Hayao Miyazaki Retires

It’s certainly huge news when the most commercially successful anime director ever – by far – announces he’s retiring from directing feature films.

This is a day we’ve known was coming for a while, but it’s still sad to see Miazaki Hayao announce he’s retiring from directing features.  It’s early yet (I can’t even find an English source) so I don’t know how far he’s left the door cracked open in terms of shorts or TV work, and what role he’ll be taking at Ghibli as a producer and writer.  That makes Kaze Tachinu his final film, fitting in the sense that it’s an idiosyncratic film that no one else likely could even have gotten made.  In my view it’s not one of his better works (I may feel differently when I’ve seen it subtitled) but history will be the judge of its place in his catalogue.

It’s quite fashionable for serious anime fans to dismiss Miyazaki, who committed the ultimate sin of being popular with the general public, not to mention making mostly works that can be enjoyed by kids.  I consider him one if the greatest directors in animation history, and at his best (Castle in the Sky and Mononoke Hime are the two movies that spring to mind for me) virtually peerless.  His impact on anime both in Japan and abroad can hardly begin to be estimated.

I suppose now more than ever the “next Miyazaki” chatter will be impossible to ignore, though I think it unlikely anyone else will be as profoundly successful as he was.  Especially as his son Goro seems conflicted at best about becoming a full-time director, it seems to me as if Hosoda Mamoru comes closest to capturing Miyazaki’s unqiue blend of storytelling, imagination and common touch that can reach viewers of all ages.

What this means for Studio Ghibli – and the anime industry – will take some time to assess.  It’s still a bit of a shock – Miyazaki-sensei is only 72, and seemingly a young 72 at that, but clearly the best one to decide when was the right time to say goodbye.  It’s a sad day, and it’s probably best to take time to appreciate the Master’s work before thinking about what comes next.

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23 comments

  1. k

    Didn't he announce his retirement once already? Which was the reason why his son made the Earthsea movie and not him? And then he went on to make two more films.

    In any case, even if he actually retires this time, I can't say I'm sad. I enjoyed his earlier works, but I think Mononoke hime was the last of his films that I liked. Also, I think it will only affect Ghibli on any significant level, because let's face it, he was the main attraction there.

  2. He never announced his retirement formally, no. He's mused about it in interviews after pretty much every film since Mononoke, but never said he was retiring.

    I think when the most commercially successful film director in Japan, in any medium, retires, it affects a lot. And it certainly impacts anime, because for many people he was the face of anime. As to his later films, obviously that's a matter of personal opinion. I personally think Spirited Away is superb, and Ponyo extremely underrated.

  3. K

    Yes this isn't the first time Miyazaki has retired. He is getting up there in years though so this time might be it.

    Anyways I love Miyazaki but I do think his later films have not been as good as his earlier ones (have not seen his latest yet). However that I feel is actually common with a lot of great directors & Miyazaki will definitely have a place among the greats.

    Anyways while I do love Miyazaki sometimes I regret Takahata doesn't get the same attention. He's also great. Can't wait for his new movie as well.

  4. He did say something like "I would like to retire" after Mononoke (the amount of work he put in on that film was preposterous) and "semi-retired" for a couple of years (during which he was actually researching Spirited Away). But it was nothing like this in terms of formality and seeming finality.

    I really don't understand why Ponyo doesn't get more respect, but it is what it is. As for Howl, it should be noted that Miyazaki wasn't originally set to direct it (Hosoda Mamoru was, actually) and didn't have his normal level of control. And yes, I would love to see Takahata get more respect but I think it boils down to two things: he's directed so rarely, and his films had limited commercial success. I'm certainly looking forward to Kaguya.

  5. i

    I heard on ANN that he retired a few years ago. Stupid site. His last movie is now a must watch. I actually like Mononoke Hime a lot more than Laporta but all his films have that magical touch and I am in full agreement that Hosuda-sensei is the only one who can continue his legacy (considering how wolf children went). 'But wouldn't it be nice' if Hosuda and Shinkai teamed up and make a Miyazaki movie that surpasses Miyazaki's.

    Last thing is that it really shows how much Miyazaki looks like the colonel or Sean Connery in that picture, he's even wearing white.

  6. k

    >Enzo
    What kind of effects on the anime industry (minus Ghibli because that's obvious) are you thinking of?

  7. Z

    His best films are probably Nausicaä (Mononoke-hime is basically a 1990s version of this), Tonari no Totoro, Porco Rosso, and Spirited Away. I thought Ponyo was a bit silly but the target audience was most likely young children.

    Agreed that Takahata is underappreciated. Hotaru no Haka is a fine (and important) film.

  8. >kuromitsu
    When you take away the greatest commercial force in the business, I think it has to have some effect. Miyazaki is directly responsible for generating a tremendous amount of revenue for anime – now obviously the direct financial impact is with Ghibli itself, but I think their success makes anime more commercially viable to the money people in the industry. If Ghibli can survive this more or less in-tact, I don't think it will be a huge impact. But if not I think anime, as a brand, is weakened. In any given year a number of the top 10 grossing films in Japan – sometimes as many as half – are anime. Miyazaki's films are some of the top-grossing films of all-time in Japan. If that all goes away, I think anime as a brand and a commercial enterprise is diminished.

