Hayao Miyazaki Has Retired–For Real

By Kyle Lawrence

In 1966, Walt Disney, the proclaimed father of animation, creator of Mickey Mouse, and of course The Walt Disney Company, died of lung cancer in Burbank, California. Many grieved, believing there would never be another visionary in the field of animated features like him. Yet little did people know that a worthy successor to Disney’s lineage had already been born 25 years earlier in Bunkyo, Japan, and was already making his way in the animation industry.

Despite working primarily in Japan, Hayao Miyazaki is a name that many Americans would recognize. He has released such animated features as “Princess Mononoke,” which was the highest grossing film in Japan until “Titanic,” the Oscar winning “Spirited Away” and the critically acclaimed “Howl’s Moving Castle.” His achievements have been compared to the late Disney, and the studio he co-founded, Studio Ghibli, has produced some of the most prestigious and highest grossing animated films in Japan’s history. And now, he is retiring, though not for the first time.

Miyazaki began his career at Toei Animation, one of the largest animation companies in Japan. He first worked as an artist for “Watchdog Bow Wow,” but began to garner attention when he pitched his own ending for the animated film “Gulliver’s Travels beyond the Moon,” whose original ending he found poorly written. Miyazaki would work as an animator, writer, and designer for many other anime productions before directing his first big break.

1979’s “The Castle of Cagliostro,” an adventure film featuring the characters of the popular anime “Lupin the Third,” went on to inspire many other features and series such as “The Great Mouse Detective,” and “Batman: The Animated Series.”

Miyazaki’s next film, “Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind,” dealt with themes of ecology, a respect for nature and life, and a love of flying machines that would persist through many of Miyazaki’s films. In 1988 Miyazaki released “My Neighbor Totoro,” a feature aimed at younger audiences and families about a girl who makes friends with cute forest spirits, one of which being the titular Totoro. This character would become the mascot and symbol of his Studio Ghibli.

In 1997, “Princess Mononoke,” a fantasy period piece involving conflict between humans and the spirits of nature, was released. It featured many of the political and ecological themes present in “Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind,” and received praise from critics such as Variety’s Leonard Klady for its “complex and adult script.” After its release, Miyazaki went on his first retirement, only to return in 2001 to create “Spirited Away,” a story of a young girl forced to work in a magical bath house frequented by spirits. This film would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature that year.

Now, in 2013, Miyazaki has released what he claims to be his final feature film, “The Wind Rises.” The film, based on the manga of the same name, is a fictionalized biography of Jiro Horikoshi, aircraft designer of the Mitsubishi A5M Claude and the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, which were flown during World War II. Despite the controversy around the film, including many groups criticizing the film for having a protagonist who “built killing machines,” Miyazaki has stated, the planes designed by Horikoshi, “represented one of the few things we Japanese could be proud of – they were a truly formidable presence, and so were the pilots who flew them.”

And with that, Miyazaki has officially ended his career in animated features, or so he claims.

“I know I’ve mentioned I’m retiring many times in the past, so I know that many of you might think, oh again, Miyazaki said.” “This time is for real.”

Miyazaki has stated that a lack of freedom in the industry, and his worsening eyesight are contributing factors, making it hard for him to animate. He has; however, he plans to continue working in other fields. Whether or not he actually stays retired this time, is all up to the future

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