Studio Ghibli seems to be spiraling into a pretty deep identity crisis, with producer Toshio Suzuki murmuring about closing up shop. The question seems to be, can the studio continue making movies at an almost yearly pace, while delivering the quality that’s become as much of a Ghibli trademark as its Totoro silhouette, without a leading visionary like the now-retired Hayao Miyazaki?
Some anime fans had hoped that Hiromasa Yonebayashi, director of 2010’s The Secret World of Arrietty, would fill that role, but his second project. When Marnie Was There, hasn’t universally enchanted audiences during its theatrical release. So if Yonebayashi isn’t the next Miyazaki, then who is?
Definitely not the legendary Hayao’s own son, Goro, and by the younger Miyazaki’s own admission, no less.
Despite being the offspring of Japan’s most respected animator, Goro didn’t exactly jump into the animation industry with both feet. It was only after several years working as a landscaper and helping to design the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo’s Mitaka neighborhood that Goro took charge of his first anime, 2006’s critically and commercially maligned Tales from Earthsea. He found more success in 2011 with his second effort, From Up on Poppy Hill, but with the next three Ghibli films coming from other directors, it looks like Goro hasn’t cemented himself as the studio’s replacement for his father.
Moreover, it doesn’t seem to be a role Goro himself feels suited for. On September 2, the younger Miyazaki spoke to reporters at a press conference for Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, the upcoming co-production between Ghibli and computer animation specialists Polygon Pictures.
When the subject of whether or not he sees himself as the “successor” to his father’s legacy, he made it abundantly clear that he does not.
“I don’t think of myself as a writer,” he stated, in contrast to Hayao, who wrote the screenplays for every Ghibli film he directed, and also collaborated with screenwriter Keiko Niwa for From Up on Poppy Hill. “I can’t become the next Hayao Miyazaki. There’s just no way for that to happen.”
This isn’t to say that Goro has a complete lack of confidence in his abilities, however. “I’m able to direct when I’m entrusted with a story to work with,” he explained. “But I can’t copy my dad’s process of having his own studio, coming up with his own stories, then planning them from scratch and making a finished film.”
In Goro’s defense, if we were writing down the names of people who can’t copy Hayao Miyazaki’s recipe for success, the list would include most of the people who’ve ever worked in animation, if not all of them. If the younger Miyazaki is going to leave his mark on the world of anime, he’s going to need to find his own way to do it, and realizing that he and his famous parent are not the same person is no doubt a necessary step in that process.