The Future of Fantasy: Anticipating Studio Ghibli's Next Movie and the Possibility of a Nausicaä Sequel

by Marine Tranier

When thinking about Studio Ghibli, many films, including Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, and My Neighbor Totoro, come to mind. These movies have enchanted adults and kids since the 80s with their unique storylines, entertaining characters, and fascinating graphics. After the most recent Studio Ghibli film released (The Boy and the Heron, known as How Do You Live? in Japan), screenwriter, manga artist, animator, and director Hayao Miyazaki, the man behind the beloved Ghibli films, announced it was his final movie.

The Boy and the Heron is known as How Do You Live? in Japan.

Luckily for viewers, producer Toshio Suzuki quickly squashed Miyazaki's retirement news in an interview, noting the director is already working on another movie. This interview quickly sparked a debate on the Studio Ghibli next movie, with some believing it to be a Nausicaa 2 film, a Ghibli sequel. Below, we explore the world of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, from previous films to his new project.

Introduction: The Enchanting Legacy of Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli has been credited for highly influencing the animation community with its many animated hits. American-made movies with Ghibli flair are becoming increasingly popular in movie theaters and streaming services. For example, Avatar: The Last Airbender is an American-made show, yet it provides a similar feel to anime. There are also animated movies, specifically in Pixar.

The stunning scenery, along with Miyazaki's unique animation style, has also seen a crossover into other forms of art, especially in the Western world. Artists from various fields, including animation, ceramics, video, music, and theater, have drawn inspiration from Studio Ghibli. Some artists borrow inspiration from the themes in the Ghibli movies, while others use Miyazaki's humanization of objects as their muse. Famous filmmakers of various genres, such as Wes Anderson and Guillermo del Toro, have also noted Miyazaki as their inspiration.

Hayao Miyazaki has inspired a lot of great artists and film-makers.

The Ghibli animated films and Miyazaki have been so influential in the Western world that there was even an exhibit in 2018 dedicated to Miyazaki in California titled "Miyazaki in Los Angeles." This influence has grown over the years, making it easier for those interested in animated shows/movies to find options on streaming services. In the past, hunting down anime via specific websites or with an extra paid service was necessary. Now, many anime movies/shows are appearing on popular services like Netflix and Max.

This animation movie studio was started in 1985 by Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and producer Toshio Suzuki. Before this, Miyazaki had already created two films, including the first Nausicaa film (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind). Even though the first Nausicaa was filmed and created a year before Studio Ghibli was created, it is considered a Ghibli film. Once the studio was established, they released their first film, Castle in the Sky. Since then, the studio has produced an additional 21 movies, most created/directed by Miyazaki himself.

Studio Ghibli's Next Chapter: What's Coming After 'The Boy and the Heron'

There is currently minimal information, if any, on the Studio Ghibli next movie. The most recent movie, The Boy and the Heron has only been available to US audiences since December 8, 2023. It was originally released about five months prior, on July 14, 2023, in Japan. This movie, a semi-autobiographical fantasy feature film, has yet to be released to streaming services. However, there is speculation the movie will be on streaming services in the Spring or Summer of this year, 2024.

Miyazaki's "final film," The Boy and the Heron, takes viewers back to 1943 when the main character, Mahito survives wartime yet can't reach his mother at the hospital in time to save her from a fire. As he mourns his mother, he begins a new venture, living with his father, his new wife, and a team of maids in the countryside. As he is settling into his new life, he is met by a heron (actually a man in a heron suit) who tells Mahito his mother is still alive.

The heron convinces Mahito to journey to find his mother and newly imprisoned stepmother in a magic-shrouded, spirit-filled tower. Like many other Miyakaki films, Mahito must find his way through the tower to locate his loved ones. Along the way, he meets adorable little friends known as bubble spirits. During the movie, he is met with a final decision of whether he wants to remain in this magic-filled world or return to his "normal life." We won't spoil the ending of this new movie, though you may be able to figure out which option he picks based on previous Ghibli movies, like Spirited Away. 

If you caught the release of this Studio Ghibli new movie in Japan, you'd see it referred to as How Do You Live? referencing one of Miyazaki's favorite books as a child, which was written in 1937. While the movie's name is the same as the book (and inspired by the book), the storyline is quite different from this classic book.

Miyazaki oversaw the filming and production process frame by frame in many of his films. However, with his newest movie, he took a step back. Instead, he focused on creating the movie's storyboard (aka blueprint). Once the storyboard was prepped, Takeshi Honda, the animation director, took control of the movie's creation.

Exploring the Potential of a 'Nausicaä' Sequel

So, what made fans believe the Studio Ghibli next movie will be Nausicaa 2? Recently, a documentary was released in Japan (December 2023) titled 2399 Days with Hayao Miyazaki. This documentary goes behind the scenes with the famous director as he was working on The Boy and the Heron. During this documentary, Miyazaki shows images of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind at the end, remarking, "It's painful to return to this world. " This simple comment, along with Studio Ghibli VP Junichi Nishioka noting Miyazaki was hard at work on a new film, was enough to have fans speculating there would be a second film.

