the last time for real

Hayao Miyazaki’s Face-Melting Final Film Confronts Death

Photo: GKIDS Films

If you were expecting a typical Hollywood rollout from Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki, oops. Maybe only in a world with an enchanted forest and fluffy monsters. How Do You Live?, Miyazaki’s final feature film, has a new name for its upcoming international release, now titled The Boy and the Heron for audiences outside of Japan. Keeping a similar tone to the July 14 Japanese release, the film distributed by GKIDS will have limited promotional materials. Fear not! A teaser trailer arrives. The first look shows the titular boy fleeing a city on fire. The titular bird arrives by way of the countryside. While strolling around a traditional Japanese home, the mysterious heron catches the boy’s eye. Frogs beg the boy to join them, a woman’s body puddles at his touch, and a Calcifer-like being rises from the flames. Later, a tunnel at the base of a decrepit castle illuminates, beckoning him to enter the place “where death comes to an end,” according to a title card. “About time you came,” someone says as a menacing, trapezoidal portal awaits him.

In the video introduction to the film, we got three whole sentences about the plot. The 32-second clip reveals that the movie will follow a young boy named Mahito who yearns for his mother and ventures into a world shared by the living and the dead, where “life finds a new beginning,” the brief synopsis reads, calling it a “semi-autobiographical fantasy about life, death, and creation, in tribute to friendship, from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki.” For now, there are a few stills to keep you waiting until its official North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7.

In an interview with the Japanese magazine Bungei Shunji earlier this year, the film’s producer (and Miyazaki’s longtime collaborator) Toshio Suzuki confirmed that there would be no trailers, no voice cast lists, no nothing for the film’s Japanese premiere. “As part of company operations, over the years Ghibli has wanted people to come see the movies we’ve made. So we’ve thought about that and done a lot of different things for that purpose — but this time we were like, ‘Eh, we don’t need to do that,’” Suzuki explained. “Doing the same thing you’ve done before, over and over, you get tired of it. So we wanted to do something different.”

There’s only so much else we do know about the film: It’s based on the 1937 novel How Do You Live? by Genzaburo Yoshino and described as “fantasy on a grand scale.” There’s also a theme song to the film by Kenshi Yonezu called “Spinning Globe” available to stream, giving us a little bit of what the movie’s vibe might be like. But … that’s it. Details on an English dub remain undisclosed. If it is anything like Miyazaki’s other films, it’ll definitely make us cry a little too hard.

This post has been updated.

Hayao Miyazaki’s Face-Melting Final Film Confronts Death