Imagine a world where grief and fantasy intertwine, leading a young boy on a journey of self-discovery and healing. “The Boy and the Heron,” a Japanese animated masterpiece, takes us on such a journey, delving deep into the realms of magic and emotions.
The film skillfully blends historical context with a fantastical journey, creating a narrative that’s both intriguing and heartwarming. The protagonist, Mahito, embarks on an extraordinary adventure, challenging his perceptions and beliefs and taking him through alternate realms. But what is the true essence of this magical journey?
At the heart of Hayao Miyazaki’s movie, ‘The Boy and The Heron,’ grief is navigated through a magical world. Mahito, the protagonist, emerges from the realm into the real world with a new perspective and optimism.
He also accepts that we are bound to make mistakes as humans, but guilt should not be a burden to carry for ages. Mahito finally enjoys his new family as he embraces his stepmother.
Understanding Grief And Acceptance Through A Child’s Vision
A child’s innocence is the purest thing in the world. They view the slightest immorality as the utmost evil or even a minor inconvenience as a tragedy. A similar theme was explored in a Bluey episode that portrays how childhood trauma can manifest into a tragic memory of a lifetime, inducing a perpetual fear.
Mahito is a product of the aftermath of war, whose repercussions have been felt for generations. Set in the backdrop of World War II, the plot starts with the tragic loss of a precious family member.
Now, a young Mahito, who is still grappling with the concept of violence, has to come to terms with losing his mother, Hisako, who died at a Tokyo hospital in firebombing. To top that, he also has to adapt to completely new surroundings after his father marries his mom’s younger sister.
But something is eating Mahito from inside– the guilt of lying when he self-harmed after he was bullied previously. He wanted to show the wound as the result of the bullying, thus exaggerating what happened.
The Essence of Mahito’s Journey: Healing and Discovery
Mahito’s odyssey begins in a Japanese countryside ravaged by war, where his initial struggles and distant relationship with his stepmother, Natsuko, lay the groundwork for his incredible journey.
His encounter with the speaking Grey Heron serves as the catalyst for his entrance into a surreal alternate world inside an abandoned derelict tower, which he later finds out was built by his great uncle.
In this realm, Mahito’s experiences with fantastical creatures, the enigmatic Himi, and confrontations with the Parakeet King are not just mere plot points but symbols of his internal struggles and growth.
The film’s director was quoted saying, “We wanted to explore the themes of loss, acceptance, and the transformative power of love through Mahito’s journey.” This quote perfectly encapsulates the essence of Mahito’s transformation.
Even when his uncle wanted a successor to carry on his legacy in the magical world by someone who was purest at heart, the world itself failed because of the corruption of intentions.
When the mystical realm begins to collapse, it symbolizes destruction, and Mahito perceives it as shedding of guilt and grief. The epiphany in the young mind suggests that he knows that worlds can be destroyed at any moment, but hope remains constant.
He then bids adieu to Himi, who is actually the younger version of his biological mother. She, too, goes back to her timeline with the hope that she needs to comply with her fate; only then can Mahito exist.
Ultimately, Mahito enters the real world with optimism, hope, and a newfound zest for life as he embraces his family. And that is how we should perceive life in general.
SIDE NOTE: This is just my theory, but the mysterious ‘Tower’ in the movie can also represent the ‘tower card’ in Tarotreading.
Usually, this card represents danger, unforeseen circumstances, the destruction of the old self, and the start of new beginnings with liberation.
Can a journey through fantasy truly heal the scars of reality? Does Mahito’s acceptance of his stepmother symbolize a broader theme of embracing change and finding beauty in the unexpected?
Share your thoughts and join the conversation about this mesmerizing tale.