Story

The Boy and the Beast is an animated Japanese movie. It’s about a lonely nine-year-old orphan boy named Ren (voiced by Aoi Miyazaki) who prefers to wander the dangerous streets of Tokyo than live with distant relatives. While walking the streets alone one night, Ren discovers the entrance to another universe called Jutengai, which contains many beast-like creatures. Among these beasts is a warrior bear named Kumatetsu (Koji Yakusho).

Ren admires Kumatetsu’s fighting skills and asks to learn from him. Kumatetsu takes Ren under his wing as an apprentice, although they clash a lot and spend a lot of time arguing over small issues. Eventually, they learn to get along and live together for many years.

At the age of 17, Ren ‘Kyuta’ (now voiced by Shota Sometani) begins to feel drawn to the human universe once more. He begins to visit sporadically, but eventually meets a kind-hearted girl named Kaede with whom he enjoys spending time. Torn between his potential relationship with Kaede and his friendship with Kumatetsu and life as a warrior, Ren must decide between living as a human or as a beast.

Themes

The supernatural, good versus evil, being an orphan, relationships 

Violence

The Boy and the Beast has some violence. For example:

  • Characters often fight physically. They punch each other and often bleed as a result – for example, from the nose.
  • Characters use weapons like swords and katanas in fights. One character has a katana stuck in his chest. He has a bloody wound, but he’s later shown in hospital recovering well.
  • There are explosions in one of the cities – no-one is injured, but property is destroyed. 

Content that may disturb children

Under 5
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, The Boy and the Beast has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:

  • There are scary beast-like creatures in the other universe, Jutengai. Kumatetsu is a large bear with glowing red eyes, but he’s not dangerous or threatening to Ren.
  • At one point, Ren fights the ‘darkness’ – he is feeling alone and overwhelmed, and develops a vacuum in his heart that threatens to swallow him. A friend nearby calms Ren down and stops this from happening.

From 5-8
Children in this age group might be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above. They might also be disturbed by the following scenes:

  • When he is only nine years old, Ren is an orphan and chooses to live at risk on the streets rather than with his legal guardians.
  • Kumatetsu allows himself to die and be reincarnated as a deity. He takes the form of a sword, which Ren uses to fight an enemy.

From 8-13
Younger children in this age group might be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.

Over 13
Nothing of concern

Sexual references

None of concern

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

The Boy and the Beast shows some partial nudity and mild sexual activity. For example:

  • Ren and Kaede hold hands and embrace at one point. They are romantically interested in each other, but the movie doesn’t show any overtly sexual content.
  • Ren’s buttocks are shown in some scenes, when he is wearing traditional Japanese clothing called fundoshi.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in The Boy and the Beast: Starbucks.

Coarse language

The Boy and the Beast has some coarse language.

Ideas to discuss with your children

The Boy and the Beast is a touching story about a young boy’s journey into adulthood, and the way he learns about relationships, responsibility and morality. Ren transforms from a lonely and angry child into a young man who cares deeply for others, and he’s willing to make sacrifices to help them.

The movie’s story and themes make it more suitable for older children. It also has some violent scenes and scary characters that are likely to disturb younger viewers. The movie is screening in both dubbed and subtitled versions – the subtitles might be hard for younger viewers to follow. At 119 minutes, the movie is also rather long for younger children.

Messages from this movie that you could discuss with your children include:

  • the importance of not judging people before you get to know them
  • the idea that family doesn’t have to be based on blood relationships
  • the importance of learning respect, asking for help when you need it, and listening to people who are wiser and know more than you do
  • the way that strength of will and determination can enable you to do things that you thought were impossible.