Miyazaki Makes a Comeback with Spontaneous Film Release
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Miyazaki Makes a Comeback with Spontaneous Film Release

By Molly Kaiser for The J-Pop Exchange

In a mysterious effort, Studio Ghibli and its co-founder Hayao Miyazaki have released a new film this month in Japan without any traditional marketing efforts.

The film, 君たちはどう生きるか (きみたちはどういきるか) which translates to “How Do You Live? (How Do You Live)” in English, brought the famed of director of films like Ponyo, Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, out of retirement.

The movie was released in Japan on July 14 and will come to North America later this year under the title The Boy and the Heron, according to an announcement by the film distribution company GKIDS.

But not much was shared about the film publicly ahead of time other than a few images and the title of the film tweeted by Studio Ghibli days before its release.

Perhaps this unconventional approach was a strategy in and of itself because the film achieved the studio’s best opening weekend ever, at $13.2 million (1.83 billion yen), surpassing the former record holder, Howl’s Moving Castle.

Mayazaki told The New York Times in 2021 the film would be based on the 1937 young adult book Kimitachi wa Do Ikiruka, translated to Will You Live in Harmony? by Genzaburo Yoshino, however GKIDS has denied this, stating that The Boy and the Blue Heron is an original story written by Miyazaki.

According to IMDb, which describes the film as an adventure-drama, the plot is as follows:

Through encounters with his friends and uncle, follows a teenage boy's psychological development. He enters a magical world with a talking grey heron after finding an abandoned tower in his new town.

According to Deadline, the reviews so far from Japan-based critics are “mixed, but mostly favorable.” The movie has earned a 93% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.6/10 on IMDb.

Miyazaki’s return to the screen

Miyazaki founded Studio Ghibli in 1985 alongside creatives Isao Takahata, who passed away in 2018, and Toshio Suzuki, who has served as the general manager of the company since 2014. The studio has churned out hit after hit globally, notorious for their stunning visuals and heartfelt storylines, creating a world of wonder akin to America’s Disney empire. The 82-year-old cinema savant most recently retired in 2013 citing his age after nearly 60 years in the industry but announced his intention to come out of retirement for this film in 2021. According to Deadline, this wasn’t Miyazaki’s first retirement. The publication reported he had “retired” several times before in the late 1990s, but then returned to Studio Ghibli to direct Oscar winning film, Spirited Away in 2002. His last film before his most recent retirement was the historical animated drama The Wind Rises (2013), for which he wrote the screenplay and directed. Surely audiences are thrilled by Miyazaki’s response; he is one of, if not the most prolific animated storyteller in history. A New York Times reporter wrote in 2021 that “No artist has explored the contradictions of humanity as sympathetically and critically as the Japanese animation legend.” It’s unclear The Boy and the Heron will be Miyzaki’s last bow, but regardless, his impact will be everlasting on global culture and storytellers of the future.


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