In September 2013 Japanese animé director Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement with his final film: The Wind Rises. Miyazaki, aged 72, has a career that has spanned over 5 decades and reached cinema across the world. With various awards under his belt, including an Oscar, it is safe to say Miyazaki is one of the most successful Japanese animation directors of all time.
Miyazaki first came to light to Western audiences in 1997 with the release of Princess Mononoke which showcased his talent to the masses. Since then, films such as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo have left his fans in awe at the skill and imagination that has inspired a generation. However, this is not the first time Miyazaki has announced retirement which has left many of his more dedicated followers speculating whether or not he has really withdrawn from the world of animated film. After the release of Princess Mononoke in 1997 Miyazaki retired only to come back four years later and direct his Oscar winning film Spirited Away. Last year in November, two months after his announcement, Miyazaki started work on a period-set manga comic. Some newspapers dubbed this as Miyazaki’s quick return to work sparking enthused fans to take to their blogs and celebrate the possibility of his reappearance. This could be a hint that we haven’t seen the last of Miyazaki.
It is important to understand why Miyazaki’s role in the film industry has caused such a stir. Although, animé does have a following; in the West it is a niche market. His international success embodies progression in cinema as his films create an alternative from traditional animations that are dominated by Disney and Pixar. Miyazaki challenged our imaginations by opening us up to worlds full of spirits, myth and mystery seen from a different perspective.
In truth we can only wait and see if Miyazaki resurfaces, but for now it looks like his film life has come to an end. To those of us who were devastated by the news of his retirement, there is a certain feeling of acceptance; his long and dedicated career will leave a mark for generations to come.