Home Again: The Boy and the Beast

Have any of my Studio Ghibli fans seen this movie? It’s not from Studio Ghibli, BUT critics are saying the director, Mamoru Hosoda, is the next Hayao Miyazaki.


But, for what it’s worth, I do like the movie. Critics’ claims aside.

It is about a nine-year-old boy named Ren who finds himself in the world of beasts after running away from his soon-to-be-adoptive family. His mother died, and her family came to claim him, since his father was nowhere to be found.

In this world of beasts, humans are not allowed. They have dark hearts, the citizens know. But Ren comes to be an exception. Not that he doesn’t have his own darkness, but he gets to stay and train with sword fighter Kumatetsu (The lord of the beasts thinks this is a good idea). Resembling a bear, Kumatetsu is loud and stubborn, and he can’t explain techniques to his new ward whom he dubs Kyûta. But Kyûta/Ren figures out how to master sword fighting by watching his new teacher, with the help of the memory of his mother.

Ren grows up in the world of the beasts, learning the ways of the sword, and making friends. About eight years later he discovers the path back to the human world, and meets a girl who teaches him how to read and write and do math. Ren has always been self taught, and until now, hasn’t had much schooling. Kumatetsu wonders at Kyûta/Ren’s  new behavior, but dismisses it as Ren growing up.

Ren has grown up, and I don’t just mean that eight years have passed, but his balancing the human and the beast world –and seeing the differences between the two– has told him exactly how much he’s missing by being in the beast world. And it doesn’t help that with his constant journeying to the human world, he’s found his biological father. The problem is, he’s grown up in the world of the beasts, and he doesn’t know which he is more. A beast, or a human?

He soon finds out, and has the fight of his life, spanning from the beast world to the human world. It’s a mess. And at the end of it all, Kyûta becomes Ren and leaves the beast world. Never to pick up a sword again.

Ok, that last part, him leaving and not going back –not even to visit!– and NEVER PICKING UP A SWORD?! That made me SO MAD!

But here’s the thing: Everything the world of the beasts and sword fighting taught him, he learned, assimilated, practiced, and regurgitated. The world of the beasts is different because of that fight. And Ren is different, too, because of the fight, because he found his way back to the human world, because he met that girl, because he found his father. There is an entire world left for him to explore, and it has its own training regimen: Go to school, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids. That’s a lot different than arguing with Kumatetsu everyday, sword fighting, and sleeping on the floor.

I mean I get it, I’m still a little bitter, however. Who the heck… Obviously, Ren and I are on two different wavelengths. But I mean, if I grew up knowing only the world of the beasts and I knew I had a family in the human world, and could be where I was truly understood… Yeah, ok, whatever. I guess.

You know, Harry is actually a great example. If you read my previous post Home Again: Harry Potter, you would know that I discussed the two worlds Harry balances. The wizarding world and the muggle world. Similar to Ren, who balances the world of the beasts and the human world. Where Harry’s muggle people know of the wizarding world, Ren’s human people don’t know of the land of the beasts. Both seventeen-year-old boys fight for their lives and the result is one (or in Harry’s case, both) of the worlds changing. Both boys disown the worlds that disowned them. Harry chooses the wizarding world, and Ren, after being picked on and fighting people for being human, chooses the world of the humans. Both boys don’t look back.

Ren took everything he learned about himself in the beast world and was able to discover who he truly was: a human who wanted a normal life. Someone who cares about him and he, in turn, cares about. Don’t get me wrong, he and Kumatetsu got along –in their own way– and loved one another, but Ren needed to find his own answers and discover his human self after growing up in the land of the beasts. Kumatetsu was a great mentor, but he wasn’t necessarily a father, even though Kumatetsu may have seen Ren as his son. Ren knew he needed to find his real father who would take him in and teach him about the human world, and because he and Kumatetsu’s bond was so great, he knew his master would never leave him. It is with this faith that Ren is able to leave the land of the beasts– he knows he has Kumatetsu with him and he believes in himself. That’s what being treated as an outsider taught him; he can rely on himself. And Kumatetsu, in one final act of love, showed Ren he can rely on him too. So Ren has everything he needs inside himself, and he learned these foundational, self-reliant things by being in the world of the beasts. There is no need for him to return. Or to pick up a sword. His sword is inside him. He can handle anything that comes his way.

Thank you for reading.

I’ll reread to help myself be less bitter.



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