On day 7, in the 12 Days of Anime I’m doing something unprecedented. I’m praising something in the fantasy genre for the second straight day in a row. Lets just overlook that I’m also picking on one major issue I had with Hosoda’s The Boy, and the Beast that I felt Big Fish & Begonia tackle significantly better. Given what I have to reveal, ah, this post will include major spoilers for both Big Fish & Begonia, and The Boy and the Beast. I highly recommend Big Fish & Begonia as it’s truly a landmark in Chinese animation. The Hosoda film I say you can skip, but if you don’t care about either, or already seen them continue on. There’s no take backs pass this point! Good? Lets continue!
So both movies take place in a fantastical world. The differences is immediate as Big Fish starts out in a fantasy world called The Others, and the Hosoda film starts out in the real world. Ren, the protagonist of The Boy, and the Beast is introduced as recently having lost his mother. At his age, he of course doesn’t take kindly to the idea of living with new people, and runs away. Eventually coming across beast Kumatetsu, following him out of curiosity. Leading Ren into the Beast Kingdom unable to return to the human world. This in stark contrast to Big Fish, and Begonia which introduces 16 year old Chun on a trip into another world as a rite of passage. Chun has the opportunity to stuck in the human world, but that’s more of a matter of time, and her being responsible.
From these two setups I should have given Ren more sympathy since he’s younger, and is unable to return home. However, it’s how the Beast Kingdom is used developed, and used that bothers. Specially how it hardly attempts to distinguish the Beast Kingdom from the human world much. The setting offers the storyteller plenty of opportunity to show more than a few shops, and Kumatetsu house, but rarely do they do that. Turning the possibly fantastical into the mundane.
Big Fish & Begonia meanwhile takes place primarily in The Others. Besides the rite of passage, the rest of movie is comfortable with showing the audience fantastical vistas, and setting it apart from the mundane everyday world. This is further looked into when Chun wants to resurrect a life. Receiving a lecture about throwing it the natural order out of balance, and if she does desire so much to resurrect a soul she must offer something of equal value. Knowing full well what this entails Chun still agrees to this contract.
In Boy, and the Beast no such contract is made. Ren has nowhere else to go, and simply sticks around with Kumatetsu. Becoming his student while learning things related to his training. Here lies the issue in The Boy, and the Beast. When Ren eventually becomes a teenager only suddenly does he realize the Beast Kingdom can’t offer him everything. Due to the timeskip in the movie, I’m meant to believe that for several years Ren had no issues living in the Beast Kingdom. When Ren has a desire to go back into the human world it barely even much of conflict. Ren has no problem interacting with other people, settling back into society, and even managing to get himself into a school.
Ren issues just feel to brushed off to feel the true weight to them. As a kid, he was able to run away from his issues in the real world, settle into the Beast Kingdom easily, and more or less found people to take care of him. However, the movie fails to get that feeling of being torn up between two worlds.In Big Fish & Begonia, the conflict is simple; Chun was saved by a human, feels guilty it cost Kun his life, and sets out to correct what she feels is right. She believes she return Kun (the Big Fish) back into the human world once it’s fully grown to make everything right. Chun changes as she sees the ever growing consequences to the world of The Others caused by her action. Seeing its people, and landscape in chaos hurts her.
In the case of Ren he was more than happy not think about the human world during his time in the Beast Kingdom. Due to the timeskip, it ignores the uncertainty that could have built up in Ren over his time in the Beast Kingdom. With Chun, we know she lived in The Other her entire life. She has memories, friends, and dreams cemented in The Others. While she was enamored with the beauty of the human world she did ultimately want to return to her own home.There’s the argument to be made that Chun is a teenage girl with a loving family waiting for her while Ren is a irrational kid who’s having trouble dealing with the passing of his mother. Ren acting irrationally I could forgive easily because what kind the likelihood of a kid making good choices when their parent just died is low. However, the death of Ren mother felt inconsequential as a result. Maybe during his time in the Beast Kingdom Ren learned to overcome it, but it’s not shown.
Big Fish & Begonia other than showing the consequences of Chun action doesn’t simply skip pass the bigger picture. There’s a subtle moment where a little girl is crying out for her sibling, and Chun is reminded of the little sister of Kun when he died saving her. Chun is willing to throw her life so easily to make things right it blinds her. It’s only through help of those close to her is she barely able to keep her own life, and even then she has to live with the fact her action resulted in more people getting hurt for a single human life.Ren ultimately decides to live with his father in the human world learning to carry his home in his heart. Unfortunately the conflict that arose was unrelated to him. In the Beast Kingdom, raising humans is as bad as resurrecting the dead in The Others. The consequences aren’t as drastic to the world itself, but the single person who has a void in their heart. Being consumed to the darkness. Ren overcomes his darkness earlier in the movie so his part in the climax just feels weightless. He had no trouble adjusting back to human society, and manage to make a good life for himself in a world where humans aren’t well received. The lack consequences is what made The Boy, and the Beast so dreadful for me to watch.
The Boy, and The Beast I have no clue I’m suppose to take away from it. Maybe home is carried in your heart, except Ren is only show dissatisfied with the Beast Kingdom once he returns to the human world for the first time in almost a decade.In the opposite, Big Fish & Begonia Chun’s action carry consequences to her, the world, and her best friend Qiu. Teaching the lesson that the path to the right answer can be muddle with good intentions. Simply throwing your life away to do the right things can have equally negative effect. Nor does it make the blanket statement that throwing your life won’t solve everything. Understanding that in some cases it’ll actually do some good like the case with Qiu. He was able to save the girl he loved so much, and gave up so much for her. Consequences that truly settle once you see a brief post credit sequence.
It’s the empathize of showing consequences that other serious fantasy often failed to establish in their own story. Magic always feel like to me an easy fix for everything. Big Fish & Begonia, and so with yesterday anime Little Witch Academia there’s more needed than just magic to do the right thing. Ironically, both are about balance in different ways. With Big Fish & Begonia, it’s the value of life including your own, and the natural balance it carries.
That concludes Day 7 in the 12 Days of Anime. Though I use this opportunity to pick on a beloved movie like The Boy, and the Beast. I did so in order to celebrate the immense joy Big Fish & Begonia brought to me. See ya next time with another 12 Days of Anime post.