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Animated wonders abound in "The Boy and the Beast," a beautifully drawn fantasy tale by Japanese anime filmmaker Mamoru Hosoda.
Ren is a 9-year-old boy who, after his divorced mother's death, runs away from his relatives to live on the Tokyo streets. He encounters instead Kumatetsu, a bearlike humanoid warrior who leads Ren rechristened Kyuta ("kyu" being the Japanese word for "nine") to the realm of the beasts.
It's there where Kumatetsu aims to challenge the lionlike Iozen in battle to become the kingdom's new leader. But Kumatetsu is too undisciplined to mount a challenge, so the retiring lord suggests he take on an apprentice to become a proper master, and Kumatetsu chooses Kyuta to train.
Hosada nicely balances the magical aspects of Kumatetsu's world with the realities of this one, as Ren/Kyuta learns life lessons in both. Hosada also serves up a visually stunning finale, an all-out battle between good and evil below, above and on the Tokyo streets.
'The Boy and the Beast'
Opening Friday, March 4, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated PG-13 for some violence and language; screened both in Japanese with subtitles and dubbed in English; 119 minutes.