The anime giant leaves retirement one last time, this time to make a film based on one of his favorite childhood novels
In a recent interview with The New York Times, animation giant Studio Ghibli's iconic anime director Hayao Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki confirmed Miyazaki's return to animation with a new film based on the novel How Do You Live?, by Japanese writer Genzaburo Yoshino.
Find out the details about Miyazaki's long-awaited return below, as well as the story behind the director's new film, his great contribution to the world of 2D and 3D animation, and discover some of his most legendary works.
What we know about How Do You Live?
Keeping the name of Genzaburo’s novel—one of Miyazaki's favorite books as a child—the new feature by Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli tells the coming-of-age story of a fifteen-year-old boy. After his father passes away, the boy moves in with his uncle and embarks on a spiritual journey while dealing with puberty and the trials of growing up.
Unlike Studio Ghibli’s latest film, Earwig and the Witch (2020) made by Gorō Miyazaki entirely in 3D animation, How Do You Live? will use 2D animation—and feature the signature hand drawing that characterizes the legendary Japanese animator's films.
According to a statement from Suzuki, Miyazaki's latest installment is a parting gift for his grandson: “Miyazaki is making the new film for his grandson. It’s his way of saying, ‘Grandpa is moving on to the next world, but he’s leaving behind this film.'”
Talking about the filmmaking process in an interview with Entertainment Weekly back in 2020, Suzuki explained that, even more so than classic Miyazaki films, this one involves complex processes:
"We are still hand-drawing everything, but it takes us more time to complete a film because we're drawing more frames… Back when we were making [1988's] ‘My Neighbor Totoro’, we only had eight animators. 'Totoro' we made in eight months. [For] the current film that Hayao Miyazaki is working on, we have sixty animators, but we are only able to come up with one minute of animation in a month. That means twelve months a year, you get twelve minutes worth of movie. Actually, we've been working on this film for three years, so that means we have thirty-six minutes completed so far. We're hoping it will finish in the next three years."
Miyazaki's fabled retirement
Hayao Miyazaki is no stranger to retirement. The first time the director announced his retirement was in 1998, a year after the release of Princess Mononoke. Lauded not only for the quality of the animation, the film also received a lot of praise for its environmental themes running throughout—making it an animation that today carries more significance than ever.
Three years after announcing his retirement, Miyazaki surprised the world with the release of Spirited Away. An instant classic, in addition to appealing to the famed Studio Ghibli fans, the movie’s influence reached the other side of the world, becoming the first (and to today, only) non-English language film to win the Oscar for Best Animated Film in 2003.
Following Spirited Away, the Japanese director returned to the world of animation for more than a decade (bringing theaters titles like Howl’s Moving Castle), until in 2012 he announced The Wind Rises would be his final feature film before his definitive retirement from animation. But in true Miyazaki style, he’s back for one more...
A life dedicated to animation
Born on January 5, 1941, Miyazaki—like many other writers and artists of his generation—witnessed the impact of The Second World War as a child.
The influence of the war on Miyazaki's life can be felt through his films, often touching on themes such as war stories, instruments of war like combat planes, and the West's invasion of Japan.
Coming from a background in politics and economics, Miyazaki's career as an animator began in 1963 when he joined animation studio Toei Animation. Then, two decades later in 1985, he teamed up with Isao Takahata, Toshio Suzuki, and Yasuyoshi Tokuma co-founding Studio Ghibli—one of the most exciting animation studios to emerge in the last century.
Involved in eighteen feature films (as well as shorts and television series) with Studio Ghibli and Toei Animation, Miyazaki has become a prolific animator, director, and screenwriter, known for approaching stories with vast human depth in imaginative and fantastical ways.
Alongside being a massive source of inspiration in the world of animation, his works feature an incredible style and legendary characters that have immortalized Miyazaki as one of the best animation directors of all time.
3 Must-see movies from Studio Ghibli
While we wait for the much-anticipated arrival of Miyazaki's latest—and perhaps last—film, it's the perfect excuse to look back on the works that made him one of the animation world's greatest icons.
Spirited Away, 2001
Winner of the Oscar for Best Animated Film in 2003, and the first non-English language production to win the award, Spirited Away was the film that earned Miyazaki major recognition beyond Japan.
With characters that have become part of our cultural imagination—such as the spirit No-Face (Kaonashi) or the protagonist Chihiro herself—in addition to being a wonderful visual experience, the film's hidden subtext criticizes the arrival of capitalist society in Japan and themes of consumption.
Princess Mononoke, 1997
The highest-grossing film in Japan in the year of its release, Princess Mononoke is set in the Muromachi period (1336-1573 CE) and tells the story of a war between the gods of the forest and a mining town that threatens to destroy everything in its wake.
With unforgettable characters such as the titular protagonist (aka San), the film not only addresses war but also delves into the extractivist way in which we as humans have related to nature.
My neighbor Totoro, 1988
A film that carries a lot of sentimental value for Ghibli fans, one of Studio Ghibli's first films, My Neighbor Totoro has become an iconic anime work—in large part thanks to the kawaii character Totoro who accompanies the protagonists on their adventures.
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