After nearly a decade between theatrical films, the newest movie from beloved animation house Studio Ghilbi is only 42 days away from release in Japan. What’s more, the film is by one of the world’s most respected directors: the now-legendary Miyazaki Hayao. (If you’re unfamiliar, Miyazaki is the director behind films like Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Totoro, and many more of the most popular films in Japan and beyond.) As the 12th and potentially final theatrical film for the 82-year-old Miyazaki, few Japanese films could attract the sort of attention How Do You Live (君たちはどう生きるか) is receiving globally. And all this with hardly any information to go off of!
How Do You Live releases on July 14th. And as of yet, the film has only a single, ambiguous teaser poster from which perspective viewers can conceptualize the movie. That, perhaps, is why today’s revelation from Ghibli president, producer, and constant hype-man Suzuki Toshio comes as such a shock. During a streamed interview for Bungei Shunjū, Suzuki was asked the following:
“So there’s a shocking lack of information out there [on this movie.]”
Suzuki’s reply came almost immediately:
“Ah, that’s because we gave up on doing any of that.”
Suzuki then went on to explain to a somewhat flabbergasted interviewer that Ghibli’s new major film will not be having any additional promotional content released.
No Trailers for “How Do You Live?” Suzuki’s Rationale:
In modern movie culture, film trailers are a business unto themselves. Trailers rack up millions of views on YouTube; fan communities pour over every detail of teasers. Much of cinema depends on hype these days, and nothing gets the hype going quite like a well-made trailer. Ghibli themselves have often used powerful trailers to great effect; Miyazaki’s most recent film, 2013’s The Wind Rises, debuted a memorable trailer set to Matsutoya Yumi’s “Hikouki-gumo.” (A fitting song choice, given the title means “vapor trails” and The Wind Rises was all about airplanes.)
But Suzuki said that modern film promotions leave too little to the imagination.
Quite the Conversation
Suzuki: Really, it’s an issue of over-supply. From the perspective of the viewer, it’s like they’re taking away all the truly interesting parts. So, since it’s come to this, I thought we should just go with a single poster.”
The nature of said poster, seemingly featuring a person in a white and blue bird outfit, has caused some confusion. The interview seemed to be among those having a hard time discerning the poster’s content.
Interviewer: Like, what is it? Something like a hawk, or…?
Suzuki: Well, I’m not going to say anything about that. (Laughs) …But I’ve been doing movies since, what, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and that poster is the first thing Miyazaki Hayao has ever really praised me for. He said, “Suzuki-san, this is amazing.” …He said it was the best I’ve done. That served as a hint. “So, let’s just go with this!” So, no trailers. Absolutely no TV spots. We’ll do it all. No newspaper ads!
Suzuki: I imagine that, subconsciously, our viewers actually prefer it this way.
Interviewer: …But the only information we have ahead of time is the title and a single poster, right?
Suzuki: That’s right!
Going in Blind
If Suzuki is serious about not releasing any real promotional material for How Do You Live, it would be the first for such a major film in some time. And the interview is correct in mentioning how little is known about the film otherwise; its title is based on the 1937 morality tale novel of the same name. Previously, it was suggested that the real-life book would be a source of inspiration in-world for the main character Miyazaki’s film.
But Suzuki says otherwise. “They have absolutely nothing to do with each other.” He explains that Miyazaki was reading the book back in 2016, and fell in love with the title – not the content of the novel. He explained Miyazaki’s prescience in picking such an existential title previous to the ennui brought on by the COVID crisis:
Suzuki: At first, I thought the title sounded too stiff… But Miyazaki Hayao is pretty amazing! …the world has continued to encroach [upon that darkness].
Suzuki also confirmed that the film will essentially be in the fantasy genre.
So, this and a vague poster of a bird-man may be all we have to go off of before the (mostly metaphorical) curtains rise on July 14th. Going in nearly blind may bring the excitement Suzuki seeks – but will a near-total lack of promotion doom this film to financial mediocrity? Suzuki’s attitude seems to pretty much be “We’ll just let Miyazaki do as he likes,” so perhaps Ghibli’s finances really aren’t at the top of his mind. Still, we’ll have to wait and see if Suzuki isn’t just pulling our chain – a complete lack of trailers is pretty much unprecedented in modern cinema.
In other Ghibli news, today (June 2nd) just so happens to be Ghibli animator Kondo Katsuya’s 60th birthday. Kondo has worked on innumerable Ghibli projects; over half of their film credits bear his name. His character designs are so associated with the Ghibli brand that other, non-Ghibli, films he’s worked on are often confused for Ghibli films. Take 1990’s Like the Clouds, Like the Wind (雲のように 風のように), a film for which he provided character designs, and which for years was believed to be a “forgotten” Ghibli film amongst anime fans in the United States during the pre-internet days.
Castle in the Sky Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Only Yesterday, Porco Rosso, Ocean Waves, Pom Poko, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbors the Yamadas, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, Arrietty, From Up on Poppy Hill; all these beloved movies bear Kondo’s mark, either as an animator, character designer, or supervisor. He belongs amongst the legends of Studio Ghibli, and his work has affected many around the globe. So, a very happy kanreki (還暦, 60th birth anniversary) to the esteemed Kondo Katsuya!