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The Boy and The Heron: Hayao Miyazaki’s Legacy

  • Culture

BY Valentina Rios  – BSc Politics, Philosophy and Economics

2023 has been a brilliant year for cinema, giving us so many great titles to choose from. One film that stood out in particular was Hayao Miyazaki’s long-awaited The Boy and The Heron, a reflective piece of art dealing with themes of grief and legacy. 

What is speculated to be Hayo Miyazaki’s last film, The Boy and the Heron appeared with an air of freshness in a climate saturated by Hollywood blockbusters. You won’t be able to stop looking with excitement and wonder at every frame, as each one contains immaculate attention to detail due to Miyakazi ensuring that every aspect of this film is handcrafted. This is amplified with the help of Joe Hisaishi’s mesmerising score that transports us to Mahito’s world.

 “Showing a new face of Miyazaki that has come with his ageing, as his narratives become more introspective.”

Although this movie touches upon themes that are consistent throughout Miyakazi’s filmography, his intentions for this film feel quite different to the rest, taking on a playful yet darker approach to the storyline from the very intense opening scene. Showing a new face of Miyazaki that has come with his ageing, as his narratives become more introspective. Mahito and the great uncle become mirrors of Miyakazi’s own view of his past and future, as he’s still in this time of further discovering his artistic capabilities, whilst also coming to terms with his mortality and what he wants his legacy to be. 

Photo of Miyazaki, from Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki

There was excitement at SOAS too, as the Japanese Research Centre hosted a talk analysing and celebrating Miyazaki’s newest film. The panellists emphasised the film’s literary influences in the feel and visuals of the story, pointing out parallels to Dante’s Divine Comedy, Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead and more modern visual references like Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, with all these influences enriching the already vibrant world of Miyazaki.

As pointed out in the talk by Filippo Cervelli, The Boy and the Heron can also be interpreted “as a reflection on creativity. The fantasy world is lethal, a refuge from the fear of grief…, a fear of feeling what you really feel inside,” yet it can help guide the individual towards clarity and calmness as it does with Mahito. 

Miyazaki will keep on teasing us with retirement as he has been doing since 1997, but after watching The Boy and the Heron this feels like a heartwarming farewell from a friend many of us have grown up with, and last film or not, Miyazaki deserves all praise for making us feel nostalgic once again.

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