  9. Z

    I think Toei would have a greater impact on the industry.

  10. k

    >Enzo

    As for the financial aspect, I think that depends on how much of the profit from Miyazaki's movies go to non-Ghibli projects (via producers). I admit I don't know anything about that, so if anyone has some info about it I'm curious to know.

    About anime as a "brand"… The thing with Miyazaki (and Ghibli in general) is that his films are for a very broad audience. Even people who normally don't watch anime will go to see Miyazaki movies because it's Miyazaki. In that aspect they're very different from other high-grossing franchises such as Pokemon, One Piece or Evangelion. As far as the audience is concerned, I don't think that Miyazaki retiring will change anyone's anime watching/buying habits, except those who bought/watched Miyazaki stuff won't have anything new to buy/watch anymore. (I mean after the inevitable collections, books, artbooks, and whatnot run out.) Even if the "anime" brand suffers I don't think it will take a significant hit on its home turf.

    Abroad is a different question, of course, but the Miyazaki Well won't dry up for a long while (collections and remasters and re-remasters etc.). In the meanwhile, companies will look for the next big name, and perhaps this will result in people getting to know more directors and studios. Maybe it will take a while until someone appears who can come close to Miyazaki's commercial and critical success, but that doesn't mean there can't be smaller successes by multiple artists.

  11. H

    Maybe Anno should follow in his footsteps? He's sure as hell stumbling on his own atm.

    Porco Rosso is rather underrated so hopefully his latest is more reminiscent of that. I think his creativity peaked at Spirited Away – that's what endeared me to him in the first place. While I enjoy Howl's, it was kinda uneven I suppose. Ponyo had a semi disappointing and over-blown third act (a general weakness for Miyazaki I found) that really stole the simplicity from the film for me.

  12. Well, Anno directing a Nausica sequel is supposedly a real possibility. He did work on the original.

    In a way, I suppose it would be a sort of dream scenario for Hosoda to move to Ghibli and take over as the creative face of the studio (though I wouldn't if I were him). That's the real issue – Goro clearly doesn't want to do it and may not have the gift anyway, Takahata will almost surely never direct another feature, and there's no creative heir apparent to Hayao. Yonobayashi Hiromasa did very good work on Arrietty and he's only 40, so I suppose there's at least some chance he might step up as the main guy.

  13. H

    I think he may stay on as an adviser/writer transitionally to help the younger talent establish themselves or build a new heir that's doing good work in the anime industry already. I agree it definitely worked for Arrietty, hopefully we'll see another from Hiromasa soon.

  14. H

    I'm not very hip since I haven't seen any of Mamoru Hosoda's work. ^^;

  15. R

    @Hangman: it's never too late :). His last three films are all great, and I particularly love his latest film, Wolf Children…highly recommend you to give it a try.

  16. H

    TGWLTT sounds interesting so I'd be keen to check it out sometime.

  17. A

    Surely one of the greatest anime directors there is. Will be interesting to see what he intend to do or be involved in after his retirement.

  18. R

    Whether or not there were similar announcements prior, this still comes shocking and sad. Hayao Miyazaki is definitely an important figure. He contributed to bringing anime to the world stage, and his impact to the industry and the viewers — both in Japan and abroad– is absolutely undeniable. I enjoy most of his works — and most of the works from Ghibli. There's always a sense of wondrousness, innocence, and purity from his films, and I love the respect that he has on the characters and his viewers. Hosoda Mamoru does come close when thinking of a successor, and, as an anime fan, it will be interesting to observe how Miyazaki's retirement will shape Ghibli's status and the industry as a whole for the years to come.

  19. T

    I haven't seen all of his films (yet) but it does sadden me to hear he's retiring. I'm being slightly optimistic in hoping he does some work in shorts or TV series, but if not, I can definitely say he left a huge impact in the world of anime. It'll be interesting to see what happens next…

  20. C

    I hope he still gives advice to the young director.
    All of his anime movie were inspiring.
    Specially:
    My Neighbor Totoro
    Howl's Moving Castle

  21. M

    Satasho Kon was just as important but I don't recall his death leaving a profound effect on the industry – although I wish it did. Madhouse need to get into gear with Yume Miru Kikai.

    Miyazaki's directorial absence will be a major blow to Ghibli's commercial importance/success, but as others have said he should stay on to mentor the younger talent – it's his responsibility.

  22. N

    While I don't consider it to be his 'best work', Howl is my favorite Miyazaki film at the moment, but that might be because I've watched Mononoke once or twice (or a whole dozen times) too many; Still, it was Mononoke that got me into anime to begin with, and for that I am eternally grateful.

  23. H

    I've always wondered why anime fans (book fans understandably) knock Howl so hard and to a lesser degree, Spirited Away. Is it because of their mainstream status?

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