Renowned Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki's animation film "Kimitachi wa Do Ikiru ka" (How Do You Live?) was released Friday in Japan after a lack of promotion that had left fans guessing about his first feature film in 10 years.
The limited information available before the release of the latest Studio Ghibli Inc. film included a poster, revealed in December 2022, of a bird-like creature with white and blue feathers.
The 124-minute film by 82-year-old Miyazaki, who came out of retirement for it, features a boy who lost his mother in a fire in Japan during wartime.
He wanders into a mysterious world guided by a gray heron while looking for his father's expected new partner who has gone missing.
The film's title comes from a 1937 best-selling novel by Genzaburo Yoshino, an editor and writer of children's literature. The novel shows up in the film as a book read by the main character.
Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki said at a Tokyo event in late June that the decision to eschew advertising had been taken due to concern that over-promotion of previous movies may have led audience interest to "wane a bit."
But he also revealed that Miyazaki was worried about its lack of promotion.
Dozens lined up for the first screening at a movie theater in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward.
A 27-year-old company employee described the film as a "culmination" of Miyazaki's anime world. "I can't digest it by just watching it once and I feel like I want to watch it again immediately," he said.
As fans tried to learn more about the mysterious film before its opening day, interest in related printed works grew. Publishers of Yoshino's book and a comic book based on it said they had decided to issue reprints.
Miyazaki's works are popular in Japan and overseas. His fantasy movie "Spirited Away" won the prestigious Golden Bear award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2002 and the American Academy Award for Animated Feature Film in 2003.
His other major works include the 1988 classic hit "My Neighbor Totoro," "Princess Mononoke" in 1997 and "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind" in 1984.
The Japanese animator announced his retirement in 2013 as "The Wind Rises" was being screened, citing difficulties in making films due to his age. But he later retracted the statement.