Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki (2018)

“That song “Let it Go” is popular now. It’s All About Being Yourself. But that’s terrible. Self-satisfied people are boring. We have to push hard and surpass ourselves.”

Hayao Miyazaki has reached a point in his life where there is so much change but he doesn’t know what to do with any of it. He’s reached an old age and has barely any strength any more to sit down and draw all day, but he has no idea what he’d be doing without a pencil or paper in his hand. At his old age he’s still a very curmudgeonly individual who demands perfection and treats his protégés with harsh criticism when they fail to deliver storyboards that meet his pitch perfect idea of what life is. Miyazaki has lived a full life, and in a way he’s ready to go.

After announcing a sudden retirement at the age of 72 and closing down studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki has discovered that he still wants to create and animate. After meeting with young CGI animators, Miyazaki enters a new project that will utilize CGI dominantly in one of his works for the first time ever. Miyazaki, however, is still an adamant proponent for hand drawn animation and insists much of the short film “Boro The Caterpillar” be completed with hand drawn animation. As he experiences new technology and urges his young colleagues to aim for sheer perfection, he begins to doubt if he’s perhaps past his prime, working in a world that doesn’t need him anymore.

“Never-Ending Man” is a compelling, often engaging chronicle of Miyazaki as he finds a new vigor in his life for animation, and is prepared to leave a world that is changing too much, too quickly. He ponders on the idea of life, the preciousness of life, and he also delivers news of his old colleagues dying almost every week. He complains that there are more funerals than ever, and at one point sits at a table wondering why he’s outlived them all, and what he’s even doing there. For Miyazaki it’s the life of a man who simply can’t not create art. It’s his calling. It’s a function of his body that even he still doesn’t understand. He’s never happy when he’s simply sitting around and relaxing, but he’s also faced that he works slower than he once did.

Even worse he’s facing a world that’s becoming much more reliant on CGI than ever before. It’s very gradually replacing hand drawn animation, and even though he finds ways to work with it, and understand it, he does not respect it. Many of the scenes feature him working with CGI animators on Boro the Caterpillar and gazing with wide smiles. When he turns and shrinks back to his desk to draw, he expresses discontent for the growing use of CGI and how much it’s depleted our understanding of form and life. To Miyazaki, life is everything, and he’s lived so much of it through his films and his works without regrets, and he’s prepared to continue living it until he’s finally passed on. Because it’s basically what artists do and what artists are called to do.

Playing at a theatre near you on December 13th and 18th.