This is not Miyazaki's first break in retirement - he first announced he'd done with making films in 1998, then proceeded to make his Academy Award-winning feature Spirited Away in 2001 and The Wind Rises in 2013. The Ghibli Studio was then shut down in 2013, as Miyazaki announced his retirement (again) after the pseudo biographical feature set during WWII was complete. It seemed there was no hope for his return, but this director is known for his disdain towards definitive endings – in films, and in life.
There wasn’t too much said about the plot of this new feature, apart from it being based on a novel from 1937 by Genzaburo Yoshino. The story follows a 15-year-old boy, Copper, and his life in Tokyo in the 1930s, narrated in part by journal entries from his uncle. He poses the question “how do you live?” when overlooking swarms of people, going about their lives in the city.
It’s supposedly a perfect story to be adapted by a director, whose films always prompt the audience to be more introspective and realise the complexities of human nature. Miyazaki almost never gives his audience a definitive answer or a satisfying resolution, because that’s not what life is. It might be magic and fantasy on screen, but the way the characters think, and act is deeply human. The fact that they’re flawed, make mistakes and pay the price but ultimately learn something is valuable. Miyazaki also doesn’t shy away from the topics of war, death and destruction. Famously a pacifist, he shows how we cause each other’s suffering but also overcome it.
His animated features are nothing short of mesmerising, and it would be highly recommended to watch his most famous Spirited Away or Howls Moving Castle (2004) in anticipation of the newest feature. Miyazaki’s films can be a great deal of things, but they are never boring.