"We are privileged to live in a time when Mozart composed music and Van Gogh painted. Miyazaki-san belongs to that same league." Laudatory words from Guillermo del Toro about Hayao Miyazaki in Toronto. Del Toro is not alone; for many film enthusiasts, the consistently outstanding body of work by the Japanese anime master tells as much about the world as it does about the director himself. The creatures from his unrestrained imagination have even become a part of popular culture – think of the adorable Totoro. Thanks to the success of the ecological parable Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, he, along with Isao Takahata, founded Studio Ghibli in 1985. The rest is history. Uncompromising adventures like Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle enchanted both young and old, cementing the studio's reputation once and for all.
In 2013, Miyazaki bid farewell with the mature, melancholic The Wind Rises – a biopic that suspiciously contained many autobiographical elements, something so prevalent with this director. Ten years later, he then returns after all with a new film that feels even more like a culmination of everything that came before, compared to his previous work. The Boy and the Heron is the coming-of-age story of the boy Mahito but grows into a simultaneously universal and personal contemplation on the boundary between life and death. Miyazaki's twelfth feature film is a complex, overwhelming experience that combines all of the animator's obsessions: from endlessly escaping into fantasy worlds and reflecting on the cruelty of World War II to coming to terms with family traumas and learning to love both humans and nature. The Boy and the Heron has something mythical – and not just because Ghibli released the film in Japan without any promotion. The endlessly detailed backgrounds, stunning compositions, and young characters on a journey of self-discovery, make this is a Miyazaki film through and through. A relic from the past that Miyazaki has literally and figuratively drawn. It's not surprising that Miyazaki now openly poses the million-dollar question: "How Do You Live?" – which is also the Japanese title. For a film with a heron in the international title, The Boy and the Heron bears a striking resemblance to a graceful swan song of one of the world's most creative cinematic souls.
Soma Santoki, Masaki Suda, Takuya Kimura
Paradiso Filmed Entertainment NV
'How Do You Live?' (Genzaburô Yoshino)