The fate of Studio Ghibli may be in limbo, but Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s future is starting next summer.
While fans of Studio Ghibli are still saddened by the anime production house having largely run out of steam, its three principal founders have already established unquestionably powerful legacies through their contributions to the field of animation. Directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata are now 75 and 81 years old, respectively, and at 68 producer Toshio Suzuki isn’t exactly a spring chicken anymore either, and so the trio has probably now realized many of its best storytelling ideas.
That said, it’s hard not to feel like there’s still plenty of untapped potential among the younger workers who also contributed to the animated artistry that came out of Studio Ghibli. In particular, 43-year-old Hiromasa Yonebayashi impressed fans and critics with his directorial talent in helming The Secret World of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There, and was considered by many to be the most likely figure to guide the next generation of Ghibli projects had the company continued to put out films with the same regularity as it had during its heyday.
That scenario doesn’t look likely to pan out, but Yonebayashi is far too young to retire, and thankfully he’s back in the director’s chair for a new theatrical anime titled Mary and The Witch’s Flower, the first trailer for which has just been released.
The animation bears a striking resemblance to Studio Ghibli’s, with soft-lined faces, expressive body language, and creatures that manage to be simultaneously silly and frightening.
In addition to directing, Yonebayashi is co-writing the screenplay with Riko Sakaguchi, who handled the script for the Takahata-directed The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Cribbing from the Ghibli playbook, the story is an adaptation of a work of children’s literature: British author Mary Stewart’s 1971 novel The Little Broomstick.
The haunting melody that plays during the trailer comes courtesy of Takatsugu Muramatsu, another staff member with a connection to Studio Ghibli. Muramatsu was responsible for the score for Marnie, and will be taking on the same role for the new anime’s production. Finally, Yoshiaki Nishimura, who produced Kaguya and co-produced Marnie (and was also involved in a gorgeous animated Japan Railways ad), will be serving as producer for Mary and the Witch’s Flower, which is the first theatrical feature from Studio Ponoc.
The film’s official website lists next summer for its Japanese release, while the English-language trailer contains the less specific announcement “Arriving in 2017.” It’s unclear whether that arrival will be in theaters or home video, but either way, it looks like this continuation of the Ghibli spirit will eventually be made available to anime fans outside Japan.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where the trailer’s last scene is really reminding him of the forest crash landing in Kiki’s Delviery Service.