The Boy and the Heron in some ways resembles Spirited Away, and in some ways it can be considered an improvement, enchancing its more positive qualities. The key difference is that the movie dedicates a significant portion of it’s time to establishing the relationships of the protagonist with his family, and only then go into the spirit world.
The animation is beyond gorgeous. The titular “heron” is far from the majestic depictions of these birds, starting off as a menacing trickster before becoming goofier. There are fewer creature designs than on Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke or Ponyo, but the other world still feels vibrant and full of strange characters.
Overall, a phenomenal exercise in Ghibli’s best qualities