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The Boy and the Heron Spells Success at Box Office

Hayao Miyazaki, Japanese filmmaker, has officially made a comeback after ten years of hiatus in collaboration with the internationally famous and well-loved Studio Ghibli. “The Boy and The Heron,” released in mid-July of last year in Japanese theaters, has recently arrived in theaters worldwide during the early days of December. Originally intended for release in May 2020 alongside the Tokyo Olympics, the movie faced a delay primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Boy and The Heron” has been in the making for over six years. Director and Studio Ghibli co-founder Miyazaki announced it in 2016 as his final work for the studio before retirement, incorporating references and details from the studio’s past motion pictures. The result is a beautifully crafted, hand-drawn story that explores Miyazaki’s childhood, touching on subjects such as grief, acceptance, and coming-of-age.

Ghibli’s latest story follows Mahito Maki, a boy whose mother died in a hospital fire during the Pacific War. His father, the owner of an aircraft supplier for the military, marries Mahito’s aunt Natsuko soon after her death. They then move to Natsuko’s estate, a large house where she lived alone with seven elderly maids.

As Mahito tries to fit into his new community, he faces rejection and judgment from others. Frustrated, he intentionally injures himself by hitting his head with a rock. This leads to a series of anomalies and eventually his encounter with a talking heron who entices Mahito to follow him. While searching for the heron, Mahito discovers a tall, crumbling tower, rumored to be the last known location of his great uncle who disappeared years ago. Before he can explore further, he is found by the worried maids who were searching for him after his prolonged absence from home.

Time passes, and Natsuko becomes pregnant. As her pregnancy progresses, she experiences what appears to be prenatal depression. Feeling ill, she ventures deep into the surrounding forest but fails to return home. Worried for her well-being, Mahito, accompanied by maid Kiriko, ventures into the tower and enters a hidden world where Natsuko has gone to, and the home of various creatures and souls. With the heron as a companion, Mahito must find Natsuko and return home, facing the challenges thrown at him by the unknown world.

The movie, which showcases Ghibli’s iconic artistic style and a carefully crafted story, has received acclaim from critics and fans alike. According to movie review site Rotten Tomatoes, 97% of critics and 88% of the audience rated the movie positively. The film has already gained worldwide recognition, winning a Golden Globe award for Best Animated Feature Film, as well as several nominations from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Astra Film & Creative Arts Awards, and the Boston Society of Film Critics.

In the dubbed English version of the movie, voice actor Luca Padovan portrays the character of Mahito Maki, and Robert Pattinson voices the talking heron, alongside a cast of talented personalities including Christian Bale, Mark Hamill, and David Bautista. 

The immersive soundtrack that accompanies the movie was composed by Joe Hisaishi, a longtime collaborator of both co-founders. The film’s main theme, “Spinning Globe”, is performed by J-Pop sensation Kenshi Yonezu, who met Miyazaki and insisted that he write a theme song for his film after listening to his work.

Ghibli’s co-founder, Toshio Suzuki, produced the film and partnered with Toho as the distributor for its worldwide release. The movie debuted at the top of the North American box office, earning around $12.8 million during the first weekend. Today, it has surpassed the $100 million mark globally, with more than half of the revenue coming from Japan’s movie theaters. It is the studio’s most successful work in over a decade, becoming their most awarded film since the release of “Spirited Away”.

As Hayao Miyazaki turned 83 during the first week of January, he shared with the public that he will remain working at the animation studio with a visual greeting. While the elder filmmaker has previously announced his retirement several times in the past, he implies continuing working in the animation industry as co-founder Toshio reports that Miyazaki is already planning his next film.

Studio Ghibli remains one of the most powerful entertainment companies in Japan, having a strong presence among teenagers and young adults across the globe. Gilbhi has the already-known tendency to release complex and highly developed movies, most of the time with no set deadline. Furthermore, their iconic art style is enjoyed by audiences of all ages.

“Because it’s Gilbhi, I already know it’s going to be awesome.” Patricia Barreiro, sophomore, comments. 

We will have to patiently wait for the next release from Studio Ghibli. Entertainment news website Screenrant has described the impact of the movie to the studio’s business as “revitalizing”, solidifying their reputation through stunning visuals and a moving story that is sure to put the production studio in the mouths of viewers. As we wait for more information about Miyazaki’s next project, “The Boy and The Heron”, has introduced those who are unfamiliar to the world of Japanese animation through the enchanting art and unique storytelling the studio is known for.

You can watch “The Boy and The Heron” in theaters around the U.S. until later this month, and you can find tickets by clicking here. The digital version of the movie is anticipated to be available through the streaming service Max later in the year.

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