Poster art for Studio Ghibli's The Boy and the Heron, Hayao Miyazaki's final film

Hayao Miyazaki Finally Gains No. 1 Status at the U.S. Box Office With ‘The Boy and the Heron’

Hayao Miyazaki may be a legend in the film industry, but believe it or not, The Boy and the Heron marks his first number one film at the U.S. box office. Despite having retired numerous times (he’ll never do it), Miyazaki’s latest film has been received as one of his best, and that’s saying something.

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Miyazaki has been creating films for decades now, founding Studio Ghibli with fellow director Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki. Over the years, Studio Ghibli, with Miyazaki as the key driving force behind it, has produced some of the most fantastic animated stories of all time, with such notable mentions as Princess Mononoke, As the Wind Rises, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (the one that started it all), and the Oscar-winning Spirited Away.

The most recent film from Miyazaki, The Boy and the Heron, was released in the States on December 8 and debuted with $12.8 million, according to studio estimates. Sitting behind Miyazaki over the weekend is the still-going-strong The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes with $9.4 million, followed by another Japanese entry, Godzilla Minus One pulling in $8.3 million, and Trolls Band Together with $6.2 million, among others.

As reported in the Japanese publication, The Asahi Shimbun, this makes the film the third anime film ever to top the box office in U.S. and Canadian theaters. Of the success, Eric Beckman, founder and chief executive of GKIDS, the North American distributor for Studio Ghibli films, said,

“It’s really a resounding statement for what animation can be. American audiences have been ready for a lot more than what they’ve been getting, and I think this really points to that direction.”

Though Miyazaki’s work is well known in Japan and across Asia, Studio Ghibli has historically had less of an impact in North America, despite being beloved by certain groups and individuals. The film has been played in theaters both featuring the Japanese voice cast with subtitles and with the English dub cast. The latter consists of quite the who’s who of the Hollywood elite.

Studio Ghibli The Boy and the Heron Mahito Grey Heron via Toto
(Studio Ghibli)

The film was released much earlier in Japan, and despite having no marketing (Ghibli decided to simply let the name “Miyazaki” do the work), it made $56 million. The film has already been hailed as one of the director’s best, with critics responding favorably to the story about a boy who is taken to a fantastical land after the death of his mother, with moments of the film having directly taken inspiration from Miyazaki’s own childhood.

Despite rumors circulating that The Boy and the Heron would be Miyazaki’s swan song (yet again), the studio has confirmed that Miyazaki is back at work once more, with Ghibli executive Junichi Nishioka telling IGN,

Other people say that this might be his last film, but he doesn’t feel that way at all. He is currently working on ideas for a new film. He comes into his office every day and does that. This time, he’s not going to announce his retirement at all. He’s continuing working just as he has always done.

Now we just have to sit and wait to see what the master of animation will create next.

(featured image: Studio Ghibli)

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Laura Pollacco
Laura Pollacco (she/her) is a contributing writer here at The Mary Sue, having written for digital media since 2022 and has a keen interest in all things Marvel, Lord of the Rings, and anime. She has worked for various publications including We Got This Covered, but much of her work can be found gracing the pages of print and online publications in Japan, where she resides. Outside of writing she treads the boards as an actor, is a portrait and documentary photographer, and takes the little free time left to explore Japan.