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The first reviews of the highly anticipated but mysterious Studio Ghibli film, ‘How do you live?’ They have already appeared on networks after its premiere in Japan. The latest work to date by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki has reached Japanese theaters with no more promotional material than a rather artistic and abstract poster. Neither trailers, nor more images nor anything similar to a promotional campaign or synopsis.

Opening in Japan on July 14, those who managed to see Miyazaki’s first film since 2013’s The Wind Rises have given their first verdicts, and surprisingly they’re pretty mixed.

Matt Schley of the BBC, notes that ‘How Do You Live?’ it is “full of Miyazaki’s trademark obsessions, quirks, and thematic concerns.”

There are the usual visual treats like cute but creepy creatures, alluring foods and gravity-defying fantasies, mostly drawn by hand and moving with the fluidity and sense of weight that marks the master animator’s work.

Comparing it thematically to earlier classics like ‘Kiki the Witch’s Apprentice’ and ‘Spirited Away’, he described it as “a coming-of-age tale in which a boy must overcome his selfishness and learn to live for others.”

It is on those issues where, according to Richard Eisenbeis of Anime News Networktells us in his review that the film stands out with a “powerful narrative” and “amazing” animation, while praising composer Joe Hisaishi’s score.

However, he also called the film “extremely predictable”, suggesting that it is “obvious from the start what the thematic form of the film will be”.

Despite this, the reviewer predicts that it could “become a classic for decades to come,” and while it’s not “the absolute pinnacle of Miyazaki films, it’s still excellent, and certainly not a bad Miyazaki sendoff.”

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Matteo Watzky’s Full Frontal he also praised the “technically impressive” animation, though suggested that “narratively, the film is difficult to assess.”

Treading on both old and new ground, it illustrates how a director’s creativity is a deep well that never seems to run dry. It may be absurd, but at this point I just want to wish for another movie from him, that builds on his strengths, continues to walk the new paths he breaks, and corrects some of his failings.

It’s a tough job and as written I don’t think it will work for everyone, I’m not even sure it worked for me. But this difficulty and ambiguity might just be his best quality, the ultimate display of Miyazaki talent, pure nuance and imagination.

Noah Oskow’s unseen japan described ‘How Do You Live?’ as Miyazaki’s “most personal film from start to finish”, though he added: “It seems like he has no desire to be a big hit or have mass appeal.”

What it does have, however, is a deeper message for an unknown world and the young people who will have to live in it. If this is indeed Miyazaki’s last film, then I can only thank him for that message, and his many decades of creating some of the best animated films in the world.

‘How Do You Live?’ It is already available in Japan, but it has not yet been confirmed for its premiere in Spain. From here we take the opportunity to ask the national distributors to take the step and take away from us Ghibli fans this without living. We remind you that all Studio Ghibli movies are available on Netflix.

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Sam is a freelance reporter and sub-editor who has a particular interest in movies, TV and music. After completing a journalism Masters at City University, London, Sam joined Digital Spy as a reporter, and has also freelanced for publications such as NME and Screen International. Sam, who also has a degree in Film, can wax lyrical about everything from Lord of the Rings to Love Is Blindand is equally in his element crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i’ as a sub-editor.


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