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With Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki now retired from feature-length animation, there’s a marked lack of current anime directors with a proven track record of successful theatrical releases. While he hasn’t officially ruled out making any more anime, Ghost in the Shell director Mamoru Oshii has his hands full with the live-action Patlabor adaptation, and both Satoshi Kon and Osamu Dezaki, directors of Perfect Blue and Space Adventure Cobra, have sadly passed away.

As such, the lion’s share of expectations for theatrical anime fall to Mamoru Hosoda, the director responsible for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars. Hosoda’s last film was 2012’s Wolf Children, but now he’s back in the director’s chair again with a new movie scheduled for release next year.

The film is titled Bakemono no Ko, literally “The Beast’s Child,” but rendered in English on the official poster as The Boy and The Beast. Hosoda, who is also responsible for the project’s original concept and script, describes the plot as an action/adventure story centered on a young boy who wanders from Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood into a town called Shibutengai, which lies in an alternate world.

Shibutengai is inhabited by animal-like creatures, and it’s there that the boy meets Kumatetsu, who looks like a large, humanoid bear. Despite his formidable skills as a swordsman, Kumatetsu’s self-centered attitude means he lives a lonely existence. Nevertheless, he agrees to take the boy on as his disciple, giving him the name Kyuta and training him to be a warrior, too.

The film’s poster shows the pair striking defiant poses in the middle of Shibuya’s famous scramble intersection, indicating that at least some of the film will be set in our world. The film is still in the process of casting voice actors, and Hosoda says that as the story contains a number of mature male characters, he’s somewhat concerned about finding suitable performers through the standard audition channels.

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While many of Hosoda’s films feature fantastical elements such as vast virtual worlds or lycanthropy, his real focus is often on family dynamics. Summer Wars dealt with the bonds of extended family and illegitimate children. Wolf Children examined the challenges of a single mother raising her kids alone, then having to let go of them as they begin to make major, life-defining decisions on their own terms.

▼ The extensive cast of Summer Wars

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The Boy and The Beast looks to continue this trend, as Hosoda has set forth the connection between father and child, plus coming of age, as central themes of his new work. “Along with the changes in modern society, a shift in the concept of family is inevitable,” the director asserted. “The established, traditional concept of a family is no longer relatable, and we’ve come to a critical moment as we search for a new one.”

As a testament to the international popularity of Hosoda’s previous titles, producers have already accepted an offer from French film company Gaumont to serve as distributor for the upcoming movie outside of Asia. The Boy and The Beast is scheduled to open in theaters in Japan on July 11 of next year.

Sources: Cinema Today via Jin
Top image: Cinema Today
Insert images: Cinema Today, Summer Wars official website