“The Boy and the Heron” was released to cinemas in the UK in December 26th, 2023. The animated film was written and directed by none other than Hayao Miyazaki, whose other works include “Spirited Away” (2008), “Kiki’s Delivery Service” (1989), “My Neighbour Totoro” (1988) and many other fantastical films. 

The story of “the Boy and the Heron” follows a young boy named Mahito Maki, who loses his mother in a tragic hospital fire. He moves with his father from Tokyo to the rural home of his stepmother Natsuko in the countryside. He stumbles across an abandoned tower and a mysterious talking grey heron. When Natsuko disappears, Mahito follows the grey heron into the tower in search for her. 

The young boy finds himself in a magical world shared by the living and the dead. With the talking grey heron as his guide, Mahito embarks on an adventure to find his stepmother in this fantastical world. During his journey he meets many different characters such as Lady Himi- a girl who can cast magical flames, the fierce Parakeet King, the adorable Warawara and others. 

“The Boy and the Heron” is a semi-autobiographical story, having links with Hayao Miyazaki’s life and there are a few parallels between Mahito’s life and Miyazaki’s.  

Although the English version of the film has been released as “The Boy and the Heron”, the name of the Japanese version best translates to “How Do You Live?”, as reference to the 1937 novel by Genzaburo Yoshino which the film was inspired by.