Hayao Miyazaki's mysterious final Studio Ghibli film 'How Do You Live?' released in Japan

The poster for 'How Do You Live?'
The poster for 'How Do You Live?' Copyright Studio Ghibli
By Jonny Walfisz with AFP
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Hayao Miyazaki has returned from retirement for his final film, 'How Do You Live?'

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Hayao Miyazaki is the co-founder of one of Japan’s most commercially and critically successful animation companies, Studio Ghibli. Founded in 1985, Miyazaki has directed many genre-defining films including My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Howl’s Moving Castle.

In 2001, his film Spirited Away won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Despite his successes, in 2013 he went into retirement after the release of the World War II film The Wind Also Rises.

Now, the 82-year-old animator and filmmaker has returned with what is purported to be his final film. How Do You Live? was released in Japan today to crowds of adoring Ghibli fans.

Production lasted several years and was kept a complete secret. The film has also received no promotion besides the release of a poster. Before its release, there was absolutely no information available about the plot of the film.

All that was known could be gleaned from sparse details. The poster, designed by Miyazaki himself, features a bird-like creature with an eye under a beak. The film was also purported to be loosely based on the 1937 Japanese novel ‘How Do You Live?’ However, it’s now been shown that although the book is referenced in the film, Miyazaki has entirely rethought the plot.

RICHARD A. BROOKS/AFP or licensors
A cinema employee checks on a display showing a digital poster for Oscar-winning animator Hayao Miyazaki's latest film, titled in English 'How Do You Live?'RICHARD A. BROOKS/AFP or licensors

“It really was a typical Ghibli film,” enthuses Eisaku Kimura, a student who came to attend a morning screening in Shibuya, a trendy district of Tokyo. “I saw a lot of Miyazaki in this film, it was great.”

“It's a crazy mix of all the Ghibli films I've watched so far,” says Valeriia Matveeva, a Russian English teacher on leaving the cinema.

“It was a bit scary at times, but magical too. As there was no promotion, I had no idea what to make of it, but it was great,” she adds.

We can now confirm some details of the plot. Stop reading here if you want to avoid any spoilers.

Studio Ghibli
A shot from 'My Neighbour Totoro'Studio Ghibli

The story takes place in Japan during the Second World War. A boy named Mahito Maki leaves Tokyo with his father and moves to the countryside after the tragic death of his mother during an air raid.

There, he meets a grey heron who takes him into a fantasy world where he gradually uncovers the mystery of his mother's death and his family history.

How Do You Live? doesn’t have official international release dates yet. However, there are rumours that it will have its international debut at the Venice Film Festival at the beginning of September.

Despite film festival rules usually requiring screened films to be on their international debut, there are known exceptions made for some Japanese releases.

Video editor • Kerem Congar

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