Hayao Miyazaki at Venice

Early reactions to Miyazaki’s ‘The Boy and the Heron’ applaud ‘incredible’ hand-drawn animation

Hayao Miyazaki has released his first film in 10 years and Japanese critics believe that the animated film is worth the wait.

Studio Ghibli co-founder Miyazaki has come out of retirement to direct ‘The Boy and the Heron’, also titled ‘How Do You Live?’ in Japan, which opened domestically on July 14. The film will be released internationally in late 2023.

“The Boy and the Heron” is an original story inspired by Yoshino Genzaburo’s 1937 story about a young boy who comes of age while living with his uncle after his father’s death. Miyazaki dedicated the film to his nephew.

Miyazaki last directed 2013’s “The Wind Rises” and became a voice champion for hand-drawn CGI animation. While Studio Ghibli has decided not to promote “The Boy and the Heron,” Miyazaki’s studio co-founder Toshio Suzuki told Japanese broadcaster NHK (via Expiration) that the film’s lack of marketing goes back another generation, just like its marketing campaign.

“One poster and one headline, that’s all we had when we were kids,” Suzuki said. “I loved trying to imagine what a movie was about and I wanted to bring that feeling back.”

Taichiro Yoshino, the nephew of “How Do You Live?” author Genzaburo Yoshino, published aitemdetailing a Studio Ghibli preview screening earlier this year during which Miyazaki announced the film as his last.

“The moment the credits rolled, the lights came on and Hayao Miyazaki’s comments were read,” wrote Yoshino, recalling Miyazaki saying, “Maybe you didn’t get it. I myself didn’t I understand.

Yoshino recalled a 2017 meeting with Miyazaki at the Studio Ghibli headquarters in which the director explained his vision for the inspired project, a parallel to the novel “How Do You Live?”, calling the main character “more like me “.

“I’ve avoided it for a long time, but I have to make (a film) that is more like me,” Miyazaki told Yoshino at the time. “I’ve done several works about kids who were cheerful and bright and positive, but that’s not how many kids really are. I was a really hesitant person myself, so I’ve always thought that guys are actually less pure and whirlwind with all sorts of things. We are open to the fact that we live in conflict. So I thought about creating a hero who is slow to run and has a lot of embarrassing things inside that he can’t share with others. When you overcome something with all your might, then you become the version of yourself that can accept those problems.

Early reviews of the film noted that “The Boy and the Heron” was “worth the wait” to showcase Miyazaki’s fully realized vision. A BBC review detailed how the film features “Miyazaki’s signature thematic obsessions, quirks and preoccupations” as “visual treats” in the vein of “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and “Spirited Away.”

A Time’s up Japan the critic noted that “The Boy and the Heron” has a “markedly more mature tone and provides more haunting moments” and is a “mature and complex masterpiece”.

A critic for Anime news network wrote: “Each frame of this film feels like a separate work of art, which only becomes grander when it is put together as part of a greater whole. It’s a movie that you could watch hundreds of times and still discover new things in the background of each scene. It cannot be underestimated how small visual details transform the film from the real to the surreal, like a heron flashing a toothy grin or wooden dolls vibrating in sympathetic laughter. It’s an animation tour de force unlike anything seen in the past decade.

Cinemas+ called “The Boy and the Heron” a “highlight” of Miyazaki’s career and personal life, writing, “To fully understand the setting and the story, you have to commit to watching it over and over while mulling over the various scenes and analyzing Hayao Miyazaki as a person.”

Japanese cinema siteOwn channel he added: “It is no exaggeration to say that this film is among Ghibli’s best works in terms of visuals and story. On the other hand, those who aren’t Ghibli fans may be confused by the breakneck pace of the scene’s development. Ghibli, which has produced fantasy works that are easily understood by children, has finally published a work that requires time and consideration to understand, so it is natural for there to be mixed reactions. And there must be a lot of viewers who were just overwhelmed by the visual beauty.”

GKIDS will debut internationally with “The Boy and the Heron” later this year.