Studio Ghibli is a household name and, to many, the face of Eastern Animation. With classics like My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away, the studio earned a reputation for crafting beautiful worlds, narratives and visuals with endless imagination. Hayao Miyazaki, the director, is an absolute powerhouse of cinema, creating films you can rarely compare to anything else.
His latest release, The Boy and The Heron, has been a revelation in regards to what we should think about when considering what we understand film marketing to be. Infamously, the film was released in Japan with no trailer – only the poster – maintaining that beautiful mysterious aura of entering the cinema not knowing any of its secrets. Even though a trailer has subsequently been released for international markets, I will honour the original intent of Miyazaki and proceed to discuss the film, without discussing the film… wait, hang on.
Another final farewell
The Boy and The Heron is a powerful film that delivers exactly what you want from the studio. What it may be lacking in moments narratively, it more than makes up for visually and emotionally. It had been touted as Miyazaki’s final farewell to filmmaking, one last adventure, 10 years after his previous film (The Wind Rises), which was called his final film, as was the one before that and the one before… This makes it approximately the sixth film in his filmography which he claimed would be his last. If that alone doesn’t articulate his undying love and dedication for the craft then I don’t know what will.
Each time he has gifted us with something unique and the day he finally does stop will be a sad one. Luckily, it seems like it won’t be for a while, as reportedly he’s already thinking of ideas for the next one.
What I appreciate most in Miyazaki’s work (which is exemplified here) is that he’s an expert at exploring child-like wonder. Seeing the world through young eyes. It’s the main reason why I feel his filmography is so astounding, he has never lost sight of his child-like imagination. By no means is ‘child-like’ to belittle, it’s expressing how innocently adventurous everything always remains. Worlds, creatures and characters utilise surreal imagery to explore universal themes. It’s something he’s always done, why couldn’t a Pig be a World War I fighter pilot? Or where do spirits live and what if a little girl travelled there?
There is boundless imagination that shows you things you could never have dreamt of, yet it feels so familiar… like the story has been engrained in our DNA the whole time.
Playing with rules
His new film is wholly unique and original, yet I feel like I’ve lived with this story my entire life. It’s comforting, like returning home. Almost like a fairytale, the film isn’t concerned with explaining anything, these are just the rules of the world and you go with it. Because finding those rules and playing with them is damn fun.
No matter what age I revisit his work, I feel five years old again, putting on the old metaphorical goggles that I used to view the world through and it’s a pleasure every time.