This past weekend, Studio Ghibli President Koji Hoshino announced that “The Walt Disney of Japan” Hayao Miyazaki will “retire from the production of feature-length films.” The sad news came about at Italy’s renowned Venice Film Festival where Miyazaki’s Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises) is competing. Interestingly enough, Studio Ghibli did say this doesn’t include Miyazaki’s involvement in other smaller projects. For those of us familiar with Hayao Miyazaki’s trajectory, we know he had previously announced his retirement shortly after directing Princess Mononoke. In the end, Miyazaki ended up making a triumphant return in 2001 with his beloved award-winning classic Spirited Away.
If that’s any indication, then we should expect Miyazaki to make a comeback a few years down the road with another rousing blockbuster; however, this time around it is unlikely. Miyazaki recently made public that a sequel to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind might be in the works, yet he wouldn’t even be a part of it. He instead gave the green light to his close friend Hideaki Anno (Evangelion) to write and direct. If such is the case, Miyazaki is already retired from his highly prominent filmmaking career.
Miyazaki’s directorial debut was in 1979, with the release of Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. Miyazaki followed this with his career breakthrough in Japan, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind in 1984. Nausicaa would come to explore some heavily environmental themes he would employ in his latter films. His success didn’t stop there, as he continued with a string of sequential hits such as Castle in the Sky in 1986, which was also his first film with Ghibli; the studio he helped to found. My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) would prove to be successful in his native Japan. He released Porco Rosso in 1992, but it wouldn’t be until 1997 when he made himself truly known outside of his native country.
Miyazaki’s revered Princess Mononoke was not released until 1999 in the United States, though it had already swept a swarm of accolades in Japan and Asia, including the Japan Academy Prize (equivalent of the Oscars) for Best Picture. Princess Mononoke’s environmental awareness received universal acclaim from western critics and art-house movie goers. Shortly after, Miyazaki decided to retire temporarily. A few years later, Miyazaki would direct one of the biggest hits of his career, Spirited Away. Released in 2001, this film again netted him the Best Picture award from the Japanese Academy, and became the highest grossing film in the Japanese box office with over 22 billion yen ($274 million dollars) on a $15 million budget. Spirited Away would also go on to win Miyazaki the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Oscars. This is the only time an anime film/title has won the coveted prize.
He would follow this with Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), adapted from Diana Wynne Jones’ novel. Howl’s Moving Castle proved to be as successful overseas as it was in Japan, as it too was nominated for the Animated Feature Oscar, though it did not win. Miyazaki’s most recent films include Ponyo (2008) and The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu) released earlier this past July. The latter became a subject of heavy debate and criticism among some of his supposed “enthusiasts” in his native country. His friend Anno collaborated with him as the voice of main character Jiro Horikoshi in The Wind Rises.