Curator's Note: It's my ecstatic pleasure to introduce the newest permanent branch of The (ever-growing) Film Tome, "From The Castle In The Sky." This segment is meant to be a way to keep tabs on all things Studio Ghibli, a more focused extension of The Film Tome Report. As the self-declared "world's biggest fan of Studio Ghibli" on my Twitter bio I know I need to prove my claim, or at least work for it. Seldom a week goes by without a fascinating Ghibli offering or related bit of news. And with each I long to comment and document on the Tome. Thus, a new series is born. I intend for this to be friendly reading for the newcomers and hardcore Ghibli fans alike and will therefore strife to be explanatory and breezy, traits Ghibli's animation have always demonstrated. The legendary studio's first feature film was (Laputa) The Castle in the Sky in 1986 and so I have decided to name this series after it. I'm looking from atop where they started to where they are now and to where they may be going. I hope that you too may enjoy the view.
Meet Hayao. Hayao Miyazaki. His name is just as world-renowned as the studio (Studio Ghibli) he co-founded with Isao Takahata back in June of 1985. He's directed the majority of the studio's 18 feature animated films from their very first, The Castle in the Sky, to their latest, The Wind Rises. A couple months ago Miyazaki announced his retirement, telling some 600 reporters at a press conference in Tokyo that "This time, I am serious." Miyazaki had faux-retired before, but each time it was merely a hiatus, a season of inspirational rest only to return to what he does best (and better than any other artist I know of): telling stories through hand-drawn animation.
In September I was dismissive of the news, but it gathered more traction than any previous time. Still, I tried to ignore it. I was in denial about the whole thing until I saw The Wind Rises last weekend, which is a directorial farewell if I've ever seen one. Still, I would not be all that surprised if he comes back to write/direct another film for the Studio, which Takahata and Hayao's son, Goro, are running full-steam ahead. Telling stories (through word and image) are so engrained to every fiber of Miyazaki's being that it would simply be impossible for him to continue living and not take part, which is why some recent statements of those closest to him only brought a smile to my face.
Last Thursday Takahata commented on the man's retirement, "[Miyazaki] said, 'This time, I am serious,' but I think there is a decent chance that may change. I think so, since I've known him a long time. Don't be at all surprised if that happens." On Saturday, when appearing on one of those Japanese variety programs, Toshio Suzuki (a producer at Ghibli) guessed that Miyazaki would be doing next, "I think he will serialize a manga. From the beginning, he likes drawing about his favorite things. That's his stress relief." The host pressed whether Miyazaki liked drawing samurai sword-fighting to which Suzuki revealed, "That's what he is drawing now. He'll get angry if I talk too much. Let's stop talking about this." Goro's next film happens to be a samurai period piece. You cannot come back from retirement if you never left right?
At the risk of starting this series by spinning a potential rumor mill I ensure you that I only dive into these matters as a form of expressing my deep adoration for Hayao Miyazaki's work. If anyone deserves retirement, it's him, but if there's anyone on the good Earth that I would love to keep filmmaking (other than Werner Herzog), it's him. Whether he's casually sketching, aiding Goro's quest, starting a new manga, or maybe eating his words and preparing another film of his own, all I can say (to quote a masterpiece of Walt Disney's, our closest Western equivalent of Miyazaki) is, "Hi-ho! Hi-ho! it's off to work we go!" Hi-ho Hayao.