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Miyazaki-san is going out on his own terms, when he chooses to, and he seems like he's been building to this decision for a while now.
There were rumors before about him wrapping up his film career, but each time, the rumors were dispelled when he eventually went back to work, and in the last few years, he's managed to keep his voice and his spirit intact in his films, something that not every filmmaker can manage. I came to his work mid-career, when "Princess Mononoke" was announced for US release and Neil Gaiman was hired to write the adaptation script for the English dub. I was at Ain't It Cool and I was given the chance to meet Hayao Miyazaki to discuss that film and his earlier work… none of which I'd seen by that point. I ended up going to UCLA because they were showing a marathon of his films, and I saw "Kiki's Deliver Service," "Castle In The Sky," "Nausicaa In TheValley of Wind," "Porco Rosso," "My Neigbor Totoro," and "The Castle Of Cagliostro," and immediately, I was head over heels, smitten with what I'd seen. The interview we did was one of my favorites of my entire career so far, and he ended up drawing a very happy Totoro for me, something I still treasure.
One of the movies I am very excited to check out in Toronto at this year's festival is "The Wind Rises," which has been garnering great early reactions. It's playing at the Venice Film Festival right now, and that's where Miyazaki's decision was announced by the head of Studio Ghibli, Koji Hoshino.
There will be a press conference in Tokyo next week, and at that point, Miyazaki will clarify how he came to his decision, what it means for Studio Ghibli, and whatever else he feels like explaining. I will miss knowing that he's working on things, but at 72, he's created enough amazing work that it will continue to live on well after all of us are gone. His movies are timeless and beautiful and full of this wonderful warm and open spirit. The way he sees the world is so human and magical and wide open that I'm not sure there will ever a "new" Miyazaki. He is very special, very strange, and his 11 films are all worth sharing with new film fans as they develop their taste in movies.
His new film is about Jiro Horikoshi, the guy who designed the "Zero," the iconic plane that Japan used during WWII. I'm sure there's more to it, of course, but that's al I want to know before I see the film later this week.
When Miyazaki has his press conference, I'll make sure to put up something about the conversation he has there. For now, I'm just glad my son got to meet this gentle genius. Before the special screening I hosted a few years ago at Comic-Con, I introduced Toshi to him, and Toshi thanked him for making "Totoro." Miyazaki-san responded by giving Toshi a crew watch from "Ponyo," a watch he still has in his room right now. They shook hands, and as he turned towards me, Toshi had the biggest smile on his face. He told me he got to touch the hand that drew all the pictures of Kiki and Totoro, and the joy that was evident in the way he said it is all I ever need to know about the legacy of this amazing filmmaker.