It might be sad commentary that I get my breaking news from my Facebook news feed. I suspect the same is true for millions of others. Earlier this week, I was alarmed when several friends alerted me to an announcement by Studio Ghibli that they will be closing their production division.
Translation: no new Studio Ghibli animated magic.
Studio Ghibli General Manager Toshio Suzuki was on MBS, a Japanese television network, where he talked about the future of the studio. Fan-site Oh-Totoro provided a translated version of his comments:
“Just moments ago, Toshio Suzuki, Studio Ghibli producer, announced on the TV show of the MBS Jounetsu Tairiku chain effectively as announced as sources close to the studio, Studio Ghibli will close and production studio anime, leaving himself only as a company that will manage its trademarks,” the translation reads. “As stated in the program’s producer, “the production department of anime will be dismantled.”
DISMANTLED? Well, that certainly sounded clinical. I imagine when Studio Ghibli closes, all of their animators will become tanuki and return to the forests. The animation equipment will come to life, each piece leaving the studio and boarding a giant zepplin piloted by a handsome pig.
Just as soon as I read reports of the studio’s eminent demise, a series of updates proliferated my feed. Apparently, translation depends on the translator and alternate interpretations of Toshio Suzuki’s comments emerged. From Variety:
Suzuki talked about the need for “big changes in all aspects of our operations.” One possibility he mentioned was a hiatus in the production department and taking what he described as a “short break” to assess the studio’s future.
For a closer examination of the words “short break,” Kotaku provided a screenshot of the interview with captioning in Japanese:
Just a note: the wording Suzuki uses (小休止 or “shoukyuushi”) can mean “pause” or “a break” or a “breather.” He does not use the more definite word “kyuushi” (休止), which means either “stop, pause or suspend.”
Suzuki’s wording makes it sound like the studio is considering reorganization and regrouping. It could mean that Studio Ghibli decides it won’t make anime films anymore. Though it could mean they do keep making anime films. It could mean a lot of things!
Based on this flurry of articles and subsequent updates, I’ll forgive the fan site for its overzealous/sloppy interpretation of Japanese.
It is inevitable that good things must come to an end. Hayao Miyazaki retired last year and it seems like Studio Ghibli will be transitioning into other types of projects. Whether they continue to create full-length animated feature films, they will most likely be involved with licensing and merchandising of its properties. Hells bells, I just found out Studio Ghibli is partnering with Her Universe to launch a fashion line to be sold at Hot Topic this September. Hot Topic? Really?!? Only a Totoro sweater would compel me to go to a mall and find the nearest Hot Topic.
The memories I have enjoying classics such as Castle in the Sky Laputa, Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away aren’t going anywhere. I’ll still attend retrospectives where I get to see these films on the big screen and know I’ll show these films on DVDs to introduce this fantastical world to kids for the first time.
I’m going to appreciate the entire body of work by Studio Ghibli and understand that they are changing. Exactly how, I don’t know, but I’m assuming that the golden era of these classics are at an end. The future could produce interesting films, but it would be silly to expect the same Miyazaki Magic when the animators and leadership transition into a new direction. We actually should be thankful that they didn’t follow the Hollywood studio model and recycled the hell out of their movies: My Other Neighbor, Totoro or Princess Mononoke Part 3: Back for Blood.
News flash: in an article by Variety posted today, Hayao Miyazaki raised speculation that he might return to create a film:
Hayao Miyazaki, the iconic Japanese anime creator “may make something again,” said Toshio Suzuki, the veteran Studio Ghibli producer whose remarks on a Sunday TBS documentary stirred up speculation about the studio’s demise.
“This is my guess, but I’m thinking it will be something short.” He explained that Miyazaki had talked to him about making a short film for the Ghibli Musuem in Mitaka, Tokyo.
My take? I’m not holding my breath until it happens. But anything Miyazaki makes in the future will just be icing on the cake.