Nothing has been confirmed about the new film, such as the voice cast, storyline, or whether it is, in fact, a Ghibli sequel (very uncommon for Studio Ghibli). However, that has not deterred fans from believing Nausicaa 2 to be in the works. The first film, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, is based on the Nausicaa manga Miyazaki wrote and illustrated. It features seven volumes, which go beyond the section of the story told in the first movie. Because the first movie left viewers with several questions, the hope is there would be a second Nausicaa to finish the storyline and cover more of the manga's storyline.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, the first film, explores a future world 1000 years in the future. In this world, Nausicaa, a princess/ruler of the people, lives in The Valley of the Wind, one of the few communities left in the world after an apocalyptic event that destroyed much of the world. She has the special ability to communicate with large bugs who live in the "toxic jungle." With multiple communities at war, she uses her skills, which include windriding, fighting, and communication with the gigantic bugs, to help bring peace to what's left of the world. She creates a world where the remaining humans and the giant bugs live peacefully together.

Hayao Miyazaki's Vision: From 'Princess Mononoke' to 'Howl's Moving Castle'

When comparing Miyazaki's stories and themes to Western films, there is quite a difference, which is part of why his work stands out. In Miyazaki's works, he focuses on balance as a general theme, specifically regarding humans. By achieving balance, humanity can succeed in creating a peaceful environment. This theme is present throughout most of the Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli movies, along with other important storylines.

Throughout Miyazaki's career, he has focused his storytelling on Japanese myths/legends, his childhood experiences/upbringing, and his response to the world around him. These have helped shape his stories, whether they're based on manga, books, or otherwise. Additionally, his storytelling follows a traditional Kishōtenketsu method, which is common in anime, manga, and ancient Japan. This method includes an introduction, story development, a twist (typically while the main character is on a journey), and a conclusion that resolves the twist. Because of this storytelling style, the movies produced by Studio Ghibli typically focus on the change the main character goes through. This focus on how the protagonist changes throughout the story is a big part of why Ghibli is much more than its famous movie, Totoro.

You can find plenty of unique Ghibli goodies on Sugoi Mart, like this beautiful ceramic cup.

Studio Ghibli in the Global Arena: International Recognition and Collaborations

As mentioned, Studio Ghibli has had a major influence around the world and on various artists in different mediums. Because of its wide reach (and many loyal fans), Studio Ghibli has been featured in various international film festivals. For example, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) holds an annual Studio Ghibli film festival with various events, speakers, and film viewings. This event has been occurring for nearly ten years already. The festival runs for almost a month and a half and includes showings of nearly every Ghibli movie available. Additional film festivals focus on Studio Ghibli movies in other areas of the US, including Bloomington, IN. These film festivals span to other locations worldwide, including Bangkok and London.

With this global influence, it should come as no surprise that Studio Ghibli has collaborated with many artists and brands throughout the years. One of Ghibli's famous collaborations has been with composer Joe Hisaishi, who has worked on nine movies with Miyazaki. He has also recently played the famous songs from Ghibli movies in London at a long-awaited concert. Other famous artists, including A-list actors, have had collaborations with Studio Ghibli. Some of these actors include Emily Blunt, Mark Hamill, Tim Curry, Hailey Steinfeld, Robert Pattinson, and Christian Bale.

Studio Ghibli has also collabed with brands like Levi's and Loewe (a luxury clothing company) to create Ghibli-themed merchandise. You can also find Ghibli merch, like this Ghibli lucky bag, on our shop Sugoi Mart. You'll find plushies, puzzles, toys, collectibles, and more items in the lucky bag, all featuring characters from top Ghibli movies. Sugoi Mart also has other items sold separately, including suncatchers, bento boxes, watches, and more with beloved Ghibli characters.

Try the Sugoi Mart Ghibli Lucky Bag and receive a surprise set of exclusive merch from Japan!

The Future of Studio Ghibli: Continuation of a Fantastical World

As far as the future of Studio Ghibli, it's still a bit up in the air. In the past, Goro Miyazaki, the son of Hayao Miyazaki, had been considered for the position of the new director. However, since Hayao Miyazaki has decided to continue with the Studio Ghibli next movie, there are no new plans for a new director. The current news on Studio Ghibli is that a large portion has been recently acquired by Nippon Television Holdings, which has promised to keep building the studio's success worldwide. Whether or not Nausicaa 2 is in the works, one thing's for certain: Miyazaki has forever impacted the lives of viewers, artists, and filmmakers.

While awaiting news on the newest Ghibli film, you can explore the fantastic world of Ghibli in person with the newly opened Ghibli theme park in Japan. Here, you'll find scenes from popular movies like Howl's Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke to explore with loved ones. If you can't make it to the Ghibli theme park, stock up on Ghibli items from Sugoi Mart, rewatch your favorite Miyazaki films, or catch The Boy and the Heron in theaters!

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