The internet exploded over the weekend when former producer Toshio Suzuki’s comments on Studio Ghibli’s future went viral to the horror of studio fans. What began as vague comments on a “break” for the studio, quickly escalated into mistranslations of the eminent shut down of Japan’s most treasured animation studio, though no major Japanese news outlets reported anything on Studio Ghibli’s future or lack thereof.
Just as quickly as the misinterpreted comments made the social media rounds, retractions and edits were made after the studio confirmed that while they will NOT be shutting down, but they will indeed be taking a “break” from feature animated production in order to restructure and form a plan for the future.
And while this sent out a resounding sigh of relief in the fandom, I am not convinced this is a sign of good things to come for Studio Ghibli’s future. Sure, it is definitely not as terrible or definite as a complete studio shut down, but is it really something to take lightly, something to be perceived as a dodged bullet? I’m not so sure.
Though Studio Ghibli will have some kind of future regardless if they are producing feature animated films, handling distribution, or whatever else they decide to do after this “break”, the only resounding certainty in all of this is that the studio will never be the same again, something which was supremely evident when Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata announced their retirements last year.
Many are currently reassuring themselves, thinking that Studio Ghibli can exist without powerhouse directors Miyazaki, and Takahata much in the same fashion that Disney continued after Walt Disney passed away. However, there was a drop in production quality after Walt Disney died, which was only regained during the Disney Renaissance of the 1990s (some 20 years after Disney’s death), which is something Studio Ghibli’s future may echo in the years to come.
But considering Studio Ghibli has been struggling financially the last few years, can it actually take such a financial gamble? In other words, can it afford to take major risks on new, inexperienced storytellers to head and represent the studio? Of course the first two names people rebute this with are Goro Miyazaki and Hiromasa Yonebayashi with the success of From Up on Poppy Hill, and the currently anticipated ,respectively. But people also seem to forget the underwhelming reception of their freshman films Tales from Earthsea and The Secret World of Arrietty once again respectively. Not to mention, Goro Miyazaki has busied himself with the TV show Ronia The Robber’s Daughter which is being produced under the Studio Ghibli name. And while it is of course naive to hold these budding directors to the results of their first works, going forward, there will be nothing but speculation from the public when it comes to these two animators.
So what is going to happen to Studio Ghibli’s future? Though most are shockingly optimistic, putting their faith in the idea that the studio will take some time off to either train, or search for new talent, I think the smart thing to do is to look at it the same way Jiro Horikoshi looks at the end of his career in The Wind Rises, almost as if Hayao Miyazaki was talking through him: it happened. It was beautiful. And one day, it will be/is over. Studio Ghibli will stand in history as one of the things that made humanity great. And that will be that.
Do not confuse my romantic sentiments as those of a cynical nihilist who wishes to be right in this regard, that Studio Ghibli does not have a future. If somehow the studio continues to produce high quality feature animated films, I will be among the most overjoyed for there is nothing that I want more than the continued success of Studio Ghibli.
However, I will continue to keep in mind a Tumblr post from Ricktimus which appears to be screen captures of the upcoming documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness which follows Hayao Miyazaki’s completion of his final film: