Hayao Miyazaki Retires From Directing Feature Films

Hayao Miyazaki Retires PictureToday was supposed to be the start of a Kiyoshi Kurosawa season but news that Hayao Miyazaki is retiring from making feature films broke yesterday and I have to post about it. According to an NHK report as seen on Anime News Network, during a press conference at the Venice Film Festival on Sunday, Studio Ghibli President Koji Hoshino announced that “studio founder and world-renowned anime filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki will “retire from the production of feature-length films.””

I wrote about this briefly yesterday on the Scotland Loves Animation post but a sentence doesn’t seem fitting for a person who has achieved so much and made so many films I love. At 72-years-old and as one the most critically and commercially successful anime directors (the most successful?), Miyazaki has had a huge impact. He brought so many great works to the screen and was able to connect with both children and adults. His impact can be considered larger because thanks to the appeal of his films he has made anime more exportable. People come to the medium thanks to titles like My Neighbour Totoro.

Before I get melodramatic and emotional, retiring from feature-length films means that he is still open to the possibility of directing shorts and creating manga and writing scripts. It also leaves open the possibility of TV anime and other roles in film making such as being a writer and producer. It’s still sad news, though.

Personally, the reason I feel strongly about it is because I sort of grew up on Spirited Away Bathhouse ChihiroGhibli/Miyazaki’s works. When I was a kid I watched the TV anime Sherlock Hound which he directed and wrote episodes of. I didn’t know it was anime at the time (too young) and I had no idea who the director was (not a cinephile back then) but I loved it and little did I know that I would continue watching his works. I can remember my first Ghibli film in a cinema. It was when Spirited Away got its UK theatrical release I saw it in a packed cinema full of all sorts of people and I have rarely experienced a movie where everyone is so connected to what is going on in the film. There was a standing ovation at the end and I was so impressed and moved by the experience that I still remember so much from that night. Since then, I have made the effort to watch every Ghibli film released and reviewed their latest ones here.

Kiki's Delivery ServiceMy favourite is still Spirited Away with Princess Mononoke and Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro coming a close second. And Kiki’s Delivery Service and Porco Rosso and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind… Pretty much most of the films his he directed are favourites of mine and I have watched them each at least five times (which is easy because Film4 keep screening them) and I never tire of them.

When we consider the idea that one of the anime and film world’s great directors is retiring, talk inevitably comes to his successor.

As I right, the rather unfairly critically savaged film Tales from Earthsea, directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s Goro Miyazakison Goro, is on the UK television channel Film4. Due to a half-day at work I get to watch it again. It is very uneven in terms of pace and characterisation but it is still an interesting film and Goro’s latest effort From Up on Poppy Hill was much better received by critics and audiences but he seems to waver about committing to full-time directing.

Hideaki Anno The Wind RisesIf not Goro Miyazaki, then what about Hideako Anno the creator of Evangelion and a former animator over at Ghibli? He is very much like a darker version of Miyazaki, and if I think solely in terms of Evangelion he seems too dark but he made that was when he was in a psychologically dark place but what a masterpiece that turned out to be. Since then he also directed and wrote the school comedy/romance His and Her Circumstances and the light-hearted mahou-shoujo title Cutie Honey. Miyazaki collaborated with him on a live-action short based upon Nausicaa and was the lead voice actor in Miyazaki’s last ilm. Miyazaki has also revealed that he is open to a sequel to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and would leave it under the control of Anno.

Mamoru HosodaMamoru Hosoda who is frequently compared to Hayao Miyazaki thanks to his skill at using magical realism. His last film The Wolf Children had all of the echoes of a Ghibli title but it traded in the whimsy for a dose of realism and humanity, leaving the film feeling refreshingly different from Ghibli’s output.

In recent years I have been rather cool with my reception to the latest Ghibli films like Arrietty and Ponyo and consider the 90’s/early 2000’s the best but I have to pay respect to Miyazaki. If the post comes off as negative then I apologise. Great anime will still continue to be made and there’s no real finality to this statement of retirement. Miyazaki-kantoku remains alive and very active and he hasn’t totally quit films. I’d rather he retired and was happy about his choice than any other alternative. He has achieved a lot and if anything is certain, Miyazaki has earned his retirement and I hope he enjoys it.

14 thoughts on “Hayao Miyazaki Retires From Directing Feature Films

  1. Quizoxy

    Alls good if that is what he really want to do, everyone should be glad about that decision he has made despite being with Ghibli for such long time. It probably took him some time coming to a conclusion that it is time to enjoy his life. This may possibly lead him to something inspirational and may even show us something more extravagant. We should all be proud of his achievement and contribution to the industry, probably one of the greatest revolutionary change that most of us have witness over the years through the magnificent works…

    1. Thumbs up to Quizoxy – agree with you completely!

      And somehow I’m not sad at all, but unlike Genki Jason I didn’t grow up with Studio Ghibli. Didn’t see my first one (I think, unless I watched something as a child and forgot) until 2009, when the film society at my uni happened to screen Kiki’s Delivery Service.

