Af­ter Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki has re­tired, Ghi­bli seems to be end­ing... can any­thing take their place and match their suc­cesses? We ex­am­ine the ev­i­dence.

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For some pun­dits, the ques­tion, “Who is the next Miyazaki?” is as weari­some as, “Why do anime char­ac­ters have big eyes?” Anime ex­pert Jonathan Cle­ments, au­thor of the in­dis­pens­able Anime: A History, ar­gues that Hayao Miyazaki was sim­ply unique, as was his artier men­tor Isao Taka­hata (Princess Kaguya) and the Ghi­bli stu­dio they co-founded.

But if you’re look­ing not nec­es­sar­ily for the next Hayao Miyazaki, but just for anime with a sim­i­larly pop­u­lar touch – ac­ces­si­ble to main­stream, in­ter­na­tional view­ers, with a sense of poetry and won­der – then there are can­di­dates. In re­cent years, there have been some ex­cel­lent anime movies that feel Ghi­bli-esque with­out be­ing im­i­ta­tions. Two cases are Patema In­verted, in which a girl dis­cov­ers an up­side-down world where she’s in con­stant dan­ger of plung­ing into the sky; and Gio­vanni’s Is­land, a fan­ta­sytinged history drama about two boys on an is­land oc­cu­pied by Rus­sia in the 1940s.

But the big direc­tors of­ten com­pared to Hayao are Makoto Shinkai and Mamoru Hosoda. Makoto first came to at­ten­tion with a short film, Voices of a Dis­tant Star, which he made prac­ti­cally solo. He’s since de­vel­oped sump­tu­ous fea­ture films, such as 5 Cen­time­ters per Sec­ond, which are of­ten themed around love-struck teenagers. His 2011 Jour­ney to Agartha looked great, but failed to build a world as com­pelling as Hayao’s. Far bet­ter was 2013’s Gar­den of Words, a 46-minute in­ti­mate drama about a boy and a woman meet­ing in a Tokyo park in Ja­pan’s rainy sea­son.

making use of dig­i­tal tools

The rain is a key el­e­ment of Gar­den of Words. “The droplets of rain in the air are par­ti­cle sim­u­la­tions,” Makoto ex­plains, “and the rain splash­ing in pud­dles and in lakes, the rip­ples, the spray, that’s hand drawn.” Rain was an im­por­tant part of Ghi­bli films such as To­toro and Kiki’s De­liv­ery Ser­vice. “I was im­pressed by their use of rain, but they were made in the days of ana­log… I wanted to see if I could make the rain in Gar­den of Words look as im­pres­sive, us­ing the com­puter.”

How­ever, it’s Mamoru Hosoda who’s the hot anime name at the mo­ment. No­to­ri­ously, he was hired by Ghi­bli to make Howl’s Mov­ing Cas­tle, only for his version to be re­jected. Since then he’s made his name through his own out­stand­ing fea­ture films, with win­ning char­ac­ters and strong themes: The Girl who Leapt Through Time, Sum­mer Wars and The Wolf Chil­dren. Mamoru’s lat­est film in Ja­pan is The Boy and the Beast, which has el­e­ments of Spir­ited Away and The Karate Kid. A boy finds a world of talk­ing, brawl­ing an­i­mals and be­comes ap­pren­ticed to a bear-like bruiser.

At the re­cent Tokyo Film Fes­ti­val, Mamoru said, “When I have an idea in my mind, I can’t help think­ing about how I can ex­press it, how can I make it won­der­ful, to make peo­ple laugh. It’s the sheer plea­sure of making it hap­pen that drives me through making the film.” He says The Boy and the Beast was in­spired by the birth of his son. “I’m think­ing as a par­ent, how is he go­ing to grow up, how are we go­ing to raise him? Is he go­ing to be able to find a soul mate or some mas­ter from whom he can learn about life?”

clients who ap­proach him usu­ally ask him to de­sign cute girls. We were the first team to ask him for hero de­signs. So he kept ask­ing, ‘Se­ri­ously? You chose me?’ We wanted him to draw cute girls too, but we mainly wanted him to draw he­roes.”

