-mother Natsuko (Gemma Chan) and uncover the secrets of  The Heron’s tower. Along his expedition, he befriends a lively fisher, Kiriko (Florence Pugh), and the mysterious Lady Himi (Karen Fukuhara), who help guide him along his quest to reunite with his family. 

Studio Ghibli’s manipulation of vivid colors and intricate hand drawn animations contribute to a truly unique experience for audiences worldwide. The charming story of The Boy and the Heron is a clear example of Miyazaki’s talent for capturing the optimism of adolescence in times of grief and loss. As animation continues to advance throughout the years, hand-drawn techniques are being left behind in favor of 3D programs. The stark contrast between Studio Ghibli’s traditional style helps carry out the timelessness and nostalgia that comes along with observing The Boy and The Heron

The movie itself is a loose interpretation of a widely loved Japanese classic: Genzaburo Yoshino’s 1937 novel, 君たちはどう生きるか, meaning:how do you live”. It tells the story of a 15-year-old boy and his uncle struggling to find light in poverty, spirituality, and the overall human existence. However, the components of the film are largely representative of events and figures in Miyazaki’s own childhood. Nevertheless, every version of the narrative questions the impact of rapidly changing societies on young minds, introducing ideas of depression, grief, and hope in accordance with one another. Even with elements of high fantasy and Miyazaki’s vast imagination, the film truly puts into perspective the raw emotions of growing up. 

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As we navigate through our individual paths in life, it’s important to take time to discover the smaller moments of bliss within chaos. The Boy and The Heron is a beautiful reminder to appreciate the simple, yet wildly whimsical, art of being alive.

UPDATE [3/11]: The Boy and The Heron won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature presented at the 2024 Oscars.

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