Former Ghibli Staffer Discredits New Hayao Miyazaki Documentary as ‘Borderline Fake’

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The recent documentary, “2399 Days with Hayao Miyazaki & Studio Ghibli,” centered around Studio Ghibli and its legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, has sparked controversy among individuals well-versed in Ghibli’s operations. Many of them view it as an exaggerated and even inaccurate portrayal of the acclaimed studio’s history.

The documentary, named after The Boy and the Heron, seemed poised to delve deeply into the extensive production process of this film. However, fans expecting a comprehensive exploration were left disappointed by what they perceived as a dramatized depiction of Miyazaki himself. Masakatsu Ishizone, who served as a director’s assistant for Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke and My Neighbors the Yamadas, expressed his disappointment, stating that the documentary presents a “false history.” He pointed out the intermittent connection of Miyazaki’s statements, intertwining them with episodes and anecdotes. Ishizone emphasized the need to watch the documentary with a critical and objective eye, highlighting the puzzling motivation behind creating such content.

According to Ishizone, the documentary manipulates Miyazaki’s words by overlaying them onto scenes from The Boy and the Heron, blurring the lines between the filmmaker and dramatic narratives from his works. He expressed skepticism about the documentary’s focus solely on Miyazaki’s words and actions, neglecting the broader scope and relationships among Ghibli staff members, including Miyazaki himself. Additionally, both Ishizone and the animation blog Full Frontal pointed out that the documentary creates a misleading impression of an ‘inferiority complex’ between Miyazaki and his late friend Isao Takahata, a narrative they claim Ghibli has perpetuated over the years, often at the expense of truth. They criticized the exclusion of significant figures, such as Yasuda Michiyo, who played a pivotal role in Miyazaki’s works but didn’t receive any mention in the documentary.

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Contrary to the documentary’s insinuation that Miyazaki’s challenges during the film’s creation were linked to Takahata, Full Frontal rebuffed this notion. They cited extensive interviews with staff members Akihiko Yamashita, Takeshi Honda, and Toshiyuki Inoue, clarifying that Miyazaki’s actual struggle lay within a different part of the film involving Mahito and Kiriko, debunking the documentary’s assertions.

“The Boy and the Heron” itself, distributed in English by GKIDS, revolves around Mahito, who, after losing his mother during the war, discovers a mysterious tower inhabited by a mischievous gray heron. This encounter leads him into a world bridging the living and the dead, embarking on an epic journey that unravels secrets about himself and this enigmatic realm.

The controversy surrounding the documentary has stirred debate among fans and industry insiders regarding its accuracy and portrayal of Studio Ghibli’s history, prompting critical reflection on its narrative choices and representation of key personalities within the studio’s legacy.