Tiger & Bunny is now be­ing de­vel­oped as a live-ac­tion Hol­ly­wood film co-pro­duced by Ron Howard, who calls it “a great buddy story.” In Ja­pan, Tiger & Bunny has been fol­lowed by more ec­cen­tric hero anime, such as Sa­mu­rai Fla­menco, a show which be­gins like Kick-Ass and then be­comes closer to Monty Python. An­other se­ries, Gatchaman Crowds, fea­tures a cheery hero­ine, campy silli­ness, knotty pol­i­tics, so­cial net­works and an eye-scorch­ing colour scheme. The word Gatchaman tips the hat to a sem­i­nal 1970s anime of that name, re­cut in the west as Bat­tle of the Plan­ets.

Away from the usual hero shows, the out­stand­ing Steins; Gate is about or­di­nary young­sters – or at least or­di­nary ec­centrics - who are con­duct­ing re­search into time travel in Ak­i­habrara, Tokyo’s geek mecca of com­puter stores and maid cafés. The se­rial’s first half blends sit­com and con­spir­acy drama, then the show trans­forms into a white-knuckle thriller and time-travel drama that puts Doc­tor Who to shame. Based on a vis­ual novel (a com­puter game where you choose your way through a branch­ing sto­ry­line), the show will be fol­lowed by a quasi-se­quel, Steins; Gate 0, de­pict­ing one of the story’s al­ter­na­tive time­lines.

Conve ying the joy of an­i­mati on

The last word should go to two graph­i­cally daz­zling se­ries. Ping Pong, un­usu­ally, is a sports anime get­ting a release in Bri­tain (you might have seen a live-ac­tion film version of the same Ping Pong manga, us­ing Ma­trix-style ef­fects). In the an­i­ma­tion, char­ac­ters move in loose, idio­syn­cratic ways; there are crazy pavings of split screens; and yet it’s also a heart­warm­ing com­e­dy­drama. “I want to see more re­laxed an­i­ma­tion com­ing

We wanted him to draw cute girls, but we mainly wanted him to draw he­roes

from Ja­pan,” di­rec­tor Masaaki Yuasa told twitch. com. “An­i­ma­tion where ev­ery­thing is not per­fectly drawn. The strict way it looks now, it some­times seems like work­ing on anime is more pain than plea­sure! I pre­fer to have joy in making an­i­ma­tion.”

A sim­i­lar spirit animates the man­i­cally bonkers-on-a-jet­pack Kill la Kill, where a girl with gi­ant scis­sors and a vam­piric talk­ing sailor suit takes on a mas­sive fortress-acad­emy and its su­per­pow­ered staff. Space and time bend like a Looney Tunes toon, but with more or­gas­mic ex­plo­sions. The show’s by the same team as Gur­ren La­gann, a mad mecha show from a decade ago. Its makers have now formed their own out­fit, Stu­dio Trig­ger.

One of the Trig­gers, Shigeto Koyama, was asked what dis­tin­guished anime from Amer­i­can an­i­ma­tion. “I feel that Ja­panese an­i­ma­tion is more com­pli­cated, more fetishis­tic,” he said, “and that there’s more di­vi­sion into dif­fer­ent art styles, more of a need to con­tin­u­ally come up with new ideas.” He ad­mit­ted, though, the down­side to this cre­ative splurg­ing. “It makes it a lit­tle bit hard for or­di­nary peo­ple to understand and fol­low some­times.”

The ac­tion of The Boy and the Beast shifts be­tween a fan­tasy world and the real-life Shibuya dis­trict in Tokyo, pic­tured. The many sim­pli­fied back­grounds seen in Gio­vanni’s Is­land were cre­ated by an Ar­gen­tinian artist, San­ti­ago Montiel. Rain is the cen­tral im­age in Gar­den of Words, the rain

ef­fects cre­ated both by hand-draw­ing and CGI.




In Steins;Gate, a mot­ley group of young­sters in the geek mecca of Ak­i­habara dis­cover the se­cret of time travel. In the hy­per-manic, hy­per-car­toony Kill la Kill, a girl war­rior has her power boosted by her

sen­tient, blood-drink­ing school uni­form!



The teenage Dragon Kid is the youngest of the su­per­hero char­ac­ters in Tiger & Bunny,

and the only Chi­nese mem­ber.


Masaaki Yuasa’s Ping Pong has some of the most un­usual art­work in a com­mer­cial TV anime. Tiger & Bunny uses some

specif­i­cally Ja­panese su­per­hero con­ven­tions, such as the ten­dency for he­roes to ride mo­tor­bikes. Magic Girl hero­ines like those in Madoka Mag­ica have been a sta­ple of anime since the 1960s. This sul­try fe­male gi­ant plays a cen­tral part in the sec­ond half of the At­tack on Ti­tan anime.





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