Today 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 Ghibli/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.
My 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 son 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.
If 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 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.