Hayao Miyazaki’s latest movie will be in theaters soon, but one standard piece of anime merchandise won’t.

We’re just days away from the premiere of Studio Ghibli’s highly anticipated, surreally marketed new anime movie, How Do You Live? Despite being legendary director Hayao Miyazaki’s return to feature film-making after announcing his retirement following 2013’s The Wind Rises, there hasn’t been a single teaser, trailer, or commercial for How Do You Live?, in a deliberate choice by veteran producer Toshio Suzuki to limit promotion to one poster for the film, and nothing else.

And now comes news of another unorthodox way Ghibli is handling the release of How Do You Live?: It won’t be selling programs for it at movie theaters when it releases.

A little background: in Japan, most moderate and large-sized theaters have a gift shop in the lobby, selling merchandise for whatever movies are currently playing. Especially for anime and fantasy/sci-fi films, there’s usually an array of character goods: pens, memo pads, figures, mini posters, things like that. But for just about all films, there’s also a program, a soft-cover booklet printed on high quality paper. Inside the program are promotional stills from the movie, interviews with the cast and crew, and other little features and fan service tidbits.

▼ The program we got when we went to see the City Hunter: Shinjuku Private Eyes anime movie

There’s no easier time to convince moviegoers to buy a program than right before they’re going into the theater to watch a film they’re hyped for or immediately after they just came out and are still flying high on the excitement of what they just saw. But for How Do You Live?, distributor Toho has announced via tweet that there will be no program sales at the theater on opening day, and probably not for some time after opening day as well.

The tweet says:

“The program for the movie How Do You Live? will be going on sale, at theaters and online, at a later date. The on-sale date will be announced at a later time through this account and elsewhere.”

No reason is given in the announcement, but ostensibly the desire by Ghibli/Toho is to keep spoilers, of any kind, from leaking out in the form of people sharing photos of the program’s contents online. While programs aren’t incredibly long (generally less than two dozen pages), they pretty much always do contain a few memorable moments from the movie or evocative pieces of key art, and with Ghibli currently only comfortable letting the world see that single bird-man illustration without actually going to the theater, it’s keeping with the same line of logic that they wouldn’t want snapshots from the program circulating.

▼ Another look at our City Hunter program

One could argue, and pretty convincingly, that Ghibli doesn’t really need to do any marketing for How Do You Live?. In addition to the Miyazaki comeback angle, it’s also the studio’s first theatrical release in nearly a decade, and one that anime fans and animation cinephiles in general have been looking forward to in a long time. Odds are the lack of advertising isn’t going to hurt ticket sales in Japan, and it’s quite possible the continued sense of mystery is actually going to convince more people to go to the theater and see what Miyazaki has created.

Not selling programs though (or at least not at first), is a move that actually stands to hurt Ghibli’s bottom line. Though they’re not incredibly expensive, programs still run around 1,000 yen (US$7) or so, and the ease with which they can be put together makes them a nice supplemental income source for a production. This is Ghibli, though, a company which often proclaims its first priority is art, not profit, so if any anime studio is going to be willing to delay, and possibly decrease, program revenue, it’s them.

Online reactions to the announcement have included:

“I’m sad that I won’t be able to get a pamphlet to look over right when I get home after seeing it.”
“People might forget about buying it if they can’t get it the same day, or they might think it over and decide not to buy it at all.”
“’On sale at a later date?’ Don’t they realize that means we’re gonna have to make a second trip back to the theater to buy it then?”
“Guess they wanna keep a lid on spoilers until the hype dies down, so that people can go into the movie with it still feeling fresh.”
“They’re being seriously hardcore about wanting people to watch it with no prior knowledge of anything that’s going to happen.”
“They’re really confident in this one, huh? Maybe it’s gonna be a real masterpiece?”

How Do You Live? premiers in theaters in Japan on July 14.

Source: Twitter/@toho_movie
Top image: Studio Ghibli
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