Editor’s Note: Studio Ghibli has taken the unprecedented step of not marketing Hayao Miyazaki’s work in Japan. The Boy and the Heron, no trailers and no plot summary. Instead, producer Toshio Suzuki said, “Deep down, this is what moviegoers have been wanting lately,” and Fable Studios invited fans to go see the movie without preconceptions. So, before reading this article, briefly consider your real movie cravings!
Shrouded in mystery and anticipated by millions, the first film in over a decade by anime legend Hayao Miyazaki. The Boy and the Heron, finally met a curious public in Japan on Friday, and its local release is underway. So far, the collective reaction can be summed up as a combination of mild bewilderment and deep appreciation.
Japanese news service Kyodo reported dozens lined up outside a movie theater in Shinjuku, Tokyo’s largest business district, on Friday morning. The Boy and the HeronFirst screening of As the crowd filed out of the theater after the film’s 124-minute runtime, the 27-year-old company employee described the film as a “tradition” of Miyazaki’s anime world, saying, “I can’t stomach it. I feel like I want to see it again sometime.”
Information about the film ahead of its release is intentionally sparse. Ghibli previously shared that the film was inspired by Japanese author Gensaburo Yoshino’s 1937 children’s philosophical book. how do you live, one of Miyazaki’s personal favorites. In a 2017 TV interview, Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki, considered Miyazaki’s right-hand man, said the great animator was making the film for his grandson, saying, “Grandpa is moving on to the next world soon, but he’s leaving this film behind.
The studio’s decision to do zero promotion for the film — releasing no plot synopsis, voice cast, trailer, art or description — left fans in a state of intense curiosity (while a large portion of the Japanese public remained unaware that a new Miyazaki film was even coming). Suzuki said he believes what audiences “want lately” is the chance to see the film completely anew, without any preconceived notions.
So, when many people in Japan saw the movie, what did they say?
Early reviews and descriptions emerging from Japan, both in English and Japanese, suggest a film that is visually stunning but somewhat darker and more mysterious than much of the Ghibli catalog.
A somewhat mixed, but overall positive review, and Specialty Outlet Anime News Network Miyazaki’s animation work within the film has been described as “truly stunning”.
“Each frame of this film feels like a separate work of art — only great when assembled as part of a larger whole,” writes the reviewer. “It’s a movie you can watch a hundred times and find new things in the context of any scene. It cannot be understated how small visual details take the film from real to surreal – like a heron flashing its teeth or wooden puppets vibrating as if in empathetic laughter. It’s an animation tour de force unlike anything seen in the last decade.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that this film is one of Ghibli’s finest works in terms of visuals and story,” Japanese Film Site Eega Channel wrote “On the other hand, non-Ghibli fans may be confused by the dizzying pace of scene development.”
It added: “Ghibli, who has produced works of fantasy that are easily understood by children, has finally released a work that requires time and consideration to understand, so it is only natural that there will be reactions of confusion. There must have been many viewers who were mesmerized by the spectacle. ”
Japanese Film and Culture Magazine Cinemas+ The film has also been described as a “finale” for Miyazaki, drawing on motifs and characters from across his filmography, but embedding them in a story that is darker, more challenging, and more personal than many of his beloved children’s works.
“To deeply understand the setting and the story, you have to commit to repeated viewings of different scenes and analyzing Hayao Miyazaki as a person,” the outlet said. The Boy and the Heron‘s story and Miyazaki’s own biography.
The film opens with an impressionistic depiction of the firebombing of Tokyo during World War II, when the story’s protagonist, Mahito, runs away from home. His mother is lost in a fire, and his father, who works in a factory that makes fighter planes, soon marries his late wife’s younger sister and moves the family to a large traditional house in the countryside. Mahito, wracked with grief and filled with anxiety about his new circumstances, desperately begins to explore his new surroundings. He meets a mischievous blue heron who talks and taunts him and stumbles upon a mysterious abandoned tower in the nearby woods. When his new mother goes missing, Mahito goes to the tower to follow the Heron – and slips into a parallel world of dizzying fantasy and philosophical import.
Many Japanese critics have noted that Miyazaki’s own family escaped the bombing of Tokyo in the Japanese countryside, and that his father, like Mahiko’s, worked during the war as an engineer in a fighter factory. Miyazaki has spoken over the years about how his particularly close relationship with his mother shaped him as a person and inspired the strong female characters that recur throughout his filmography.
So far, Miyazaki has not given any interviews The Boy and the Heron. However, the best clues to emerge about his motivations and intentions in the film come from a former animator — via the grandson of the man who wrote the book that inspired the film.
Taichiro Yoshino, grandson of Gensaburo Yoshino, author how you live in 1937, and today works as a journalist and editor in Tokyo. Taichiro published an article in Japanese Friday describing a private Ghibli preview screening he attended earlier this year, where Miyazaki shared a few brief words about his final feature.
“The moment the final credits rolled, the lights were turned on and Hayao Miyazaki’s comments were read,” Yoshino writes. The director’s statement to those in attendance was: “Perhaps you don’t get it. I don’t understand it myself.”
“There was a slight chuckle from the audience,” says Yoshino, who was among those laughing as he “sat there,” struggling to digest and understand the film’s messages.
Yoshino recounts a meeting he attended at Ghibli’s offices in 2017 when Miyazaki explained his plan to make a film inspired by Yoshino’s grandfather’s book. According to Yoshino, Miyazaki said he was coming back from retirement to approach a film from a new perspective.
“I’ve been avoiding this for a long time, but I want to make a movie that looks like me,” Miyazaki told him. “I have created many works about boys who are happy, bright and positive, but many boys are not really like that. I was a really lazy person myself, so I always thought that guys were really low-key and messed around with all kinds of things.
Miyazaki added: “Let’s face it, we live in conflict. So I thought of creating a hero who is slow to run and has a lot of shame inside him that he can’t share with others. When you overcome something with all your might, you become the version of yourself that can accept such problems.
Yoshino’s essay becomes a moving meditation on the legacy of his grandfather’s book, and he describes how Miyazaki’s themes. The Boy and the Heron “If I could speak directly to my grandfather right now, what would I say to him?” prompting him to ask himself.
Near the end of the passage, he notes that The Boy and the Heron His grandfather is “a separate creation”. how you liveBut they probably share the same central theme – how to live with yourself, how to embrace a world of conflict and loss.
He concludes with an exhortation: “For now let us go back to the theater in search of clues that cannot be gleaned from seeing it once. You may also find a clue for a new conversation with your grandfather.
The Boy and the Heron Specialty distributor GKIDS will release in North America later this year.