Hayao Miyazaki’s Surprise Return – Inside the Unconventional Marketing and Unprecedented Success of “How Do You Live?”

  If someone hadn’t asked me if I would see the new film of Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki, I probably would have really missed it. On July 14th, Hayao Miyazaki’s film “What kind of life do you want to live” premiered. Tickets are a little harder to get, and there’s not much information to look up – except for a poster of a blue heron with a half-open mouth that seems to be hiding another soul, Studio Ghibli didn’t issue any announcements film, and did not do any media publicity.
  Is Ghibli crazy?
  Probably not. Hayao Miyazaki’s old partner and Ghibli’s gold medal producer Toshio Suzuki cleverly called this unprompted style of play his “first gamble in life” when facing the media. He revealed this idea at an event at the end of last year, and took the theatrical version of “Slam Dunk” “THE FIRST SLAMDUNK” as an example, “Isn’t it the same way!
  ” The industry criticized the “excess publicity” before the release of the new film. He didn’t like the experience of people just going to the cinema to “confirm known information”.
  In the Japanese animation industry, Toshio Suzuki was one of the first to implement the “animation committee” system that spreads risks and shares benefits. One of the publicity strategies he formulated for the Ghibli film before was to “launch large-scale publicity on a tangible basis.” He firmly believes that only good works are not enough, so he usually chooses to release them in summer, and then creates an atmosphere of “must see this summer” all over Japan. His public persona is spot on and watertight. When he feels that what he said may be misinterpreted, he will subtly make a few “patches” for his previous remarks. When he can’t predict the impact of something on the company, he prefers to keep his mouth shut.
  But this time, it is more difficult for the media to get a little wind than to go to the sky. He only revealed to NHK, the Japanese public television station, that he did think that if he followed the conventional marketing methods of the film, “the production cost will absolutely not be recovered.” Previously, he would carefully calculate how many people would go to the cinema to watch movies, so as to “see” the expected box office revenue, “I have been operating various movies so steadily, if I just do this until the end of my life, it would be a bit lonely. “He said. “In order to exceed the expected number in everyone’s mind, I can only take a gamble.”
  Since 2001, Ghibli’s “Spirited Away” has dominated the box office of Japanese movies for 20 years with a box office of 31.68 billion yen (about 1.64 billion yuan) (including reruns), but in 2021 It was surpassed by “Ghost Slayer: Blade of Infinity Train” with a box office of 40.43 billion yen (about 2.09 billion yuan). The box office of “The Wind Rises”, which was previously considered to be Hayao Miyazaki’s final work, also reached 12.02 billion yen (about 620 million yuan).
  Miyazaki was also worried about this kind of do-nothing style of play at the beginning, but as the production gradually progressed, he slowly caught up with Suzuki Toshio. “I’ll gamble with Suzuki too!” he said.
  Hayao Miyazaki spent most of his animation life in his studio in Koganei, a western suburb of Tokyo. In 2014, Ghibli disbanded its own animation production department, adopting a flexible working method of temporarily convening teams when making new projects. In 2016, I had a very brief exchange with Hayao Miyazaki. I asked him if he really retired recently, and he said no, he was working with young people to make a short film about caterpillars using CG, and planned to show it at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka no Mori. “What’s it like?” I asked him. He drew a hedgehog-like bug with a few sparse hairs, “Here, like this.”
  In the process of making this bug animation, he decided to make a new animated feature with young people again. piece. He went to Toshio Suzuki with a proposal, saying that he planned to do a 20-minute storyboard, and asked the other party to help him see if it was good enough. He also said, “If it doesn’t work, don’t do it.” Toshio Suzuki felt that this was a cunning way to get himself involved. Five months later, Toshio Suzuki saw the storyboard.
  Toshio Suzuki told the NHK reporter that although he thought the project was very interesting at the time, he had initially made up his mind to say the word “boring” to Hayao Miyazaki. He got the storyboard on Friday, but didn’t watch it until Sunday night. He explained that he had already dedicated his youth to Hayao Miyazaki, and originally planned to get it back after the other party retired, but he didn’t expect to be taken back again this time.
