“The Boy and the Heron:” Hayao Miyazaki’s Testament To Life

“The Boy and the Heron:” Hayao Miyazaki’s Testament To Life

“The Boy and the Heron” has Miyazaki’s legacy written all over it



Disclaimer: This review contains heavy spoilers ahead.


Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film The Boy and the Heron received a Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature for a reason. Anyone who caught a glimpse of that iconic fire montage at the start of the film and trailer knows just how epic the animation is in the film. From the architecture down to the intricacies of world-building, Miyazaki’s signature style shines through in The Boy and the Heron—if not with even more stylistic prowess than any of his other films (if I may say so myself). 


But how could this film top any of his past works? Taking a closer look at the details of the film’s narrative and driving forces, any Miyazaki fan will instantly recognize that the film is more than just another hint at his obsession with airplanes or war-related settings but a testament to his own life and legacy.



The art of “revenge animating”

Miyazaki: Retirement? Who is she?


The Boy and the Heron was nothing short of what I can only describe as visual orgasms, one after the other. Incredibly breathtaking, I was practically begging for the cinema to pause for a moment to take everything in and just stare in awe at all the intricately drawn landscapes.



From Mahito’s scar to every wrinkle on the grand-uncle and every grandmother’s face, Miyazaki authored every detail to the core. And not to mention how palpable the non-human characters were, too! From everyone’s favorite little buddies, the Warawaras, the Parakeets and the Heron himself, these guys kept the film alive—and yes, they also serve as great marketing for the film, as we’ll surely see them on a bunch of merchandise soon.


But after announcing his supposed retirement in 2013 after the release of The Wind Rises, this sudden burst in creativity and aggression in animating such beautiful sequences unlike anything I’ve seen before comes as a shock. It’s almost as if Miyazaki forgot about the concept of retirement altogether or, even better, finds himself invigorated with a need for animating after imagining life without it—revenge animating is what I like to call it. And honestly, I’m not complaining! If anything, The Boy and the Heron feels like a much more appropriate film to cap off his career and legacy with, and here’s why.


Miyazaki’s goodbye

“You see this world? There’s more work to be done.”


Beyond the next-level animation Miyazaki crafted in The Boy and the Heron, there’s a deeper sentiment hidden in its narrative that speaks of Miyazaki’s experience of being one of the world’s most recognized animators and storytellers. 


One of the most powerful themes in the film is the endless cycle of change. And in the case of Miyazaki and the legacy he’s left at Studio Ghibli, things are about to take a similar turn. As Miyazaki can no longer deny retirement, Studio Ghibli’s future is on the line. So, after being acquired by Nippon TV in September 2023, we’ll be witnessing a new era for the beloved animation studio that has shaped much of our childhoods. And this future is bound to undergo much change as the animation world may not see Miyazaki’s creative hand in it for much longer. 


As incredibly depressing as that sounds, the film strikes a similar chord. In a universe that desperately needs a new heir, Mahito (our protagonist) must decide whether to continue the legacy and build his version of a perfect world or leave it to crumble into pieces. And if we’re thinking in metaphors here, it’s only fitting to hope that Mahito takes on the role and crafts the best world possible out of what he is given (and Studio Ghibli lives happily ever after). But knowing Miyazaki’s rather pessimistic/realistic take on life, Mahito rejects the offer—much to the metaphor’s dismay. 


But, to remain hopeful, I find that The Boy and the Heron’s take on the theme of change can be interpreted optimistically. Grieving what is lost in the process of change can be part of the journey to rediscovering and authoring new forms of wonder and delight. In a similar vein, if this is what Miyazaki hopes to impart in the film for the future of Studio Ghibli, then maybe we can learn to grieve with grace and grow to embrace the new world of animation that awaits us. Beautifully so, it’s great to know that there’s still more work to be done in the industry and the future of Ghibli films.


If you’re a fan of Miyazaki’s or simply looking for a fantasy adventure film that takes you on a visual trip you’ll never forget, you must see The Boy and the Heron. You’ll be surprised by the many ways this film can inspire you from the eyes and life of the animation legend himself, Hayao Miyazaki.



Words Vanessa Tiong

Art Macky Arquilla


You may also like

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Get weekly updates on trending topics

Ⓒ 2018 – 2023 Wonder ™ | All Rights Reserved


Discover More


Don't miss a thing

Stay up to date to the latest news and articles.