Recently, animation giant Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement from feature films at the age of 74. As no small fan of his work my first instinct was disbelief; he’d said this before, both after completing Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle. So what makes this announcement so different? Well, perhaps most telling is his age. At 74, he is certainly getting up there in years and the arduous task of drawing 1000s of sketches must be wearing on the man. For many years he has been trying to cultivate younger talent for Studio Ghibli, to carry on the studio after he, Toshio Suzuki, and Isao Takahata retire to mostly successful but varied results. Yoshifumi Kondo was a preemptive instance which unfortunately never got to yield fruit beyond one hugely successful, and terrific, film before his untimely death. Current directors Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Miyazaki’s own son Goro Miyazaki have multiple films under their collective belts and look to carry the company past Hayao’s step back, but let’s not forget that Isao Takahata has no such plans, as of yet anyway, to retire from feature direction.
In the end, Miyazaki has left a legacy of phenomenal films and characters that have touched audiences and left an indelible mark on film, let alone animation. As a fan, I’d love for him to work forever, and that he’d outlive me in the process. Whether or not this retirement sticks this time, won’t change what I feel when I see one of his films; terrific storytelling, memorable characters, and a childlike sense of wonder. While I am certain that he’ll still have a considerable amount of input in the affairs of Ghibli, perhaps in previous capacities as writer or producer, his contributions to his craft are immeasurable. Mr. Miyazaki, I cannot wait to see what this next phase of Ghibli has in store for us.
Photograph: JP Starpedia