First Reactions to Hayao Miyazaki's Latest Film 'The Boy and the Heron' Begin to Emerge from Japan

First Reactions to Hayao Miyazaki’s Latest Film ‘The Boy and the Heron’ Begin to Emerge from Japan

Editor’s note: Studio Ghibli took the unprecedented step of not marketing Hayao Miyazaki in Japan The boy and the heron, releasing no trailers and no plot summary. Instead, the legendary studio has urged fans to come and see the film without preconceptions, with producer Toshio Suzuki saying, “Deep down, I think this is what viewers crave.” So, briefly consider your true cinematic desires before reading this article!

Shrouded in mystery and anticipated by millions, anime legend Hayao Miyazaki’s first film in a decade, The boy and the heron, finally met a curious audience in Japan on Friday when its local release began. So far, the collective reaction could best be summed up as a combination of mild bewilderment and deep appreciation.

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Japanese news service Kyodo was on the scene Friday morning in Shinjuku, Tokyo’s largest business district, as scores of people lined up outside a movie theater to The boy and the heronthe first screening. And as the crowds filed out after the film’s 124-minute run, a 27-year-old employee of the company described the film as the “culmination” of Miyazaki’s anime world, adding, “I can’t stomach it just by looking at a time and I feel like I want to watch it again immediately.

Information about the film prior to its release was intentionally scarce. Ghibli had previously only shared that the film was very loosely inspired by Japanese author Genzaburo Yoshino’s 1937 philosophical children’s book, How do you live?, one of Miyazaki’s personal favorites. In a 2017 television interview, Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki, considered Miyazaki’s right-hand man, said that the great animator was making the film for his grandson, to say: “Grandpa will move to the other world soon , but is leaving this film behind.

And the studio’s decision not to do any promotion for the film – not releasing any plot summary, dub, trailer, art, or description – has kept fans in an acute state of curiosity (while also leaving much of Japanese audiences in the dark). that a new Miyazaki film was even coming). Suzuki said he believes the opportunity to see the film entirely new, without preconceptions, is what audiences “sincerely desire”.

So now that many in Japan have seen the film, what are they saying?

The first reviews and descriptions to emerge from Japan, in both English and Japanese, hint at a film that is visually stunning but somehow darker and more enigmatic than much of the Ghibli catalogue.

In a somewhat mixed but overall positive review, specialist retail outlet Anime news network describes Miyazaki’s animation work within the film as “truly stunning”.

“Each frame of this film feels like a separate work of art, only becoming grander when it is put together as part of a greater whole,” writes the reviewer. “It’s a film that you could watch a hundred times and still discover new things about 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.

“It is no exaggeration to say that this film is among Ghibli’s best works in terms of visuals and story”, Japanese film site Own channel he wrote. “On the other hand, those who aren’t Ghibli fans may be confused by the breakneck pace of the scene’s development.”

He added: “Ghibli, which has produced fantasy works that are easily understood by children, has finally released a work that takes time and consideration to understand, so it is only natural that there are mixed reactions. And there must be a lot of viewers who were just overwhelmed by the visual beauty.”

Japanese magazine of cinema and culture Cinema+ he similarly described the film as a “highlight” for Miyazaki, drawing motifs and characters from throughout his filmography but incorporating them into a story that is somehow darker, more thought-provoking and more personal than many of his beloved works for children.

“To fully understand the setting and story, one must commit to watching it over and over while mulling over the various scenes and analyzing Hayao Miyazaki as a person,” the outlet said while also noting similarities between The boy and the heronthe story of and the biography of Miyazaki.

The film begins with an impressionistic depiction of the bombing of Tokyo during World War II, with the story’s protagonist, a boy named Mahito, running away from his home. His mother is lost in the fire and his father, who works in a factory producing warplanes, 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 anguish at his new circumstances, reluctantly 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 forests. When his new mother goes missing, Mahito follows the heron into the tower to pursue her, entering a parallel world of dizzying fantasy and philosophical significance.

Many Japanese reviewers have noted that Miyazaki’s own family escaped the bombing of Tokyo for the Japanese countryside, and that his father worked during the war as an engineer in a fighter aircraft factory, just like Mahiko’s. Miyazaki has also spoken over the years of how a particularly close relationship with his mother shaped him as a person and helped inspire the strong female leads that recur in her filmography.

So far, Miyazaki has not given any interviews about it The boy and the heron. However, the best hints that emerge as to his inspirations and intentions with the film come from the old animator himself, via the grandson of the man who wrote the book that inspired the film.

Taichiro Yoshino, nephew of Genzaburo Yoshino, author of How do you live in 1937, today he works as a journalist and editor in Tokyo. Taichiro posted a item in Japanese Friday describing a private Ghibli preview screening of the new film he attended earlier this year, where Miyazaki shared a few quick words about his latest feature film.

“The moment the credits rolled, the lights came on and Hayao Miyazaki’s comments were read,” says Yoshino. The director’s statement to those present was, simply: “Maybe you didn’t get it. I myself do not understand this.

“A soft laughter emerged from the audience,” Yoshino says, adding that he was among those who chuckled because he was “sitting there dazed,” struggling to digest and understand the film’s messages.

Yoshino goes on to recount a meeting she attended at the Ghibli offices in 2017 when Miyazaki explained his plan to make a film loosely based on Yoshino’s grandfather’s book. According to Yoshino, Miyazaki said he would return from retirement to approach a film from a new perspective.

“I’ve avoided it for a long time, but I have to make (a film) that is more like me,” Miyazaki told him. “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.

Miyazaki added, “We are open 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.

Yoshino’s article becomes a moving meditation on the legacy of her grandfather’s book, and describes how the themes of Miyazaki’s work The boy and the heron it inspired him to ask himself, “If you could have a one-on-one conversation with my grandfather right now, what would I say to him?”

Towards the end of the piece, he notices this The boy and the heron it is “a separate job” from that of his grandfather How do you livebut which perhaps share the same central theme: how to live with yourself and accept a world characterized by conflict and loss.

He concludes with a call to action: “For the time being we go to the theater again looking for insights that I couldn’t glean from just watching it once. You could find a clue for a new ‘dialogue’ even with your grandfather”.

The boy and the heron will be released in North America by specialty distributor GKIDS later this year.