Last month at the Venice Film Festival, world-renowned film director and co-founder of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki, announced his retirement from feature-length films. This ends more than half a century of his involvement with animated movies. Though Miyazaki has made similar statements in the past, he told reporters that this time he is “quite serious.”
Miyazaki, at age 72, stated he is getting “too old for the business” and would like to make room for new animators. He also cited the strain of meeting deadlines and drawing out thousands of frames required for large-scale projects.
Such fatigue is certainly inevitable, as Miyazaki has directed more than 20 feature-length anime films, many of which have received universal ac- claim. His 2001 film “Spirited Away” won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature and famously outsold block- buster “Titanic” in the Japanese box office, while “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind” have frequently appeared on critics’ lists of the top animated films of all time.
Miyazaki’s career in the animation industry began in 1963 when he be- gan work at Toei Animation. He then left in 1971 to begin co-producing an anime series with Isao Takahata. However, Miyazaki’s breakthrough in the field did not come until he co- founded Studio Ghibli with Takahata and directed its third film, “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” which became the company’s first box office success and the highest grossing Japanese film of 1989.
His retirement was announced at the premiere of his latest work, “The Wind Rises,” a fictionalized account of the life of Jiro Horikoshi, an engi- neer who designed the fighter planes used by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. The sympathetic portrayal of Horikoshi generated minor controversy from conservative Asian newspapers, though Miyazaki sees the engineer as an artist whose creation was exploited for militaristic aims rather than a cynical architect of death. De- spite the controversy, the film has re- ceived very positive reviews.
Like his previous films, Miyazaki’s final effort explores themes such as war, nature and the transition to adulthood. The animation follows the characteristic Studio Ghibli style of hand-drawn characters over lush watercolor backgrounds, evoking the whimsy of childhood and the epic feeling of flight through wide, beautiful skies. Also notable in “The Wind Rises” is the absence of traditional villains. Many of Miyazaki’s previous works revolve around the struggle of thoughtful, independent young girls against the unsympathetic forces of time or the challenges of adolescence.
The great animator’s retirement is sad news for fans the world over. Despite the maestro of a renowned anime franchise deciding to step down, it does not preface an end to all things Ghibli or Miyazaki. The director’s announcement left open the possibility of future short films, and he has mentioned plans to keep himself busy with other projects, like the Studio Ghibli museum.
Fans across the globe and Miyazaki himself still look forward to the bright future of Ghibli as he passes the torch to his son Goro Miyazaki. Goro is no pushover in the film business, as he has already directed two movies for the company, “Tales from Earthsea” and “From up on Poppy Hill,” with the latter winning the Japanese Academy Prize for Anima- tion of the Year in 2012 and receiving exclusively positive reviews from the fanbase. With a new director inherit- ing the blood and will of his predecessor, Studio Ghibli will continue to be a potent wind in the anime industry and rise to new heights.