It was a sad weekend for anime fans. Yesterday it was announced that fabled Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki is retiring from feature filmmaking. His final celluloid statement, Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises), is currently making waves in Japan and seems a fitting end to his animation career, which spans nearly five decades.
Koju Hoshino, president of Miyazaki’s production company, Studio Ghibli, made the announcement at the Venice Film Festival. Hoshino was mum on details, but assured more will come to light this week in Tokyo. “Miyazaki has decided that Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises) will be his last film, and he will now retire,” Hoshino told the festivalgoers in Venice.
After getting his start in televised animation in the 1970s, the 72-year-old legend created 11 feature-length films, including classics Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and perhaps his most famous, the Academy Award winning Spirited Away – the highest grossing film to ever hit Japanese theaters.
His last, Kaze Tachinu, has garnered $80 million at the Japanese box office in six weeks. While the release date still needs to be ironed out, Disney will handle its distribution in the U.S. This month the film will also be screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival. Tracing the life of Jiro Horikoshi, originator of Japan’s World War II “Zero” fighter plane, the film is a fitting end to his feature film output, which has slowed in recent years, as Variety notes.
The film has polarized audiences. On one end of the spectrum, it has elicited controversy in Japan for its anti-war bent, stoking nationalist fervor. Others have unabashedly praised it.
“It’s a movie that makes you want to say, ‘I’ve never seen a movie and never will ever see a movie that was as good this one,’” lauded Japanese animator Mamoru Hosoda tweeted.
Lest Ghibli lovers despair, Hoshino’s declaration was sufficiently vague to allow the possibility that the anime maestro may yet lend his hand to shorter projects. In recent years he has busied himself with scriptwriting and serving as supervisor for other Ghibli flicks, such as The Secret World of Arrietty and From Up on Poppy Hill.
Miyazaki has even hinted at a possible sequel to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Ghibli fans can always hope.