A new documentary chronicles the director’s unexpected return.

Mami Sunada’s 2013 documentary Kingdom of Dreams and Madness shows the making of what was supposed to be master storyteller Hayao Miyazaki’s last feature. After his retirement, fans didn’t know whether to take the news lightly. This was, after all, Miyazaki’s fifth “retirement.” Yet at his press conference, Miyazaki said, “This time I mean it.” However, as we reported last year, Miyazaki has – thankfully and unsurprisingly – come out of retirement for a feature film version of his own Studio Ghibli short Boro the Caterpillar.

Where Sunada’s film documents what was thought to be Miyazaki’s final creation in the world of feature animation, Kaku Arakawa has arrived to record the opposite. In his documentary Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki, Arakawa follows the renowned filmmaker as his passion is reignited with feature film animation. Most importantly, the documentary presents something new in that Miyazaki’s creative sensibility has opened up to a new world, and one that many fans will be shocked by: computer animation.

As Arakawa notes in an interview with Little White Lies, “Miyazaki had always been skeptical about CG animation […] [he has] always had a strong belief in hand drawing.” What the trailer for Never-Ending Man (below) shows is that Miyazaki is, indeed, a “never-ending man.” As Arakawa says: “When I started filming and following Miyazaki for this documentary, he kept saying that ‘I am just a retired old man,’ but when he started working together with young CGI artists, I could see his fire started blazing again.”

Every film for Miyazaki presents new challenges since the filmmaker sees himself as a “slave of the film,” his hands and mind working together in service to the story and art he creates. Kingdom of Dreams and Madness shows this process, allowing audiences and fans to see his passion and craft firsthand. Never-Ending Man, meanwhile, also shows these same things, except with the added fire of an artist discovering and being accepted by a new form of filmmaking.

With an experienced artist’s venture into something new, Never-Ending Man explores questions of age, creativity, and an openness to new experiences. Miyazaki is a bold figure whose mind was created for the hand-drawn artistic form: the process is slow, the movement of pen on paper can often be gentle, and there is no barrier between Miyazaki’s hand and the pencil and paper other than his own mind.

Perhaps, then, the filmmaker’s venture into computer animation is a perfect return. The constantly evolving medium presents a different challenge, one that concerns time and aging, the constant renewal of CG’s form mirroring Miyazaki’s artistic renewal. Hopefully, computer animation will be a challenge that will impassion Miyazaki to keep creating films, with no retirement in near sight.

Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki debuts on NHK World TV on June 3rd.

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