Hayao Miyazaki is a legend in the world of cinema. The 76-year-old director and animator has created some breathtaking films during his long career working under the acclaimed Studio Ghibli banner. He is a two-time Oscar winner – Best Animated Feature for Spirited Away (2001) and an Honorary Award in 2015 – and has been nominated for numerous other prizes across the globe. His work has helped push Manga into the mainstream and has inspired a new generation of film-makers, those such as Makoto Shinkai, whose animated love story Your Name (2016) received widespread acclaim last year, and Michael Dudok de Wit, creator of the Red Turtle (2016), the release of which is highly anticipated after similarly positive reviews.
Now, Japan’s national public broadcasting organisation, NHK, is readying the release of a documentary about Hayao Miyazaki, called Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki. It is not, however, based on his long career at Studio Ghibli – you can see Mami Sunada’s The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2013) for that – but on a new venture in the acclaimed director’s life.
In 2013, Miyazaki announced his retirement from the film industry, a decision which was greeted with sadness by the huge number of Ghibli fans that had followed his career closely and devoured his anime as fast as he could draw it. He didn’t stay retired for long, however. Miyazaki’s longtime producer Toshio Suzuki announced in February 2017 that his colleague would be working on a new film. This one would be a departure from Miyazaki’s usual style, primarily because of its use of CGI, a technology completely unfamiliar to an artist used to hand-drawing all of his work.
NHK’s documentary tracks the challenges Miyazaki faces as he tries to turn his hand to this new form of storytelling. You can see from the trailer the frustrations of a man who, for the first time in decades, feels completely out of his depth. In the brief glimpses we get of the work in progress, however, it is clear that the new medium has not dulled the vitality of his work.
Footage shown in the trailer captures Miyazaki at his most downtrodden. ‘I’m a weak, used up old man. It would be a ridiculous mistake to ever think I’d regain my youth,’ he says. This is possibly the core of what Never-Ending Man looks to illuminate, an artist confronting his own mortality and doing all he can to defy it.
See the full trailer for Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyaaki below.