Toshio Suzuki also discusses how Ghibli has stayed in business without releasing a theatrical feature in almost a decade and whether this is Miyazaki’s final film.

It’s been six years since Studio Ghibli announced that Hayao Miyazaki was coming out of retirement to direct a new anime movie. At that point, it had been four years since his last film, 2013’s The Wind Rises, and after years of anticipation, the remaining wait time to see the finished work of How Do You Live?, as Miyazaki’s new anime is called, is down to just a couple of weeks, with its premier date set for July 14.

And yet aside from the movie’s title, its genre (fantasy action/adventure), a single illustrated poster, and a clarification that it is not an adaptation of the 1937 Japanese novel of the same name, Ghibli has revealed absolutely nothing about How Do You Live?’s contents. As producer Toshio Suzuki recently explained, that’s by design, as he made a deliberate decision to do no other advertising, previews, or promotions for the film. For such a high-profile entertainment release, it’s an unheard of strategy, definitely the sort of thing that would have most studio executives and movie distributors shaking in their boots…and it’s even got Miyazaki feeling unnerved.

While speaking at a press event for the unrelated Friday Roadshow and Ghibli Exhibition, which just opened in Tokyo, Suzuki revealed:

“[Miyazaki] has said to me ‘I trust you, Suzuki-san, but at the same time, he’s also saying ‘Are we OK doing no promotion? I’ve become worried.’”

Given Miyazaki’s outspoken disdain for focusing on profits and popularity during the movie-making process, one might find it surprising that the director would bother to think, much less worry, about marketing. The flipside to Miyazaki’s all-about-the-art attitude, though, is that Suzuki, who’s also been with Studio Ghibli since its founding, is one of the shrewdest producers in Japanese show business history. So while Miyazaki himself might not have been interested in advertising or actively stoking the public interest for Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, or Howl’s Moving Castle, it was a given that Suzuki, in his role as producer, would be masterfully promoting them while Miyazaki focused exclusively on the films’ stories, sounds, and visuals.

“I’m not really sure if [the no-promotion plan] is going to work out well or not, but I believe in it, and right now that’s what we’re going with,” said Suzuki. That said, the producer did laugh as he quoted Miyazaki’s comment of concern, implying that the director isn’t in full-on panic mode about the marketing of How Do You Live? Suzuki being asked about the new anime even while he’s doing promotional work for Ghibli’s other projects is likely something the veteran producer knew was going to happen as well, and allows the studio to indirectly keep the knowledge that How Do You Live? is coming out in Japanese theaters in July in the public’s mind.

As mentioned above, Suzuki was speaking at a event for the new Friday Roadshow and Ghibli Exhibition. Friday Roadshow (Kinyo Roadshow in Japanese) is Nippon TV’s weekly Friday-night movie broadcast. In Japan, TV broadcasts of major motion pictures are still considered appointment viewing by many people, and every year multiple Ghibli anime make their way into Friday Roadshow’s summer schedule. “It’s been [almost] 10 years since Ghibli released a new [theatrical] anime, and it’s thanks to Friday Roadshow that we’ve continued to be supported,” Suzuki said, referencing how the annual TV broadcasts help keep Ghibli’s films relevant and, ostensibly by extension, profitable.

Suzuki was also asked if How Do You Live? is going to be Miyazaki’s last anime movie. Miyazaki has already nominally retired twice from theatrical features, having said that both 1997’s Princess Mononoke and 2013’s The Wind Rises were to be his final films prior to their release. Taking into account Miyazaki’s current age of 82 and the fact that he’s not an especially speedy filmmaker, one might think that he’s done the math and decided that after How Do You Live?, he’s really, truly, no-fooling-this-time retiring. If he has reached such a decision, though, he hasn’t told the public, and Suzuki isn’t about to speak for him. “Right now, we’re getting ready for the release of How Do You Live?, so I’d say that talking about anything beyond that is against the rules,” the producer said with another laugh.

In other words, we’re just going to have to wait and see if Miyazaki decides to keep on making theatrical anime, just like we’re going to have to wait and see what How Do You Live? is about.

Source: Sports Hochi via Yahoo! Japan News via Jin
Top image: Studio Ghibli
Insert images: Studio Ghibli
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