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<i>How Do You Live?</i> Reviews, US release date and story of Hayao Miyazaki’s final film

It arrived quietly. An unusual thing for a movie that was one of the most anticipated since the acclaimed Studio Ghibli announced it in 2017. But that was how Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, Kimitachi wa Do Ikiru Ka?, or How Do You Live? (as its English informal title goes), hit the screens across Japan on 14 July 2023.

Even though Studio Ghibli did not undertake any promotional activity in the run-up to the release of the film and its plot was deliberately kept a mystery, How Do You Live? has been showered with praise by critics and fans alike.

Here are all the details about Studio Ghibli’s How Do You Live?

Film to be released in 2023 in the US

How Do You Live?
A second poster of the film was released by Studio Ghibli on 17 July. (Image credit: STUDIO GHIBLI/@JP_GHIBLI/Twitter)

On the same day of its release in Japan, US-based distributor GKIDS acquired the North American rights to Miyazaki’s film. They will be releasing it under the title The Boy and the Heron, adding that it will be the official international title of the movie.

According to Variety, GKIDS said that the film will be released in North American theatres “later this year.” The report indicates that it may hit the screens later in 2023 in time for a nomination for the Academy Awards in 2024.

It is also expected to be screened at various festivals during autumn before it comes to American theatres.

What is the story of How Do You Live?

There were various speculations that How Do You Live? will follow the storyline of the 1937 coming-of-age novel written by Genzaburo Yoshino. However, Miyazaki, who is the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, shared that the upcoming film only borrowed the title.

According to Japanese media reports, the film is 124 minutes long and is set during World War II.

It centres on a young boy named Mahito. His mother dies in the firebombing of Tokyo and his father remarries.

The family moves to the countryside, where a grief-stricken Mahito meets a talking heron while exploring his surroundings. The heron leads Mahito on an adventure into a fantastical world through a portal in the forests.

Reviews of How Do You Live?

The Japan Times reports that fans started lining up outside theatres in Tokyo before 7 am to be able to watch the first-day first show of the highly anticipated film.

Initial reviews have been highly positive.

“I can’t digest it by just watching it once and I feel like I want to watch it again immediately,” an audience member who saw the film on the opening day told Kyodo News.

Anime News Network called it a “visual masterpiece” in its review, noting, “Every frame of this film feels like a separate work of art—one that only becomes grander when put together as part of the greater whole. It’s a film you could watch a hundred times and still discover new things in the background of any given scene.”

How Do You Live? succeeds at what it’s trying to be—a roadmap for dealing with the loss of a loved one couched within a fantastical tale. It’s designed to tell those suffering from such feelings that they are not alone while also showing them how to find importance in the greatly-changed world they find themselves in,” concluded the review.

Why was there no promotional activity around Hayao Miyazaki’s final film?

Anticipation grew for How Do You Live? as the film adopted an unusual strategy of doing zero promotion. The only information shared about the film was a poster showing a blue-and-white feathered bird with a yellow beak with no additional promotion of ads, trailers, or information about the voice cast list.

In an era of prolific promotion and marketing of multiple trailers, press tours, and posters, it is undoubtedly an interesting take of Studio Ghibli to make the audience want to go see the film.

In an interview with the Japanese magazine Bungei Shunju, Suzuki Toshio, president of Studio Ghibli said, “They’ll want to see for themselves what the film is about and to do that, they’ll have to go to a theater.”

“We would see the poster and one or two lines of description and fill in the blanks with our imagination,” he later told NHK World-Japanadding that Miyazaki was initially worried about the lack of promotion but eventually came around to the idea.

Miyazaki was not involved in the creation of every frame in How Do You Live? unlike all his previous films. Most of the artwork in the film was done by younger artists.

“The change is dramatic and, though I should not really say it, I think the drawing is better,” Suzuki laughed.

Hayao Miyazaki’s career achievements

Miyazaki has produced many well-known animation films with Studio Ghibli like Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo.

Miyazaki plans to retire after the release of How Do You Live? after his astonishing achievements in Japanese animation history.

He has received immense acknowledgement all over the world, receiving awards like Oscar’s Best Animated Feature in 2003 for Spirited Away and the Honorary Award in 2015.

(Image: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

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