Independent era comes to an end for Hayao Miyazaki’s studio, but it could be the start of a happy future.

For nearly two decades, Studio Ghibli has been an independent company. Originally founded in 1985 with the support of Japanese publishing giant Tokuma Shoten, Ghibli has been independent since 2005, during which it’s released eight anime films, including this summer’s The Boy and the Heron.

As of next month, though, Ghibli’s independent era will be coming to a close, and the studio will become a subsidiary of television broadcaster Nippon TV through a stock acquisition by Nippon Television Holdings, Inc.

This is not, however, a hostile takeover. In a statement posted by Ghibli on its website discussing the deal, the studio says that “As director Hayao Miyazaki is 82 years old, and producer Toshio Suzuki is 75, we have been worrying about the question of who will succeed them [as leaders of the company] for a very long time.” Goro Miyazaki, Hayao’s son, has often been speculated as a possible candidate to take over as head of the company should his father retire, but according to the statement Goro himself has said “It would be difficult for me, as just one person, to take on all of Ghibli’s responsibilities, so we should do otherwise in terms of who to entrust the company’s future to.” It’s an opinion that Suzuki seconds, saying “Ghibli has become something that’s too big for one person to shoulder. I think that we need the support of not an individual, but a large company to run things well.”

In his customarily traditional Japanese way of doing things, Suzuki floated the idea of acquiring Ghibli to Nippon TV while soaking in a hot spring bath with Nippon TV chairman Yoshikuni Sugiyama sometime last year. “Would it be possible for Ghibli to have Nippon TV help with our management and operations, so that we can focus on movie making?” asked Suzuki, to which Sugiyama replied that his company was eager to “support Ghibli’s works and protect their movie-making environment.”

As alluded to in Suzuki’s hot spring question, the acquisition, which is scheduled to take place on October 6, doesn’t mean that Ghibli is closing up shop. Though Nippon TV will become the largest Studio Ghibli shareholder and control 42.3 percent of the studio’s corporate voting rights, Ghibli’s statement asserts “Nippon TV respects the autonomy of Studio Ghibli, and following [the stock acquisition] Studio Ghibli will focus on animated movie production, as well as the operations of the Ghibli Museum and Ghibli Park.”

The stock acquisition doesn’t mean the Hayao Miyazaki is being swept out, either. Following the deal, Ghibli will have and eight-person board of directors, with Hayao Miyazaki in a position of director and honorary chairman, Toshio Suzuki as representative director and chairman, and Goto Suzuki as managing director. Hiroyuki Fukuda, one of three Nippon TB executives who will be placed on the board, will be the company’s president, and at least one of the remaining two board seats will be filled by an auditor.

Also reassuring is the fact that Studio Ghibli and Nippon TV have had an amicable working relationship for decades. When Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind made its TV broadcast debut in 1985, it was on Nippon TV, and the station has continued to show Ghibli anime multiple times a year as part of its weekly Friday Roadshow cinema program. This summer the two companies also collaborated on the travelling Friday Road Show and Ghibli Exhibition art exhibit.

While Ghibli losing its independent status is likely to rub some fans the wrong way, the acquisition is, in all likelihood, the best possible scenario for the studio moving forward. The immense combined talents of Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki, plus their virtually inexhaustible creative energy, are a double-edged sword. So many of Ghibli’s movies come out so good because of how many aspects Miyazaki and Suzuki themselves personally handle, but that also means that the studio doesn’t really have a crop of younger talent that’s coming up and taking on increasingly bigger project roles. Once Miyazaki’s and Suzuki’s anime-making days really are done, the question of who’s going to pick up where they left off isn’t one that Ghibli itself has an internal answer for, especially with Goro Miyazaki seeming to have much greater passion and aptitude for running Ghibli’s museum and theme park than directing anime movies.

So here’s hoping that the deal does just what both parties are saying it’s meant to do, and allows Ghibli to continue making anime free of worry, especially since Hayao Miyazaki still has ideas for another movie.

Source: Studio Ghibli, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Livedoor News/Reuters
Top image: Studio Ghibli
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