The Boy and the Heron: A Journey of Growth & Appreciation for Life

by Neil Bui

The Boy and the Heron is the latest film by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, and is the first one directed and written by Miyazaki in 10 years since 2013’s The Wind Rises. Unfortunately, I can only recall the last Ghibli films I’ve watched being Howl’s Moving Castle on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block as a child. But nonetheless, I’ve come to recognize Miyazaki’s films as works that invoke a sense of childlike wonderment and peaceful nostalgia, no matter how unlike our lives the worlds his films transport us to may feel.

I saw an advance screening of The Boy and the Heron before its nationwide release which also meant I saw it subbed not dubbed, missing out on the all star cast of English speaking voice actors, however the visual grandeur and emotional journey of the storyline were not lost in translation.

The film focuses on Mahito, a young boy during the Second World War, as he adjusts to life after the passing of his mom and his dad remarrying his sister-in-law. Through self-inflicted injuries as well as schoolyard bullying, it’s clear his attempts to adjust are not yet successful. He and his father have moved to the childhood home of his mother(s) and he finds himself visited and somewhat harassed/bothered by the titular Hero of the film, serving as the film’s first hint of a more magical, supernatural element at play.

Ultimately, it’s a journey of growth and exploration for Mahito as he learns to appreciate the gift of life that he has as well as coming to terms with his mother’s passing and opening up room in his heart for his new mother.

Catch The Boy and the Heron in theaters nationwide on December 8, 2023.

Where to watch The Boy and the Heron

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