The Boy and the Heron is about a young lad named Mahito who is spirited away to a hidden world of magic and adventure. He is befriended by a talking heron, and the two of them set off on a journey to find a lost city.
Along the way, Mahito meets all sorts of interesting characters and learns a lot about himself. He also has to say goodbye to some of his new friends, including the heron. In the end, Mahito returns to the real world, but he is changed by his experiences. He has learned to appreciate the beauty of the world around him and the importance of friendship.
Easter Eggs in The Boy and the Heron
The movie has all Miyazaki hallmarks: the anthropomorphic animals, the tiny grannies with disproportionate facial features who can just as easily be magical creatures, and a tempting food scene. Miyazaki has few surprises left, but in The Boy and the Heron, it’s the familiar that feels like a comforting hug.
- Howl’s Moving Castle (Calcifer’s reference at 50 seconds of the trailer).
- Spirited Away (the tunnel and the building scene at 34 seconds of the trailer).
- The dreamy world with those animals becomes a reminder of Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, and Spirited Away.
- Mahito’s father, who, like Miyazaki’s own, runs a factory producing aircraft parts.
Themes of Goodbyes, Growing Up, and Finding One’s Place in the World
The film’s themes of goodbyes, growing up, and finding one’s place in the world can all be seen as reflections on Miyazaki’s own career. Miyazaki is now 82 years old, and he has announced that The Boy and the Heron is his last feature-length film.
In a way, The Boy and the Heron is a goodbye to Miyazaki’s fans and to the world of animation that he has loved for so long. It is also a celebration of his life and work, and a reminder of the importance of imagination and wonder.
How the Film Can Be Seen as a Reflection of Miyazaki’s Career
- The film’s protagonist, Mahito, is a young boy who is curious about the world around him and eager to explore. This is similar to Miyazaki’s own personality, as he has said that he has always been fascinated by animation and storytelling.
- The film’s themes of friendship, environmentalism, and the importance of imagination are all central to Miyazaki’s work.
- The film’s ending, in which Mahito returns to the real world but is changed by his experiences, can be seen as a metaphor for Miyazaki’s own career. Miyazaki has said that he has learned a lot from his work as an animator and that it has changed him as a person.
Miyazaki has explored grief and the afterlife in the past. He’s a filmmaker who has been both haunted and at peace with such thoughts throughout his whole career, which is perhaps why every film is positioned as though it’s his last. Though this is an uncommonly mature and joyous meditation on death and legacy, one that paints death as a new beginning, a transition to another time and place, where nothing actually seems final.
Overall, The Boy and the Heron is a beautiful and moving film that can be seen as a reflection of Miyazaki’s career and his life philosophy and a fitting end to his purported retirement.