Studio Ghibli’s How Do You Live opens in Japan today: is it Hayao Miyazaki’s last film?


ow Do You Live, the latest film from Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, opened today in cinemas across Japan.

The release of any film that comes from Miyazaki’s preeminent animation studio, Studio Ghibli, usually causes a huge buzz.

But the tone of the arrival of How Do You Live has been different. There has been little fan fair, no trailers, no press interviews, and the only clue to the plot of the film is a close-up pencil illustration of a two-faced bird, which fills up the whole of the film’s poster.

This is all the more surprising given that How Do You Live could be Miyazaki’s very last film.

What’s it about?

How Do You Live, will be Studio Ghibli’s first film to be released on IMAX. The name has been taken from a 1937 Genzaburo Yoshino novel, which tells the story of a 15-year-old boy as he reflects on life as a human being.

But even knowing this gives very little insight into Miyazaki’s latest film: How Do You Live will reportedly not be remotely faithful to the source material.

Speaking in a rare interview with The New York Times in 2021, he explained that the film offers no conclusive answers to its title. “I am making this movie because I do not have the answer,” Miyazaki said.

The legendary writer, animator and filmmaker, who co-founded Studio Ghibli in 1985, announced in the 2021 interview that he was coming out of retirement one last time to make How Do You Live.

Fans should not be too heartbroken, however: Miyazaki has retired, and then later returned, quite a few times before.

The 82-year-old animation chief came out of retirement in 2017, four years after stepping down: “I have caused a stir in the past by saying I was quitting,” said Miyazaki in 2013. “But I am serious this time. There are things that I have always wanted to do, but it does not involve animation.”

So why is there no marketing campaign for How Do You Live?

“As part of company operations, over the years Ghibli has wanted people to come see the movies we’ve made,” explained lead producer Toshio Suzuki in an interview with Japanese magazine Bungei Shunji (via The Hollywood Reporter) in June. “So we’ve thought about that and done a lot of different things for that purpose — but this time we were like, ‘Eh, we don’t need to do that.’”

“Doing the same thing you’ve done before, over and over, you get tired of it. So we wanted to do something different.”

He added: “So, no trailers or TV commercials at all … No newspaper ads either. Deep down, I think this is what moviegoers latently desire.”

When does the film arrive in the UK?

There’s still some time to wait until How Do You Live arrives in the UK – probably at least a year. No UK or US release dates have yet been confirmed.

It will be interesting to see which distribution company looks after How Do You Live: Netflix gained the rights to share 21 Studio Ghibli films on its platform (in regions outside of the US, Canada and Japan) back in 2020.

However, it was Disney who looked after the US distribution of Studio Ghibli’s most recent film, The Wind Rises, following its 2013 release.

What is Studio Ghibli?

The animation studio has become one of Japan’s great cultural exports. Co-founded by Miyazaki, three works to come out of the studio are in Japan’s top five top-grossing films worldwide. The studio’s Oscar-winning 2001 film, Spirited Away, made more at the global Box Office than Disney’s 1967’s The Jungle Book or 1998’s Mulan.

Ghibli references have appeared in The Simpsons, Toy Story 3 and the comic book pages of The Sandman and X-Men. Some of the studio’s animated characters have even been dubbed in English by Hollywood stars such as Kirsten Dunst, Gillian Anderson and Christian Bale.