If you are an anime fan or just love animated family movies, the name Hayao Miyazaki will be more than a familiar name. Known as one of Japan's greatest animation directors, Miyazaki's work has earned him international critical acclaim and commercial success for his studio, #StudioGhibli. Above all, Miyazaki has elevated the world’s perception of #anime to a level of substantial artistic and literary stature.
But, having a big fish in a small pond has its drawbacks, particularly for his co-workers. Although the perception may be that Miyazaki is Studio Ghibli, this couldn't be further from the truth. The Miyazaki legacy has overshadowed the work of equally talented directors such as Isao Takahata, who directed the 1988 animated war drama film Grave of the Fireflies and the dramedy Pom Poko.
Consequently, Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have become one image. Thus, with Miyazaki's 2013 retirement announcement (and unretirement this year), Ghibli is putting major productions on hold. As a result, an excellent position has opened in the anime industry to fill the hole Miyazaki is going to leave behind. There are a few popular directors that many wish to be the new Miyazaki, so let's take a look at each one and determine who will be the New Miyazaki.
4. Goro Miyazaki
The first candidate is Miyazaki's son, Goro Miyazaki. At a young age, Goro realized that he would never be able to reach the level of recognition his father attained. Therefore, he decided to pursue a career in landscape agriculture. However, his career in landscaping will steer him back again to animation. In 1998, Goro was responsible for the design of the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka Japan, and served as its director from 2001 to June 2005. As luck would have it, a project at the studio was in need of a director. Consequently, it ended up on Goro's lap.
However, this was met with fierce resistance, as Papa Hayao argued that his son had no experience and wasn't even an animator. This didn't deter Goro, as he went to direct Tales from Earthsea, which topped the Japanese box office. Nevertheless, it received heavy criticism from the author of the Earthsea series, Ursula K. Le Guin, stating that the weak points of the film were the result of "when too much responsibility was shouldered by someone not equipped for it."
However, the negative reviews didn't hold Goro back, as he returned with his second film, From Up On Poppy Hill, which earned him several awards. It was co-written by Hayao Miyazaki. Even though many fans want Goro to fill his father's shoes, he has stated that he can't (and won't) do so. In the end, Goro is another Miyazaki, not the "new Miyazaki."
3. Mamoru Hosoda
One name that's been buzzed around for some time now is Mamoru Hosoda. After getting his start as a director on Digimon, Studio Ghibli commissioned Hosoda to direct Howl's Moving Castle. However, Hosoda's relationship with Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki was complicated due to his strong personal style that clashed with what the studio heads expected of him. Unable to convince them, they removed Hosoda from the project and Miyazaki would eventually take over. According to the anime grapevine, this left Hosoda a bit bitter, which led him to the decision to base the villain Baron Omatsuri — from the movie One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island — on Miyazaki.
While his little rift with Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki may not earn him the "new Miyazaki" title, his work definitely does. Hosoda's films are very similar to the legendary director, as they are high-quality, intricate and family-friendly with mass appeal. Be that as it may, when compared with Miyazaki, Hosoda's films are more realistic and set within the present day. With all things considered, Hosoda's films are perhaps a step beyond Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli perspectives.
2. Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Unlike the other directors on this list, Hiromasa Yonebayashi is considered by Studio Ghibli, to be the semi-official successor of Miyazaki. Starting out as an animator, Yonebayashi worked with Miyazaki on several of his films, including #PrincessMononoke and #SpiritedAway. But, his experience doesn't end there, as he was also responsible for the key animation of the psychological thrillers Monster and Serial Experiments Lain.
Nevertheless, it was in 2010 that Yonebayashi made his directorial debut with the film The Secret World of Arrietty. Therefore, making him the youngest director to make a movie for Studio Ghibli — a significant accomplishment.
Yonebayashi has demonstrated both skills and smarts, translating coming-of-age Western novels through Studio Ghibli’s unique taste and humanist philosophy, earning him several awards, including a Best Animated Feature nomination. Although Yonebayashi shares Miyazaki's goal to make films that depict the human qualities of people, he has only made two films to date. However, many critics (including himself) have pointed out that he hasn't developed a distinct style, and needs to do so if he wants to be the "new Miyazaki."
Update: Yonebayashi will direct a new anime film called Mary and the Witch's Flower.
1. Makoto Shinkai
A top contender for the "new Miyazaki" title is Makoto Shinkai. While many know his name through his beautiful animated movies, he has also delved into manga and video games. However, his prominence still lies in anime films. Since the release of his film, Voices of a Distant Star, a lot of critics have pointed out the many similarities between Shinkai and Miyazaki films. However, his films did not become fan favorites or reach the box office success of other Studio Ghibli films.
But, with the release of his film Your Name, this all changed. Since its premiere in August, Your Name is still in the top 10 films in Japan. To boost it even further, Your Name received worldwide distribution this past October and is on the shortlist for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Currently, the film holds the sixth position on Japan's all-time box office, surpassing Princess Mononoke. However, it still has a long way to go to reach or even surpass the No. 1 spot, held by Spirited Away and other Miyazaki hits, which are currently in the top 5.
While getting the "next Miyazaki" or "new Miyazaki" title may be excellent praise, there are several reasons why some directors might not want the label. First of all, it creates an expectation that the film will resemble (or much worse — imitate) Hayao Miyazaki's work, acknowledging the similarities between them instead of the unique perspective that these directors bring to the table. On top of that, it creates an unrealistic expectation that their work will be a commercial success, given Miyazaki's track record at the box office. Therefore, the title creates unnecessary pressure on the creators to make a financial success instead of telling a story.
However, the "new Miyazaki" title is on hold as the legendary director announced that he is working on another movie, Boro the Caterpillar. Regardless, Miyazaki will stop at some point, and perhaps one of these directors will take the "new Miyazaki" title. Until then, Miyazaki will continue working until his last breath.