Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, possibly one of the greatest creative geniuses of all time, is known primarily for two things: The first is directing, writing, and animating brilliant films that often use fantastical ideas to explore deeply human emotions and transcend the traditionally limited view that some of us have for what’s possible in a “cartoon.” The second is saying he’s going to retire from making films and then not retiring because he simply can never stop working.
It has reportedly made his home life difficult and he will be the first to admit that he’s never been the best father (see: documentaries like The Kingdom Of Dreams And Madness), but… more Hayao Miyazaki movies! The filmmaker talked about “retiring” for years but officially “retired” in 2013 after the release of heartbreaking anti-war movie The Wind Rises, at which point Studio Ghibli was effectively shut down—though co-founder Toshio Suzuki insisted at the time that it was more of a pause than an ending, possibly because he knew the infamously prickly Miyazaki would someday reconsider.
And he did, in 2017, first when he decided that he would come back to make something and then later that year when he confirmed that he would direct another film that would probably be called How Do You Live? and would probably be based on a book by Japanese writer Yoshino Genzaburō. (Studio Ghibli had released a few films in the years since, including the CG-animated Earwig And The Witch directed by Miyazaki’s long-suffering son Gorō Miyazaki.)
Now, thanks to an excellent New York Times T Magazine profile on Miyazaki, we finally have some more information about the film and confirmation that he has indeed come out retirement again to direct it. Like the book, the movie will be about a 15-year-old boy living in Tokyo who is “small for his age and fond of mischief,” and whose father recently died. From there, all bets are off—as is the style of most Studio Ghibli movies that are ostensibly based on books.
Suzuki confided in T Magazine that there is a character that he “recognizes himself in,” but that it is “not human.” Does that mean it’s something like a pet cat? Or some kind of supernatural being? It could really be anything, since even the comparatively non-fantastical The Wind Rises had a whole thing about a dream ghost giving the protagonist advice, and it was very loosely based on a real guy.
So maybe we don’t really have any idea what How Do You Live? will be about, but Miyazaki earned the benefit of the doubt decades ago. All we really need to know is that he has come out of retirement (again) to make a new film (again), and—as seen in the profile, which is really good and worth reading—he’s still as much of a curmudgeonly genius as ever.