  It’s a smart joke. But he also confided his worries-the last film of many well-known directors will not be considered a success. The next day, Hayao Miyazaki was waiting for him in the studio. He had rehearsed countless times how to refuse Miyazaki on the way to the meeting, but when he opened the door, Miyazaki asked him, “Do you want coffee?”
  Toshio Suzuki said that this was the first time that Hayao Miyazaki made coffee for him and held it in front of his eyes. The two of them didn’t speak, and Toshio Suzuki blew on the hot coffee. “Too cunning.” Toshio Suzuki has been describing that conversation to the media since then, when he felt compelled to say something.
  ”Just to see?” He spit out these words.
  This is the beginning of another long journey. In 2017, Ghibli selected 11 newcomers among more than 2,000 applicants around the world, set up a table in Koganei’s studio where many masterpieces were born, and rebuilt Ghibli’s animation production department. The movie I made this time is “What Kind of Life Do You Want to Live?” It took 3 years to make the storyboard; when the production was completed, it was 7 years after the plan was proposed.
  This time, Hayao Miyazaki is still in charge of the film script and serves as director. The inspiration for the creation comes from the novel “What kind of life do you want to live” by Japanese writer Yoshino Gensaburo. This novel describes various detailed observations and discussions on reality, growth, and social issues in the form of correspondence between a boy and his uncle. It is a prestigious education book in the history of Japanese education. Hayao Miyazaki was shocked when he read it in a primary school textbook, and he still thinks it is a “shining existence”. Although it uses the same name this time, it actually tells a completely different original story. Hayao Miyazaki originally wanted to continue the same approach as the previous works, and continue to be the director of the painting, but he finally planned to choose a younger person to take on this burden. This person is Honda Hideo, who served as the character design and painting director in “Millennium Actress” directed by Kon Min, and as the painting director in the EVA theatrical series.
  Although experimenting with CG, Miyazaki chose to return to hand-drawn animation. He admits that CG can be used to solve some previously unreachable fields, but he firmly believes that even without CG, he can find a way to solve the problem. In 2019, he told the Asahi Shimbun, “Even if the picture is not shining, I can create a world where children can concentrate.”
  In Hayao Miyazaki’s previous works, the protagonists often have personality traits such as sunshine and bravery. During the production stage of “What kind of life do you want to live”, he confessed some of his reflections to Yoshino Taiichiro, grandson of Genzaburo Yoshino. “I used to be a sticky person who was difficult to make decisions, so the word “boy” should have a more fishy smell and more turbulent emotions.” The “no spoiler” plan announced, so I can probably only reveal so much.
  In the production process, everything “has a little shadow”, but it seems that “nothing is known”. In addition to Takuya Kimura’s friendly dubbing of the characters in the play, many people only found out that there are familiar names such as Masaki Suda and Yuki Shibasaki in the dubbing cast list at the end of the film. Hisaishi Joe and Yonezu Kenshi composed the soundtrack and theme song respectively for this work. Fans can only go to the cinema if they want to hear the music right away. Kenshi Yonezu’s new song was officially launched on July 17, three days after the premiere.
  I don’t want to count how many times Miyazaki has withdrawn his “retirement” announcement. This has long since ceased to matter. When he was younger, he used age as a reason to “retire”, but now everyone understands that nothing can stop this old man who always likes to wear a white apron in the public eye to continue to create – even if he is 82 this year age.
  At the end of the show, half of the audience I watched showed a slightly puzzled face on their faces—or maybe they were too sleepy in the middle of the night. The girl next to me murmured to her friend, “I seem to understand, but it seems a bit esoteric.”
  On July 19, Toho, the film company in charge of the release, announced that “What Kind of Life Do You Want to Live” had a box office of 2.14 billion yen (about 110 million yuan) in its 4 days of release, surpassing that of “Spirited Away” that year. “Won a box office of 1.94 billion yen (about 100 million yuan) when it was released for 4 days.

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