Meet “Miyazo” and “Zukkoro“, a duo based on Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki, who come with an interesting backstory.

Ever since Studio Ghibli announced the opening date for their upcoming theme park just over a week ago, we’ve been eagerly awaiting more updates.

We didn’t have to wait long for our first update, when the official site for the park was launched online, and now we’ve been given some more good news, with the release of an official Ghibli Park wallpaper.

The new wallpaper, which is available in both vertical and horizontal orientations, is designed to add some Ghibli flair to our screens and backgrounds for virtual meetings, just like the previous ones released by the studio at the beginning of the pandemic.

Ghibli announced the new release with a tweet showing the wallpaper, which uses the same art as the one on the new site for the park.

Half an hour after the announcement, the studio surprised us all by adding another tweet to the thread that showed the same image, only this time with the addition of two curious little characters. One character, which appeared to be a plump, dark green bespectacled bush, could be seen on the walkway in the background, while the other, a smaller, light green bush with rounder spectacles, was pictured on the stairs in the foreground.

▼ The tweet came with the message: “Huh? Miyazo and Zukkoro are gone…?”

Fans instantly knew who “Miyazo” and “Zukkoro” were, not only because the names sound similar to the surnames of the studio’s co-founders, Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki, but because they resemble them as well.

Plus, the studio shared an image of them in December last year, with the message “Goro seems tired“, suggesting they were drawn by Hayao Miyazaki’s son, Goro, who’s in charge of the park’s construction.

▼ Just in case anyone missed last year’s tweet, though, the studio shared the image again, a few minutes after their mention of the duo this week.

Miyazo (left in the image above) clearly has Miyazaki’s long hair, bushy brows, moustache and rectangular glasses, while the smaller Zukkoro (right) captures Suzuki’s shorter frame, wispier hair and round spectacles perfectly. One vice these two characters share, like their human counterparts, is smoking, a habit neither Miyazaki nor Suzuki has been able to shake, even at their respective ages of 81 and 73.

The characters got an immediate reaction from Japanese fans, who left comments like:

“So easy to know who these two characters really are!”
“They’re so cute!”
“If they had character goods, I’d buy them!”
“What a wonderful collaboration!”
“I hope they’re at the park — I want to go meet them!”
“Are Miyazo and Zukkoro related to Morizo and Kikkoro?”

Miyazo and Zukkoro may very well be related to Morizo and Kikkoro, because as it turns out, that’s actually the original duo that inspired them. Morizo and Kikkoro, collectively known as “Morikoro“, are forest spirits, and they were the official mascots for Expo 2005, the world expo held in Aichi Prefecture that year.

Morizo (right, in the image above) is said to be a kind-hearted, knowledgeable forest spirit who creates breezes, delivers sunlight through the trees and exudes a mysterious power. Kikkoro (left) is an energetic, honest, bright forest spirit who wants to see and try everything and loves to get along with different people, animals and plants. Strangely enough, those character profiles fit the personalities of the elusive Miyazaki and the effervescent Suzuki perfectly.

The 2005 World Expo that gave birth to Morikoro was based in a forest area that became Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park, also known as “Morikoro Park”, and that’s where the new Ghibli Park is being built. It’s nice to see the new residents of the park pay homage to the forest spirits that have been living there, largely forgotten for the past 17 years, and Studio Ghibli acknowledged them with a sweet tweet that reads:

“Ghibli Park is being built on the grounds of Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park (Morikoro Park) in consultation with Morizo, Kikkoro, and the residents of the forest.”

It’s a heartwarming sentiment that reflects the studio’s dedication to environmental issues, both in its films and its real-world projects, like the Totoro Forest in Saitama Prefecture.

With the opening of Ghibli Park scheduled for this autumn, we’ll be keeping an eye out for Miyakoro and Morikoro at the park when it opens, and hopefully by then, the forest spirits will have helped the retired-but-not-retired pair kick their smoking habit for good.

Sources: Studio Ghibli, Twitter/@JP_GHIBLI, Global Industrial and Social Progress Research Institute
Top image: Studio Ghibli
Insert image: Global Industrial and Social Progress Research Institute

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