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A decade following his most recent film, Hayao Miyazaki, the master of Japanese animation, signaled his triumphant return to the silver screen in Japan this Friday with another magnum opus. This much-anticipated moment for Miyazaki’s loyal followers has finally come to fruition, igniting a wave of exhilaration among his spellbound fans.

At the age of 82, Miyazaki, co-founder of the renowned Studio Ghibli, has emerged from his haven of retirement to bestow upon the public “How Do You Live?”, an animated film bearing the indelible imprint of his creative genius.

The execution of this masterpiece necessitated several years of painstaking, meticulous work, punctuated by an air of secrecy surrounding the plot of the film, scrupulously kept under wraps until the eleventh hour. The absence of traditional promotion served to intensify the mystery, fueling public curiosity with only a cryptic movie poster, hand-drawn by Miyazaki himself, giving any hint of the film’s universe. The artwork features an unusual creature resembling a bird, whose eye is bizarrely nestled underneath its beak.

Eisaku Kimura, an enthusiastic student who attended an early screening in Tokyo’s trendy Shibuya district, enthuses: “It was quintessentially a Ghibli movie; I saw a lot of Miyazaki in this film, it was fantastic.”

The film’s title refers to a novel published in Japan in 1937, retitled in France as “And How Do You Live?”, but Miyazaki boldly reinvented the narrative. The plot unfolds during World War II in Japan, featuring Mahito, a young boy who leaves Tokyo with his father to live in the countryside following the tragic death of his mother. Amid this austere reality, a mysterious encounter with a gray heron transports Mahito into a fantastic universe where he gradually unravels the mystery of his mother’s death and explores the labyrinthine intricacies of his family history.

Valeriia Matveeva, a Russian English teacher, recounts her experience leaving the cinema: “It’s an insane blend of all the Ghibli films I’ve seen to date. It was a bit scary at times but magical as well. Since there was no promotion, I had no idea what to expect, but it was phenomenal.”

Miyazaki, who captivated the global stage with films such as “Spirited Away”—the Academy Award winner for Best Animated Feature in 2001 and the holder of the Japanese box office record for nearly two decades—lives up to his formidable reputation with this new film. Besides “Spirited Away”, Miyazaki is also recognized for seminal works such as “Princess Mononoke”, “My Neighbor Totoro”, “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea”, and “The Wind Rises” (2013).

Studio Ghibli, which he co-founded with the late director Isao Takahata, has solidified its cultural influence by opening a park dedicated to its universe in Japan last November.

The international release dates for “How Do You Live?” remain unknown. However, one thing is certain: global anticipation grows as word of the film’s triumph in Japan continues to spread.

With AFP