“The Boy and The Heron” by Hayao Miyazaki, Movie Review

Jul 1, 2024 | Admit One

When Hayao Miyazaki announced that 2013’s The Wind Rises would be his “final” film, many suspected that an artist of his caliber would eventually return to create again if given the chance.

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Release Date: 07/14/2024
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
IMDb: 7.6/10
Where to Watch: Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Fandango at Home, Google Play Movies, YouTube

Ten years later, the legendary Japanese animator, known for classics like Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, and Princess Mononoke presented us with perhaps his definitive work. This new magnum opus combines the finest elements of his previous films into something sure to be considered the greatest Hayao Miyazaki film of all time.

In the story, eleven-year-old Mahito loses his mother in a hospital fire during World War II

His father soon remarries—his late wife’s sister—moving them to the countryside where he can apply his manufacturing profession to the war effort and support his family as they welcome a second child. Behind their new rural home looms a strange, abandoned tower, and around the pond on the estate grounds flies a mysterious heron.

When his new mother enters the forest in the delirium of pregnancy, the entire estate goes searching for her. Only Mahito knows that the path to finding her leads into the tower.

The heron lures Mahito inside, and he soon finds himself in a dreamlike world that would make L. Frank Baum and Lewis Carroll proud

Unlike The Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland, this narrative leads Mahito into a “world of the dead”—not in the morbid sense typical of Western mythology, but a beautiful realm where spirits migrate between planes of existence. From there he finds himself embarking on an adventure deeper into the world of dreams and death, where he ultimately learns to come to terms with the loss of his mother.

Like the greatest fairytales and childhood fantasies, The Boy and The Heron navigates its mythological story with a dream-logic familiar to anyone who’s plumbed the landscapes found in the deepest sleep.

What sets this film apart from similar narratives—in addition to its uniquely Shintoist approach to mythology—is the masterful cinematography and animation displayed across every frame

From beginning to end, this film showcases a master and his team working at the peak of their craft. It’s a childhood adventure on par with other classics in the genre, sure to take audiences of all ages on a journey they won’t soon forget, and one that begs for a second viewing by the time the credits roll.

About our Admit One Author

Isaac Albert Frankel

Isaac Frankel is a freelance writer and content creator specializing in reviews and analysis of cinema, interactive media, and mythological storytelling. He was raised in Prescott, AZ, wrote his first non-fiction book in 2013 after graduating from Tribeca Flashpoint College with a degree in Game & Interactive Media Design, and currently produces content for the YouTube channel: Off Screen.

More of his work and current projects can be found at