Uplifting the Voices of Princeton Day School

The Spokesman


Uplifting the Voices of Princeton Day School

The Spokesman

Uplifting the Voices of Princeton Day School

The Spokesman

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Why The Boy and the Heron is Worth Watching?

(Photo/Printerval)
(Photo/Printerval)

For frequent movie watchers, 2023 was a year filled with a variety of options. Among the notable releases was the “Barbie+Oppenheimer” internet phenomenon, Martin Scorcese’s return to directing with Killers of the Flower Moon, a powerful story about Korean immigration in Past Lives, and many more. Having won the title of “Best Animated Feature” at the 2024 Academy Awards, now is the perfect time to discuss one of the most recent and relatively “inconspicuous” releases of the previous year: Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron, created under the acclaimed production company Studio Ghibli. 

In the film, Mahito, the main character, embarks on a journey through a dream-like world to find his mother after seeing her die in a hospital fire. On the way, he encounters birds from different walks of life and must figure out how to work with the symbolic gray heron. 

One of the best aspects of the film is that it is open to interpretation. Without spoiling anything, I walked out of the theater thinking that the overall message was about accepting the imperfections of reality. Somebody else who watched the movie with me interpreted it as being about Miyazaki, the director, finally giving himself closure after decades of producing what many consider to be animated masterpieces. After all, this is the movie that marks his retirement from directing and making movies, so it is a fitting message on which to end his impressive career.

As expected from any Studio Ghibli movie, the animation is one of its most gorgeous and powerful aspects. An extreme layer of detail has been put into each of the landscapes and scenes. This film is comparatively somber when contrasted with other movies from the production team, but the animation is still very expressive. Even when characters have “placid” faces, details like their hair rustling and their clothes flapping in the wind are enough to convince the audience that these are living, breathing people. 

For any students who love music, the soundtrack is a definite must-listen. Joe Hisaishi keeps the score for the film rather traditional, He dials in on the soft, calm piano, and occasionally uses heavy orchestral tracks to build tension or bolster an emotional scene. The ending theme of the movie, Spinning Globe by Kenshi Yonezu, is the main standout in the soundtrack. The lyrics are in Japanese, but the translated meanings tie into the themes of the movie incredibly well. This time, Hisaishi’s beautiful piano is backed by Yonezu’s heavenly voice, resulting in one of the best anime themes of all time, in my opinion. However, one negative aspect of the soundtrack was the inconsistent audio mixing. Senior Kayla Zhang said that she was impressed by Hisaishi’s compositions, but had difficulty hearing it during some scenes.

There is no doubt that students at PDS who love watching movies were excited by this year’s Academy Awards. Junior Humzah Ladiwala, stated that The Boy and the Heron “is a great pick as the winner of the award, because of its original story and would be an opportunity to diversify the Awards with more Japanese films.” He also stated that the movie thoroughly invested him, especially having the additional challenge of not being based on a previously established IP.

Regardless of whether or not it won an award at the Oscars, The Boy and the Heron is an incredible and innovative animated movie that I would recommend any student to watch. 

 

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