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Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese director Roger Ebert once called “possibly the best animation filmmaker in history,” revealed on Monday that he has begun work on a new short film project at his Studio Ghibli in Tokyo, while also criticizing Japan’s prime minister.
Renowned for his richly detailed, hand-drawn approach to animation — in films such as Spirited Away, winner of the 2003 best animation Oscar and Japan’s highest-grossing movie of all time — Miyazaki also confirmed rumors that he has begun experimenting with computer graphics.
“I have just begun work on a new anime,” Miyazaki told reporters at a rare press conference held at the studio he founded, adding: “It’s a wonderful project. I’m working with some of my usual staff, as well as some staff from the computer graphics world.”
The 10-minute CGI short is being developed for screening at the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo. It will feature the story of a caterpillar named Boro. Miyazaki said his producer has predicted the film will take three years to complete, but the director added that he’s working hard in hopes of finishing it sooner.
Although Miyazaki, 74, has announced his retirement from feature film directing on several occasions, most recently after the completion of The Wind Rises in 2014, he seems incapable of giving up a life in the animation studio. When asked about how he has been spending his time since “retirement,” the filmmaker said, “I’m still working very hard. The only difference is that I come to the studio 30 minutes later than I used to and go home 30 minutes earlier.”
Miyazaki invited international reporters to the studio on Monday for an hour-long open Q&A session, so that he could share his views on several pressing issues in Japanese politics — an almost unheard-of gesture of openness by a prominent figure in normally reserved Japan.
The director used the opportunity to denounce Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plans to expand the role of the Japanese military and urged the leader to make a clear and unambiguous apology for Japan’s role in World War II.
Abe’s comments during the upcoming 70th anniversary of the end of WWII will be closely watched by China, South Korea and other victims of Japan’s wartime aggression, with diplomatic relations conceivably in jeopardy depending on the stance the prime minister takes.
“It must be made very clear that aggressive war was a complete mistake, and that we have deep regret for the great damage it caused the people of China,” Miyazaki said. “There are many people who want to forget this, but it is something that must never be forgotten.”
The director also directly addressed Abe’s efforts to push legislation through parliament to permit Japan to defend its allies militarily, effectively rolling back elements of the country’s pacifist constitution.
“He is trying to curb the rise of China with a show of military force, but that is simply impossible,” Miyazaki said, adding that Japan’s challenge is to find new means of creating peace and stability in the region. “Prime Minister Abe seems to want to be remembered in history as the man who revised the constitution and remilitarized Japan, but this is only foolish.”
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