The movie The Boy and The Beast (currently available on Crunchyroll) is a truly delightful tale of a confused and emotionally injured little boy that runs away from home after the death of his mother. He follows strange looking robed creatures to a busy merchant city in world of bakemono or monsters. In this world of monsters, he becomes the apprentice of a sword master that is one of the strongest warriors in the city, but he is unrefined and lacked polished skills. The sword master’s dream is to fight the most skilled warrior in the city and win the competition to be the next city leader. After the boy grows up, he ventures back to the human world, where he meets a girl, finds his dad, and decides whether he wants to return to the world of monsters or not. It’s an inspiring coming of age story with a super natural twist, about growing up, dealing with grief, and learning what a family is.
I truly loved this movie! And of course after watching it I wanted to learn what ever I could about its production. Who were the voice actors? What other anime has the studio made? Was this based on a manga or novel? But the first little bit of information I learned about the film, with very little searching on the internet, was the original name of the film. I didn’t think it would be that important when I first looked up the information, but learning about that original title completely changed my interpretation of the story and the relationship of the two main characters. And after quite a bit of pondering, I still can’t understand why the English version of the title was changed. That’s right, The Boy and The Beast is not the original title, and an entire story was lost in translation!
In the Japanese version, the title is Bakemono No Ko. This is a pretty darn clear name that isn’t really left up to interpretation. It should have been translated as The Monster’s Child, not The Boy and The Beast. And maybe that might seem like a small change on the surface. Maybe the English translation team just wanted it to sound a bit like Beauty and the Beast? Regardless, it does alter the how relationship between the two main characters is presented, significantly.
The English version of the title, The Boy and The Beast, indicates that the two main characters are separate individuals with a rather distant relationship. A distance that doesn’t actually exist in the film. If anything, the English title implies that the two main characters might be adversaries or in some kind of rivalry. Likewise, it creates an expectation that the story is focused almost completely on the boy and how he deals with some kind of conflict involving the beast. Much like how the title for the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast alludes to the story focusing on the point of view of Beauty and having almost no perspective from the Beast. Though the title The Boy and The Beast might have sound more appealing to a marketing team for the English speaking world release, it has very little to do with the actual story in the film.
Conversely, the original Japanese title translated as The Monster’s Child represents what the film is actually about. The Japanese title for the film really does demonstrate so much better the close relationship that the sword master Kumatetsu has with his young apprentice Kyuta. Considering that Kumatetsu literally raises Kyuta from childhood and even gives the young boy his name, it’s no surprise that he sees Kyuta as more of a son then just an apprentice. And though throughout the film Kyuta doesn’t like to admit it, he also grew close to Kumatetsu, teaching the bear like sword master how to be more agile and how to use more intricate footwork to help polish his master’s fighting techniques.
Likewise, this title also alludes to the mental state that Kyuta is in throughout the movie as he grows and eventually is forced to resolve his complex and sometimes ugly feelings towards the death of his mother and his distaste for his biological family. Kyuta isn’t a sweet little kid that just happens to stumble into the strange world of monsters. He’s a stubborn, surly, and mistrustful little punk that isn’t afraid to tell off someone that’s three times his sized and resembles a haggard sword swinging bear person! Considering Kyuta’s personality and his complicated emotional conflict, he’s exactly the kind of troubled kid that old neighbor ladies might referred to as a “little monster” and cluck their tongues about the parents the children take after.
Though Kumatetsu is certainly rough around the edges and can’t clearly express his feelings very well, and Kyuta is certainly not a sweet little ball of joy, they still form a bond of father and child as they both grow together to become better and stronger people. And I think that is a connotation that the English version of the title greatly lacks.