Joe Hisaishi’s beautiful score is cementing Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli film as one of the most cinematic one of the year.
The Boy and the Heron has recently been touted as director and Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki’s final film. At age 82, Miyazaki already threatened retirement once before.
Known to care nothing about expectations of others, the film released in Japan last year, is just about to see its international release beginning in the U.S. this December.
And if Miyazaki and Hisaishi’s collaborative partnerships in animation cinema is about to cease in the near future, this new film will just be the very last of its genre of this era.
Playing the main protagonist, Mahito has recently lost his mother in a wartime fire bombing. With the film’s themes of childhood trauma and grief, it isn’t surprising that it echoes many of Miyazaki’s past works – the scenes of jeopardy hew close to Princess Mononoke, while fire bombing to My Neighbor Totoro.
Music Score by Joe Hisaishi
While most of the leading roles have minimum dialogue, the film relies on its minimal yet commanding piano score to squeeze out the reaction from Mahito.
How do you write music for a scene where Mahito’s gaze toward the tower is haunting and mysterious while a ghostly heron appears? Unswerving to building a score both melancholic and determined, he directs single notes with a sense of trepidation and curiosity.
Mahito refuses to grieve over the death of his mother, and without purpose, Hisaishi directs us to this very tower, where hope through the voice of the piano could provide the opposite.
While a symphony orchestra may risk creating a spurious grandeur that the film itself already possesses, technical simplicity is required in abundance.
In effect, it is the striking melancholy that harrows the expressions most likely expressed by Miyazaki. The lost of family members in the story, however fictitious the storyline may be, brings us back to reality.
It makes perfect sense that Hisaishi’s restless piano sets the right mood for this; something other composer may find sage and subdued.
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Miyazaki’s International Film Release
Ahead of its U.S. theatrical debut on December 8, the coming-of-age drama will first release in theaters across Taiwan, Spain, and France.
Before its world premiere in Japan last July, the film didn’t receive any trailers, images, and synopses as part of the studio’s experimental marketing strategy. It was then followed by its international debut at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.
The Boy and the Heron (originally titled How Do You Live) is written and directed by Miyazaki and serves as his first directorial project in a decade.
He’s best known for directing classics like My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Ponyo.
It is produced by Studio Ghibli founder Toshio Suzuki. The film’s theme song, “Spinning Globe,” was penned and performed by global J-pop superstar Kenshi Yonezu.