The Boy and the Heron (2023) – Review and Summary

Title Card

Miyazaki’s latest is as beautiful, if not more, than his last. However, it is by no means the type of character driven tales he is known for.

General Information

Director(s) Hayao Miyazaki
Screenplay By Hayao Miyazaki
Based On The Novel “How Do You Live?” By Genzaburô Yoshino
Date Released (Film Festival – New York Film Festival) October 2, 2023
Date Released (In Theaters) December 8, 2023
Genre(s) Adventure, Fantasy, Young Adult, Non-English (Japanese)
Film Length 2 Hour 4 Minutes
Content Rating Not Rated
Noted Characters and Cast
Mahito Soma Santoki
Natsuko Yoshino Kimura
Shoichi Takuya Kimura
Kiriko Kô Shibasaki
Himi Aimyon
The Grey Heron Masaki Suda

Content Rating Explanation

“The Boy and the Heron” contains:

  • Dialog: nothing notable
  • Violence: fighting, blood, and open wounds
  • Sexual Content: none
  • Miscellaneous: drinking

Film Summary

This content contains pertinent spoilers. Also, images and text in this post may contain affiliate links. If a purchase is made from those sites, we may earn money or products from the company.

After a fire killed his mother, Mahito, and his father, Shoichi moved in with his mother’s sister, Natsuko. Upon one of Mahito’s first times meeting Natsuko, he sees she is pregnant, and while not jealous or the type to act out, he can see the writing on the wall.

Thankfully, Natsuko is nice, alongside the half dozen older ladies who live with her, but, at the estate, a Grey Heron who is a bit of a troublemaker also lives. One that triggers Mahito’s journey as Natsuko wanders into the forest, and despite all the warnings he has received, Mahito goes after her.

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.


Mahito (Soma Santoki)
“Mahito (Soma Santoki),” The Boy and the Heron, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, 2023, (GKIDS – © 2023 Studio Ghibli)

After losing his mother to a fire at the hospital where she worked, Mahito is haunted by the thought of her burning up. However, to not be a burden to his father or anyone else, he often suppresses his feelings and tries to stay under the radar.


Natsuko (Yoshino Kimura) and the ladies of the house
“Natsuko (Yoshino Kimura) and the ladies of the house,” The Boy and the Heron, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, 2023, (GKIDS – © 2023 Studio Ghibli)

Mahito’s aunt, who lives at her and her sister’s family home, that is currently pregnant with Mahito’s cousin/sibling.


Shoichi (Takuya Kimura)
“Shoichi (Takuya Kimura),” The Boy and the Heron, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, 2023, (GKIDS – © 2023 Studio Ghibli)

Shoichi is Mahito’s father, who owns a factory profiting from the war.


Kiriko is one of the elders at Mahito’s family estate who ends up begrudgingly coming onto his journey and becoming a vital part of it.


Himi (Aimyon)
“Himi (Aimyon),” The Boy and the Heron, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, 2023, (GKIDS – © 2023 Studio Ghibli)

Also known as the blacksmith due to her inability to burn and cast fire, Himi works in the alternate world, protecting baby spirits from starving pelicans.

The Grey Heron

Mahito (Soma Santoki) and The Grey Heron (Masaki Suda)
“Mahito (Soma Santoki) and The Grey Heron (Masaki Suda),” The Boy and the Heron, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, 2023, (GKIDS – © 2023 Studio Ghibli)

A trickster of sorts, the Grey Heron calls out to Mahito to get him to see his master.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Fireworks.”


Our Rating: Mixed (Divisive)


The Visuals Are What Is Strongest

If there is one thing guaranteed to deliver from a Studio Ghibli or Miyazaki film, it’s the visuals. With the love and care given to them, everything feels purposeful, and each scene is like a wallpaper you want to save on your phone or computer.

I’d even say, character-wise, you’ll get more from the visuals than any bit of dialog or the story.

On The Fence

The Character Development and Story Aren’t Miyazaki’s Strongest

On top of a boy being the main focus, which is already a warning sign for a Miyazaki film, the boy is a medium. While Mahito has gone through a lot thanks to his mom’s death, relocating, getting bullied at school, and more, there is no real oomph there. No need to get emotional, sympathetic, or anything like that.

So when it comes to the women in his life, you’d think they’d compensate and while Kiriko is cool and Himi has a touch more depth than Mahito, they don’t give you what you need or expect. Heck, even Natsuko, who triggers the films major journey, there isn’t much to her worth noting.

Kiriko and Himi live in a alternate world where Kiriko takes care of baby spirits and and Himi helps with her fire powers. Natsuko? She is just someone who is a slightly mysterious aunt who gets captured and held for ransom by parakeets.

So yes, you do get something odd and fitting of the fantasies Miyazaki has taken us on before. However, his latest film billed as his last is not in competition with his best.

Who Is This For?

Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli fans who love their art style and want to see a decent, but not necessarily, classic, film.


If you like this movie, we recommend:

  1. Mirai
  2. HAL (Haru)
  3. Spirited Away

Check out our movies page for our latest movie reviews and recommendations.

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The Boy and the Heron (2023) – Overview


Something felt off. Almost as if you are continually waiting for something – a revival or moment when this would kick into its next gear yet sadly, that never happens. Yes, you are taken to a different world and see visuals that are stunning, but increasingly, it is becoming clear why so many are talking about what was seen after watching “The Boy and the Heron” versus what was felt.

  • The Visuals Are What Is Strongest - 84%
  • The Character Development and Story Aren’t Miyazaki’s Strongest - 73%
User Review
0 (0 votes)


  • The Visuals Are What Is Strongest


  • The Character Development and Story Aren’t Miyazaki’s Strongest

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