Friday, September 6, 2013

Director Hayao Miyazaki's retirement press conference

Studio Ghibli held a press conference regarding Director Hayao Miyazaki's retirement today, Friday, September 6, 2013 at 2:00pm (JST). Miyazaki himself, as well as Studio Ghibli President Koji Hoshino and producer Toshio Suzuki were in attendance to answer questions from various press members. The event was live streamed on the Niconico video service with options for either (the original) Japanese audio or English audio translation.

(Edit: Kotaku has a nice and concise summary of the actual reason Miyazaki gave for retiring and mentions some other points that came up during the press conference that slipped my mind.)

I was lucky to be able to watch the press conference (I chose the English audio option) but it went on a lot longer than I expected. I thought it would be about thirty minutes but it went on for a little over an hour and a half! Here are some thoughts and tidbits from the conference.

(Disclaimer: After the first twenty minutes or so, I started cooking while listening so my recollection may not be exact.)

I really want to read Miyazaki's official retirement press release/statement! 
All the press members received an official statement written by Miyazaki explaining his reasons for retiring and future plans. Hopefully one of the many news groups present will publish the document in its entirety online--an English translation would be nice too. (Edit: You can read the official press statement here in Japanese. If another site doesn't put up an English translation within the next day or two, I will probably try to make my own (very rough) translation.)

Get the hint already! He doesn't want to give specifics about his future plans.
 There were a lot of variations on the question: "Can you tell us what exactly you plan/want to do during your retirement?" And pretty much every time he explained that although he had some things he wanted to do, he didn't want to set up any expectations (in case he might fail) and therefore preferred not to give specifics. You'd think that after the first or even second time people would get the hint and stop asking the same question and use their (and everyone else's) time more constructively by asking more different questions.

Miyazaki's idea of R&R is probably rather a-typical
Although he (apparently) wrote in his retirement statement that he was planning on "taking a break" (or something along those lines), when asked if he was really going to be resting and relaxing, Miyazaki said that his idea of resting might not be the same as other people's. For him, sometimes doing "work" (i.e. drawing) is relaxing while taking a nap is conversely tiring. Aspects of the "job" like doing paperwork/desk work, giving instructions to people, being in meetings, etc. are tiring for him, but the actual "work"--that is to say, the art/drawing is not. So chances are, we will still be seeing (or at least hearing about) artistic works from Miyazaki, even if they're not feature or even short animated films.

More reasons to visit the Mitaka Ghibli Museum!
One thing he did say about his future plans, however, was that he would like to continue to be involved with the Mitaka Ghibli Museum. In particular, he said he wanted to fix up/update some of the exhibits since some of the drawings were starting to fade.

Unfortunately, when asked, he wouldn't commit to doing any more short films for the Ghibli Museum theatre. (Because now that he is retired, he is "free.") But on the bright side he didn't exactly say that he definitely wouldn't (at least that was my sense)--just that he wouldn't make any commitments to doing so.

He also said (jokingly) that he might even be an exhibit himself one day. Can you imagine if he made an appearance (or appearances) at the Ghibli Museum? They'd had to hold a (domestic and international) random lottery to distribute tickets because absolutely everyone would want to go.

Future of Studio Ghibli
As one reporter commented, Studio Ghibli was made to produce films by Miyazaki and Takahata Isao. Miyazaki is retiring this year at age 72. Takahata is 78 and is expected to retire after the release of Kaguya Hime no Monogatari (The Story of Princess Kaguya). So what will happen to Studio Ghibli? Producer Suzuki didn't give any details, but he did say that there is a film in the works for potential release next summer.

After that, both Suzuki and Miyazaki said that the future of the Studio would depend on the current young(er) staff. If they have a strong vision and stories that they really want to tell, Studio Ghibli might be able to continue a while longer. And Suzuki indicated that he would be willing to carry on a little longer since he is still (a bit) younger--at 65 years old--than Miyazaki and Takahata. 

The Ghibli Blog wrote this past April that Disney would acquire Studio Ghibli in 2014, with Ghibli retaining its autonomy in Japan, but neither President Hoshino nor Suzuki mentioned that--and no one from the press asked about it either (as far as I can recall). So I guess we'll just have to see what happens after the November 23, 2013 release of Kaguya Hime.

The movie that left the strongest impression on Miyazaki
I read somewhere that Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises) is the first movie where Miyazaki himself cried while watching it, so I was surprised that when asked he named Howl no Ugoku Shiro (Howl's Moving Castle) as the movie that he had the strongest "image" (impression) of. Unfortunately, for the life of me, I can't remember what his reasons were for choosing Howl out of all his works. @_@

France vs Italy
Miyazaki has used Italy as a setting for a number of his films and when asked (by an Italian press representative?), he said that he really likes Italy--the food, the beautiful women... =P But when asked how he felt about France (by a French press representative), he had to admit that he likes Italian food better than French food. Apparently when he recently went to France (this past winter?) he was constantly served foie gras, which was a bit too much for him.

A "mom and pop" operation
Apparently Miyazaki doesn't think of himself as an internationally-renowned director. He doesn't have a particular message that he wants to impart to global audiences either. To him, his work is like working at a small mom-and-pop factory, just producing things that he likes and that convey the feelings and thoughts he wants to convey at that time. Suzuki also agreed that at Studio Ghibli they try not to look back too much on past works/accomplishments or to pay much too much attention to outside expectations. They just keep looking forward trying to make new movies.

When asked about his thoughts on "Cool Japan"--the campaign to harness the "soft power" of Japanese culture by promoting it overseas--Miyazaki basically said he didn't know anything about the campaign and didn't really care about it. A big ouch! for the Japanese government, I'm sure.

A bit of a troglodyte*
(*Troglodyte is my description--not Miyazaki's) Miyazaki admitted that he doesn't really watch recent movies or TV, particularly when he is working on a film. At the most he listens to a little radio in the morning and skims through the newspaper--which is why he didn't know anything about the "Cool Japan" campaign.
I really admire Miyazaki's wife
For the past ten years(?) or so, Miyazaki has basically stopped eating out. Every day he eats a solid breakfast, brings a bento (packed lunch) made by his wife to work, and eats dinner at home with his wife. When he told his wife about his plan to retire, apparently he also told that he still wanted a bento every day--to which she (jokingly?) replied that most people don't have to keep making bentos at their age and that shouldn't she also become "free" with his retirement. (I was cooking at this point in the Q&A, and I'd briefly switched to Japanese audio, so I'm not sure how accurate my recollection and/or interpretation of his words are.)

Having basically become a housewife myself since getting married, I can say that preparing/cooking three meals a day is not easy. This past week, with even just a small increase in hours for my part-time work--combined with daily festival taiko (Japanese drum) practice--I had to resort to buying sushi from the supermarket for dinner one night, and my husband even had to make do with cup noodles one day when I had a party in the evening and didn't have time to prepare dinner for him beforehand. So the fact that she has faithfully made him three meals a day for ten years is mind-blowing-ly amazing to me.

There was a lot more (as I said, the Q&A session was just over an hour and a half long!) but these are the points that stuck out the most to me. If I remember something later or find a good article about the conference--or the translated text from the official press release--I will try to update this post.