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Blu-ray Review: Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki

April 30, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

At the start of Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki, director Kaku Arakawa’s short and sweet documentary about the legendary Japanese animator, we see footage from 2013 of Miyazaki announcing his intentions to retire from filmmaking at a press conference, stating that The Wind Rises will be his final film.

This wasn’t the first time Miyazaki had publicly announced that he was going to retire, having always gone back to work at Studio Ghibli shortly afterwards, so it’s really no surprise that this retirement didn’t last long, either.

Arakawa follows Miyazaki as he gets to work on his passion project in 2015, a short film called Boro the Caterpillar that he has done many sketches for and has tried to make over the years, but always felt like the technology wasn’t quite where he needed it to be for the film’s intricate visuals. This leads him to reluctantly make the decision to work in CGI for the first time ever in his animation career, bringing in computer animators to help him finally make the film per his vision.

Miyazaki is very much a traditionalist when it comes to hand-drawn animation. He is heard blasting Disney’s Frozen within the first five minutes of this documentary, feeling that the be yourself no matter what theme of that film’s ubiquitous ballad “Let It Go” is all wrong, as it doesn’t allow room for the message of self-improvement that he feels is badly needed for kids. It’s an amusing moment, partially because Disney has been responsible for the North American releases of many of Studio Ghibli’s films over the years, dubbing them into English with celebrity voice casts.

There is a remarkable moment that happens when Miyazaki meets with a team of programmers who are working in the artificial intelligence field and trying to come up with a way for computers to make films on their own through deep learning. Miyazaki scolds them for the grotesque images that the computers have created, and the utter lack of feeling that they possess. What Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki offers is the rare and often wonderful opportunity to watch a true master at work, and if you are a fan of Studio Ghibli, I would encourage you to check it out.

The Blu-ray also comes with an alternate, 48 minute cut of the film, which includes English narration as well as some different footage.

Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki is a Shout! Factory release. It’s 70 minutes and unrated.

Street Date: April 30th, 2019

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