How Do You Live?, the final work by iconic Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, had its much-anticipated premiere in Tokyo this week.
The film will be titled The Boy and the Heron when it is released in U.S. theaters later this year, according to Gkids, the distributor that has acquired North American theatrical distribution rights. The timing of the release suggests that the film may be a contender for next year’s Academy Awards.
Miyazaki is noted for a number of highly acclaimed animations, including Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. He hand-drew the images in How Do You Live?, which was produced by Studio Ghibli’s co-founder Suzuki Toshio. The film also has a musical score composed by Joe Hisaishi, who had collaborated with Miyazaki on other movies. Its theme song “Globe” was composed by Yonezu Genshi, a long-time admirer, who said he wrote the song to repay all he’d received from watching Miyazaki’s films as a youngster,
The new film narrates the tale of Mahito Maki, a 12-year-old boy who, with his father and aunt, is relocated to a country town during the Second World War. The boy feels alienated from his new surroundings and soon befriends a talking grey heron, who accompanies him into a new alternative world of magical imagination. Mahito’s character is voiced by Soma Santoki.
There is some controversy over the origins of the story.
Some believe it was based on Genzaburo Yoshino’s 1937 book Kimitachi wa Do Ikiruka, which also tells the story of an adolescent boy on a coming-of-age spiritual journey. However, Gkids has stated that How Do You Live? is “an original story written and directed by Miyazaki.”
In announcing the project, Gkids’ president David Jesteadt said: “Miyazaki is a living legend in filmmaking, as evidenced by his Academy Award win for Spirited Away and his two Oscar nominations for Howl’s Moving Castle and The Wind Rises. … It’s been ten years since the world has seen a new film from Miyazaki-san, and Gkids is so proud and honored to unveil his latest, highly anticipated masterpiece in North America.”
Gkids has handled North American releases of several of Studio Ghibli’s Oscar-nominated films, and since 2017 it has been producing the annual Studio Ghibli Fest in more than 800 theaters throughout the US and Canada.
Miyazaki’s work was recognized with a special exhibit at last year’s opening of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Also last year, Studio Ghibli opened a theme park in Japan that is based on his animated characters. In London, the Royal Shakespeare Company mounted a stage adaptation of My Neighbor Totoro.
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