Update: GKIDS has announced they’ve acquired the North American rights to the film, which will be released under the title The Boy and the Heron later this year, and will not release any further details or marketing materials at this time. “Hayao Miyazaki is a living legend in filmmaking, as evidenced by his Academy Award win for Spirited Away and his two Oscar nominations for Howl’s Moving Castle and The Wind Rises,’” said David Jesteadt, GKIDS president. “It’s been ten years since the world has seen a new film from Miyazaki-san, and GKIDS is so proud and honored to unveil his latest, highly anticipated masterpiece in North America.”

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As Warner Bros., Universal, and Paramount exhaust every muscle of their respective marketing machines for the Barbieheimer and Mission: Impossible campaigns, Studio Ghibli took the rather unprecedented approach when it comes to How Do You Live?, Hayao Miyazaki’s long-awaited, highly-anticipated new animation. The 82-year-old director’s first film in a decade (and likely his last) premiered earlier today in Japan on the heels of zero marketing with the exception of a sole poster. With only the title drawn from a 1930s novel, not a single thing was known about the plot, but now with screenings underway, the first details have arrived. We’ll have to see how GKIDS market the film for the yet-to-be-dated North American release (and one also wonders if the SAG-AFTRA strike will put a delay in the release as it relates to the English-language voice recording) but for those that wish to know nothing going in, it’s best to turn back now.

Clocking in at a touch over two hours, the film is reportedly reminiscent in structure to Guillermo del Toro Pan’s Labyrinth as Miyazaki tells the story of a boy named Mahito who loses his mother during the air raids in Tokyo in World War II. After her death, he ventures with his father and his new wife to the country where he finds trouble adjusting. He then comes across a talking heron in an abandoned tower who tells him his mother is still alive. After his father’s new wife goes missing, this abandoned tower opens a surreal, fantastical world in which the boy embarks on a grand adventure.

“The world Mahito travels through is unlike any seen before—even in Miyazaki’s other similar films. From oceans with monstrous fish to cities full of man-eating parrots—you’re never sure where the film is going next or who Mahito will meet there. All that’s certain is that Mahito has a goal and he’s not willing to return home until it has been accomplished,” reports Anime News Network. “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.”

While some reactions are noting the predictable arc of the boy’s journey, most agree the film is visually stunning with Miyazaki further pushing the boundaries of animated storytelling. Working under Rebuild of Evangelion designer and animation director Takeshi Honda, Matteo Watzky says “his presence on How Do You Live? plays no little part in the quality and novelty of the film. Miyazaki’s rich and round designs and movement remain as beautiful as they have always been, but are balanced by thinner, more elegant lines and features and more liberated expression than the highly-controlling Miyazaki has been used to – particularly visible in Ohira’s uncorrected, harrowing opening sequence or the film’s impressive climax. This may be the most original take on Miyazaki’s style since Katsuya Kondô’s wonderfully delicate designs on Kiki’s Delivery Service.

“The film is full of Miyazaki’s signature obsessions, quirks and thematic concerns. There are the usual visual treats, like cute yet eerie creatures, great-looking food and gravity-defying flights of fancy – primarily hand-drawn and moving with the fluidity and sense of weight that mark the master animator’s work,” notes the BBC. “Thematically, as in films like Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away, How Do You Live is a coming-of-age tale in which a child must overcome his selfishness and learn to live for others.”

While one can dig deeper around the web to find more details, we’re content in staying further unspoiled until the film’s eventual U.S. release. In the meantime, Studio Ghibli revealed another character design below as well as confirmation that Kenshi Yonezu performs the film’s theme song.

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