Although “The Boy and the Heron” encapsulates a profound message about physical loss, it also feels like a love letter to Studio Ghibli fans.

If you keep up with Studio Ghibli, anime, Japanese culture, or even film in general, then you have definitely heard of The Boy and the Heron. As the newest Studio Ghibli Film, The Boy and the Heron promises lovable characters, whimsical worlds, and fantastic storytelling from the get go. So far, the film has garnered worldwide attention, breaking box office records and winning huge awards such as, most recently, the golden globe for Best Animated Feature. Critics have praised the movie for its beautiful art and incredible soundtrack, some even lauding it as Studio Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki’s best film. After watching the film twice in theaters, I can’t help but agree that it is one of his best. 

Credit: Studio Ghibli

The Boy and the Heron follows a young boy named Mahito as he grapples with the loss of his mother and the emergence of a new stepmother in his life. I’m not going to dive into all the details of the film too much because I think everyone should view it for themselves, but as a story about grief, it fully hits the mark on a balance of emotional and inspiring. The Boy and the Heron is a film about a kid accepting the cycle of life and death. It masterfully portrays the immense sadness of death but also the beauty of life.

At the end of the day, although it encapsulates a profound message about physical loss, The Boy and the Heron also feels like a love letter to Studio Ghibli fans. Hayao Miyazaki isn’t getting any younger, and he even discusses this in his documentary Never Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki about when he first tried to retire. Although his films are timeless, Miyazaki himself is not. When The Boy and the Heron was first announced, Miyazaki claimed that it would be his final film. However, after the movie’s successful release and warm reception, he went on to say that he is not entirely opposed to making more films. Still, who knows how many more Studio Ghibli films there will be?

The film recognizes that it might be the last of the Studio Ghibli lineage and contains all the recognizable Ghibli staples such as a mouth watering food scene, a beautifully and realistically animated hug, the most adorable little creatures, and an alluring world that goes beyond the normal reaches of the imagination.

Credit: Studio Ghibli

Mahito is able to come to terms with his mother’s death after recognizing that her memory remains alive. It feels like a reminder to Studio Ghibli fans that even after the studio stops producing films, the ones they did create and the characters they brought to life will still exist. Even when something is over, it’s never really gone, and Studio Ghibli is one of those timeless ideas that will remain alive for generations to come.

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