I was looking through a few of my movie Blu-Rays when I realized I hadn’t redeemed my digital copies for many of them, some dating back to before UltraViolet and Google Play Movies had become options. In the process of redeeming my movies I came across this movie in the PlayStore and it wasn’t very expensive so I decided to buy it.
I immediately went to watch it and discovered how wonderful this story was. In the first little bit you learn that there is another world that exists parallel to the human world where-in resides a civilization of beast people. The beasts are capable of reincarnating as gods once they become Lords, so their world is separate from the humans. The other half of the story resides around a young boy who had just lost his mother, who had divorced his father and he had never come back for him. The boy runs away and comes across one of the two beast men that are next in line to be a lord in the beast world and is taken on as his apprentice.
The rest of this review crosses into spoiler territory, so please be warned if you plan to watch it!
In the world of the Beasts, the Lord is deciding who will be his successor when he decides on what type of god he reincarnates into. The two leading successors are Iozen, a patient and wise noble resembling a boar, and Kumatetsu, a lazy and impatient man who angers quickly and resembles a bear. Despite their differences, however, Iozen and Kumatetsu are thought to be evenly matched in terms of strength and martial art prowess. To add to the list of differences again, Iozen has taken many apprentices and is thought to be an amazing teacher while Kumatetsu is thought to be a horrible teacher and has never taken an apprentice. When the Lord is ready to reincarnate, he would have them fight to determine who is the most capable to be his replacement, should they both take apprentices and prove a wise teacher.
On the side of the human world, Ren’s mother has passed away. His parents had been divorced for awhile and his father hadn’t come to get him when she passed, so his mother’s family came to take care of him. After having suffered such a great loss, he was in severe distress and runs away. He quickly resorts to doing whatever he needs to survive and finds a small mouse that has also apparently gotten lost. He screams out in public and after running to hide, a shadow appears in his form in the window of a shop. While hiding in some bike racks, cowering and trying to settle his hatred he was feeling for everyone around him.
At this point, Kumatetsu decides to wander through the human world briefly with his friend Tatara after being told by the Lord that he needs to take an apprentice. He crosses paths with Ren and jokes about accepting him as his first apprentice. “Kid, how would you like to be my apprentice? Just follow me!”
Ren, baffled with the sight of seeing a man that looked as a beast, stumbles to his feet and decides to chase him to see if what he saw was real. He stumbles through a set of thin alleys, chasing the shadow of the cloaked figure of Kumatetsu and finds his way in a world of beasts.
Naturally at this part of the show, he’s re-united with Kumatetsu and is declared as his apprentice and his training begins though, as expected, Kumatetsu is a pretty rough teacher and has more to learn about teaching than Ren has to learn about martial arts. They never really admit it throughout the story, but they become like father and son, while Iozen and his children eventually grow apart because he’s too busy training his apprentices.
While the story ends on a good note, it plays on a bit of tragedy before the end and the explanation of it lies in some truth about humans. The beasts briefly mention how the reason for the separation of the worlds was because the human race were the real monsters of the story, who have darkness that grow within them and swallow them up. This is foreshadowed early in the movie when Ren exclaims his hate for everyone and the imprint is left in the shop window. In the end, the darkness is a representation of the hatred that humans feel, and how their desire for revenge or vengeance can swallow up their souls and they simply stop being who they are. Our hate consumes us and we no longer stay the proper humans that we are. Discrimination for humans is briefly shown as most of the beasts look down on Ren as a child because he’ll become a monster, or they believe the darkness will eventually overcome him and he’ll ruin the world of the beasts. This is quickly forgotten as he matures through the movie and proves that humans with proper upbringings can be more than just monsters. They can make the right choices and be more respectable than most beasts. This is also paralleled by one of Iozen’s sons discovered at the end to be human, not a huge surprise since the moment you see him he’s clearly distinguishable as a human, ends up being consumed himself and causing the major climax of the story.
With this parallel it also shows that nature and nurture can be critical in a person’s upbringing. A child who was well loved and cared for, even amidst arguing and fighting, can be brought up to ultimately be good. The other child is still cared for in his life, but still had his hatred manifest and turned to commit to evil.
While I’ve seen a deeper meaning to this movie, I still think it’d be great for an audience of most ages. There is no explicit content in the movie and there’s only a moment in the movie that has blood. The English voice actors did a pretty good job with the dubbed version found through Google Play Movies, even though English dubs are often viewed as a detriment towards anime. I’d still love the option to hear the Japanese voice acting with it’s English subs, but unfortunately Play Movies does not give me that option, so I’ll have to find it elsewhere and watch it again.