      Generally I think the whole successor talk and comparing other filmmakers with Miyazaki is silly – I don’t think people set out to be like him in any case, because everyone wants to make their own mark, in their own way. But since you mention other directors, J, Shinkai Makoto is sometimes named as well (he’s completely different I think, and making a very different kind of mark). Katabuchi Sunao isn’t, surprisingly, although I think he’s tonally much closer to some of Miyazaki’s films.

      I don’t think you can call what Hosoda (or Miyazaki) does ‘magical realism’. Well, not in my book… but I may be going too much by a literary definition from Latin American novels, which is where the term originated.

      1. I’m happy this is retirement and not an obit. He wanted to retire after directing Howl’s Moving Castle, if I remember correctly.

        Talk about successors is inevitable and with this announcement it has come about again because there really isn’t anyone with Miyazaki’s stature in anime. Hosoda has long been compared to and touted as one because of similarities in their works.

        I’m taking a broad view of magical realism which, to be honest, could just be called fantasy – topples over a table and takes cover behind it because expects angry reply from Alua). Spirited Away is a good example of magical realism where fantasy, alternative realities crash into normality and it has a sharp critique of modern Japan.

      2. Well, we can talk about Hosoda’s (or anyone else’s) stature in anime when he’s 72 as well… but he’s in his forties I think, so time will tell.

        Magical realism and fantasy are very different things. Fantasy is a whole world functioning by rules that are impossible in our real world, and that are not questioned by the people living in that fantastical world (it’s merely how their world works); magical realism is a world that is for the most part like our real world, governed by the same rules, except that there are a few things that are impossible (i.e. magical) AND that these things are not questioned but taken as if they were completely real/possible (i.e. no one makes a fuss when they happen, an apple floating in the air is as accepted as an apple floating to the ground by the pull of gravity). You are talking about a situation where the magical is noted and perceived as something that is unusual and extraordinary (even if it is eventually accepted).

      3. Well the question is being asked about successors and I thought I’d throw in my own opinion because I’m familiar with the names being touted.

        That description of magical realism can be applied to something like Spirited Away – Chihiro finds herself in a world populated by gods and spirits and accepts it and Porco Rosso – the main protagonist is a pig who walks on two legs and talks, flies a seaplane in aerial battles with pirates and has a hot girl who pines for him, Kiki’s Delivery Service – witches. Witches everywhere. Flying around on broomsticks.

        Saw the Raindance line-up. Must say, I’m pleased about two of the titles.

    1. I’m with you on this one! At 72 and with his achievements, Miyazaki deserves a break but this announcement doesn’t rule out a comeback. Porco Rosso 2, anyone? Steven Sodebergh keeps saying he’ll retire and he keeps hanging around!

  2. It’s a shame when one of your favourites retires but I guess he’s kind of earned it. Spirited Away is probably my favourite film – my daughter must have watched that film about 20 times and I literally am not kidding! What a fantastic experience you had watching that at the cinema – it’s small wonder it had such an impact. Unbelievably one of my most fun cinema experiences was years ago – watching the Rocky Horror Picture Show at a midnight showing – the film preceding was Young Frankenstein and half the audience were dressed in costumes, plus everybody jumped out of their seats and danced whenever the songs were on. It was actually quite surreal but really good fun, exhausting and unforgettable. That’s the beauty of the cinema. You can’t predict what’s going to happen.
    Lynn 😀

    1. Your daughter has good taste! That night at the cinema watching Spirited Away along with Battle Royale and Hard Candy are etched into my mind.

      I’ve seen nearly every Ghibli film at least five times apart from Only Yesterday because they get good coverage in the UK and whenever they are on I watch them again (these days, whilst doing my Japanese homework). I get emotional at the same parts and laugh at the same parts, they are great films.

      I agree, Miyazaki has earned his retirement.

      Some of the girls in work really like Rock Horror Picture Show and dress up whenever the stage version is in town… Not my cup of team but that’s the beauty of cinema, people are connected in that dark room in a clean and fun way… most of the time…

  3. Haha! Sequel to Porco Rosso? I’m there! I became a Miyazaki fan pretty late when Spirited Away was released. That movie just blew me away and opened my eyes to Studio Ghibli movies. His works made me look at animation/stories told through animation in a different way. When I heard about this news, I didn’t really feel sad about it–such a brilliant and creative mind surely will find a way to share more fantastic stories in some other way besides directing. Exciting times!

  4. My regret was not seeing more of Ghibli films when I was young, could make the days mooore better. I saw Spirited Away when I’m in college and I wasn’t a cinephile back then too. Was amazed and stayed so long in mind. I also owe my college professor for making me see some short films by Ghibli too. Creating Totoro and others, and creating innocent stories, such a blessing in this era. Amazing work!

    1. Spirited Away will always be my number one!

      Hey, at least you can experience Ghibli now and know there’s a back-catalogue of excellent titles. Perhaps you could do a season of Ghibli film reviews. There are still some people out there who have no idea what they are missing!

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