‘The Boy and the Heron’: Release Date, Plot, and Everything We Know About Hayao Miyazaki’s Last Film

After six decades and numerous acclaimed projects to his name, Hayao Miyazaki is all set for his last directorial venture, The Boy and the Heron (previously titled How Do You Live?), releasing later this year. In production for nearly a decade, the upcoming Japanese animated film is unarguably the most anticipated project from the celebrated filmmaker and artist and is set to have its debut showing this summer. Written and directed by Miyazaki, the film is said to be a “grand fantasy” and is inspired by the eponymous 1937 novel by Genzaburo Yoshino, but it is not a direct adaptation. The film tells the coming-of-age story of a young boy, as he explores his emotional and philosophical development following the death of his father, in an original concept.


Titled in Japanese as Kimitachi wa Dō Ikiru ka, The Boy and the Heron marks Miyazaki’s 11th feature film and 10th film with Studio Ghibli, the film’s production banner. The film has been in production since 2016 after the Japanese filmmaker announced his retirement for the second time in 2013 but decided to showcase his prolific artistry once more with one last film. Almost a decade of work and several artists later, the film is finally inching toward completion, with its release right around the corner. So get ready to be tugged at your heartstrings as you set out on yet another fantastical journey with Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. If you are new to his works, you can explore the magical world of Ghibli movies at the ongoing Studio Ghibli Fest 2023. Meanwhile, read on for our complete guide on all the details of the film including the plot details, release date, and everything else that we know so far about The Boy and the Heron.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on July 29.

Related: Remember When Disney Sabotaged ‘Spirited Away’?


When Is The Boy and the Heron Coming Out?

The Boy and the Heron was released in theaters in Japan by Toho on July 14, 2023. Although there’s no known release date for the film’s international release, we can expect the film to land in the United States later in the year. The film will make its North American debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, becoming the first animated film to open TIFF. We expect to see a worldwide release shortly after.

What’s the Background of The Boy and the Heron?

The anime film The Boy and the Heron is derived from the eponymous 1937 novel written by Genzaburō Yoshino, which was originally started by Yūzō Yamamoto as a serial publication. After WWII, the novel went through several changes and was republished in 1945, which is the version that continues to date. The Boy and the Heron is considered a popular work of classical Japanese literature and explores social awareness and ideas of progressive culturalism.

Is There a The Boy and the Heron Trailer?

Hayao Miyazaki - IMDb

This is perhaps the most interesting piece of news attached to this film so far. Unlike the standard norm for all films, The Boy and the Heron is steering clear from traditional marketing campaigns and will be released without any trailer or promotional materials. Instead, there’s only the film’s poster released with an obscure illustration of a bird and the film’s title that would serve as the teaser. The hand-drawn artwork is enough to reveal that you are in for a visual treat, like with other Studio Ghibli films, with Miyazaki hand-animating every frame. In an interview, Studio Ghibli’s lead producer and Miyazaki’s longtime collaborator Toshio Suzuki announced that the studio will not reveal anything about the film before it hits the theaters, saying, “Deep down, I think this is what moviegoers latently desire.” The idea is perhaps to let fans go and watch the film without any preconceived notions and be left in awe. So, if you have been expecting an official teaser or a full-length trailer for The Boy and the Heron like other Studio Ghibli films, and hoped to be swept away to a magical land, you might be disappointed. It will happen eventually, but only when you watch the 125-minute-long movie at the theaters.

Who’s In the Cast of The Boy and the Heron

Just like with promos for the film, the voice cast and other production details about The Boy and the Heron have also been under wraps. After the film’s release in Japan, the voice cast was revealed, but we’ll keep the info under wraps just as Studio Ghibli intented.

RELATED:10 Most Underrated Studio Ghibli Movies, From ‘Only Yesterday’ to ‘The Cat Returns’

Who’s Making The Boy and the Heron

Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki of Studio Ghibli are creating/producing How Do You Live?
Image via IMDb

The Boy and the Heron is the brainchild of legendary Japanese animator, filmmaker, and manga artist, Hayao Miyazaki, who writes and directs the film as a loose adaptation of the novel of the same name. In his career spanning six decades (and counting), Miyazaki has attained international acclaim and recognition for his unique, hand-drawn animation style and masterful storytelling, using touching narratives and endearing characters. Regarded as “one of the most accomplished filmmakers in the history of animation”, Miyazaki is best known for timeless classics like Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Princess Mononoke. But it was Spirited Away, released in 2001, that expanded his fan following across the globe after winning the 75th Academy Award for Best Animation Feature. The film is also ranked as one of the greatest films of the 2000s.

Miyazaki is also the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, the animation studio that is producing The Boy and the Heron, with Toshio Suzuki serving as the producer. Co-founder and former president of Studio Ghibli, Suzuki is known to be a long-time collaborator of Miyazaki’s and one of Japan’s most successful producers, with massive box-office success to his credit. Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki have collaborated on more than 10 films, each of which remains iconic in the anime genre. Japanese entertainment company Toho, known for being attached to famous filmmakers like Ishiro Honda and Akira Kurosawa, is the distributor of most Studio Ghibli films and will be distributing The Boy and the Heron in Japan as well. We await further information on the worldwide distribution of the film.

What Is the Plot of The Boy and the Heron About?

Miyazaki Ranked

Although the plot of the film is not disclosed in detail, we can expect that The Boy and the Heron will follow the core subject and premise of its inspiration. The novel follows a 15-year-old boy called Junichi Honda, nicknamed Koperu, who is a gifted teenager who lives with his uncle. Despite faring well in academics and sports, Koperu struggles in school. Koperu and his uncle share their daily emotional and ethical challenges through writing and in person. The novel is narrated through alternative viewpoints of Koperu and his uncle towards each other, as they deal with poverty, self-development, spiritual and philosophical growth, and their experiences as human beings. It’s fair to assume that Miyazaki will be looking to elevate this already rich concept through his signature touch and transform this story into a fantastical, artistic experience, like with all his other works.

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