When Hayao Miyazaki, the beloved writer and director of the upcoming animated film The Boy and The Heron (AKA How Do You Live?, its original title and the one it maintained in Japan) announced his retirement in 2013, many fans questioned if this might be the final time he hung up his brush. Miyazaki has toyed with stepping away from animation several times over the years and always comes back to produce a little more magic, but this time he was in his 70s and seemed far more determined to stay retired than before. Surely, this was the final note in one of the greatest careers in animation history.
Turns out, retirement doesn’t suit Hayao Miyazaki; in 2016, he announced he would begin working on one more project with Studio Ghibli, the animation studio he helped raise to prominence with films like My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away. After nearly seven years in production, Miyazaki’s next – and surely final – film has been released in Japan, and has its North American debut finally announced. If you’re not sure what to expect from this new fantastical journey, here is everything we know about The Boy and The Heron so far.
What is the The Boy and The Heron release date?
Originally, How Do You Live? — as the project was originally titled — started production in 2016 when Hayao Miyazaki announced he was coming out of retirement once again to work on the film. Since then, it has had slow but steady progress, with each frame of its 125-minute runtime being drawn by hand. It was originally meant to be released in 2021, but that date was pushed back repeatedly, with Studio Ghibli executive Toshio Suzuki confirming that there was no set deadline for completion.
The movie was eventually released in Japan on July 14, 2023 by Toho, with the US-based distributor GKids announcing on the same day that it had acquired North American distribution rights for the movie, which would be titled The Boy and The Heron outside of its native country. The movie will be released in limited engagement preview screenings starting November 22, before opening wide on December 8; as with other Studio Ghibli rleeased, it will be released in two versions: a Japanese language version with subtitles, and a dubbed Engligh language version.
The movie will make its English language debut as the opening night movie of the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival this September. In a statement given to Deadline, Cameron Bailey, the CEO of the festival, said, “We are honored to open the 48th Toronto International Film Festival with the work of one of cinema’s greatest artists. Already acclaimed as a masterpiece in Japan, Hayao Miyazaki’s new film begins as a simple story of loss and love and rises to a staggering work of imagination. I look forward to our audience discovering its mysteries for themselves, but I can promise a singular, transformative experience.”
The movie will be the first time either an animated, or indeed a Japanese, movie has opened the festival, which runs from September 7 through September 17.
Additionally, The Boy and The Heron will appear it the New York Film Festival, the San Sebastian International Film Festival, and the BFI London Film Festival, before its wide release.
Who is in the The Boy and The Heron cast?
The movie stars Soma Santoki as protagonist Mahito Maki, with Masaki Suda voicing the Grey Heron. Additionally, Japanese singer Aimyon voices Himi, with Yoshino Kimura, Shōhei Hino, Ko Shibasaki, Takuya Kimura, and Jun Kunimura.
No English language cast details have been released as of writing.
What is the The Boy and The Heron story?
The official Studio Ghibli description of the movie runs: "A young boy named Mahito yearning for his mother ventures into a world shared by the living and the dead.
"There, death comes to an end, and life finds a new beginning.
"A semi-autobiographical fantasy about life, death, and creation, in tribute to friendship, from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki."
In the aftermath of World War II, a young boy named Mahito Maki moves to the countryside when his father remarries. Initially unhappy in his new life and missing his dead mother, he is befriended by a heron, who turns out to actually be the spirit of a human possessing the bird, who leads him into a magical world where he is told his mother is still alive. But all is not what it seems…
Hayao Miyazaki has said that How Do You Live? is “inspired by” the 1937 book of the same name by Genzaburo Yoshino, which actually appears in the movie itself as a gift given to Mahito, although the movie is also notably filled with autobiographical features connected to the director’s own life.
Is there a The Boy and The Heron trailer?
Another unusual aspect of the marketing for How Do You Live? in Japan is the suspicious lack of a trailer for the movie. Where other studios usually release multiple teasers and full trailers years before the movie is released, nothing was released for How Do They Live? aside from a few teaser posters that give almost nothing away.
This was an intentional decision made by Studio Ghibli, with producer Toshio Suzuki explaining, “As part of company operations, over the years Ghibli has wanted people to come see the movies we’ve made. 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.'”
When it came to release the movie in the US, distributor GKIDS felt differently, creating the following trailer:
What is the book How Do You Live? is inspired by?
The Boy and The Heron is an original story about an individual being influenced by the real-life novel How Do You Live? by Yūzō Yamamoto and Genzaburō Yoshino. While not a direct adaptation, it is heavily inspired by this quintessential bit of children's literature in Japan.
The original 1932 Genzaburo Yoshino novel How Do You Live? follows a teenage boy named Junchi Honda (nicknamed 'Koperu') as he learns about life as a budding adult. Nicknamed Koperu, after astronomer Nicholas Copernicus, Junichi lives with his mother after his father died when he was young.
The focus of the book is on the relationship between Koperu and his uncle, who the young boy often confides in about the troubles he is facing. His uncle, in turn, offers advice and records his thoughts in a diary, which is filled with notes for future Koperu. The book goes back and forth between the two characters, their musings on life and society, and what it means to be a good person.
Interestingly, in the end, the book breaks the fourth wall and directly asks the reader “how do you live?” as a way to make them reflect on their own humanity and spiritual growth.
A new English-language translation of How Do You Live? was released in 2021 by translator Bruno Navasky with a foreword by Neil Gaiman.
A manga adaption of the original novel How Do You Live? was completed in 2017 by Shoichi Haga under the name How Do You Live? Cartoon Stories.
Why did Hayao Miyazaki come out of retirement (again) to direct The Boy and The Heron?
Hayao Miyazaki was in his early 70s when he announced his retirement in 2013, which made it seem likely this would be the last time he retired. So why did he choose to spend his golden years toiling away on one final film? For his grandson, it seems.
In an interview on NHK in 2017, studio executive Toshio Suzuki said that Miyazaki came out of retirement to make How Do You Live? for his grandson. Knowing that he is likely at the end of his life, Miyazaki wanted to make this movie as a way of saying “Grandpa passed into the next world, but he left this work” for you. With that kind of reasoning behind it, we expect The Boy and The Heron to be an epic tear-jerker of a film.
Is The Boy and The Heron the last Studio Ghibli movie?
While Hayao Miyazaki has helmed many of Studio Ghibli’s most successful films, he is far from being the only director at the studio. Grave of the Fireflies, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and When Marnie Was There were all produced without Miyazaki’s involvement. It is incredibly unlikely that The Boy and The Heron will be the final Studio Ghibli movie.
Is Studio Ghibli going to make more movies?
This isn’t the first time that Hayao Miyazaki has retired from filmmaking and it has never stopped Studio Ghibli from producing fantastic works before. Unless something drastic changes, Studio Ghibli will continue to make animated magic far into the future after The Boy and The Heron is released.
What is the oldest Studio Ghibli movie?
There is some confusion about what the oldest Studio Ghibli movie is. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind was released in March 1984 in Japan. It was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and features many of the hallmarks of other Ghibli films, including a strong environmental message and fantastical character designs. However, it was released a year before Studio Ghibli was actually founded.
Despite this, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is often cited as the first Studio Ghibli movie, even though Castle in the Sky was the first film released under the studio's branding, and has been included in several DVD collections with other films from the studio.