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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 17 April 2024

Without fanfare or PR, Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki's likely final film opens

The only information released was a poster drawn by Miyazaki - and even that was only sent to a limited number of cinemas

Reuters Tokyo Published 16.07.23, 10:01 AM
A movie poster of Hayao Miyazaki’s last film "How Do You Live?" (Kimitachi wa Do Ikiru Ka?) is displayed outside a movie theatre in Tokyo

A movie poster of Hayao Miyazaki’s last film "How Do You Live?" (Kimitachi wa Do Ikiru Ka?) is displayed outside a movie theatre in Tokyo Reuters

Without trailers, ads or any promotion at all, the likely final film by Oscar-winning Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki opened in Japan on Friday, with early viewers saying the lack of information made the experience more exciting.

Miyazaki, now 82 and known for a long roster of films including Academy Award winner "Spirited Away," called a press conference a decade ago to say he was too tired to make another full-length feature film and was retiring.

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But he soon retracted that, as he had prior retirement announcements, and after some short projects began work on "How Do You Live?" (Kimitachi wa Do Ikiru Ka?), the story of a 15-year-old boy coping with the death of his mother.

"I was really excited to see a Miyazaki movie," said Michiru Miyasato, an 18-year-old student who came to the first showing at a central Tokyo cinema.

"Because I didn't know anything about it ahead of time, my excitement increased even more, which I think was really cool."

Like other Miyazaki films from Studio Ghibli, the company he co-founded, the release was timed for the start of school summer holidays in Japan and features the laborious hand-drawn artwork and vivid colours Miyazaki has long been known for.

But the opening lacked the usual fanfare of events, saturation advertising, trailers and merchandising tie-ins. The only information released was a poster drawn by Miyazaki - and even that was only sent to a limited number of cinemas.

"Since there was absolutely no promotion, it felt as if I could experience it all directly with my body," said Yumiko Kokubo, a social worker in her 50s.

Toshio Suzuki, Studio Ghibli producer, said the strategy came from a desire to do something fresh.

"A poster and a title - that's all we got when we were children," he told NHK public television.

"I enjoyed trying to imagine what a movie was about, and I wanted to bring that feeling back."

In a first for Miyazaki's films, which include "Princess Mononoke" and "My Neighbour Totoro," this one also has an IMAX release.

Though Miyazaki has retired and returned several times in the past, his age has many believing this time may be for real.

"I thought his previous film was the last, then this was announced - and they say it's the last," said Rens Takahashi, 24, who works in computer graphics.

"So I was really, really looking forward to it."

No overseas release date has yet been announced.

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