“The Boy and the Heron” trailer unveils Hayao Miyazaki's magical, mysterious new epic

“The Boy and the Heron” trailer unveils Hayao Miyazaki's magical, mysterious new epic

Get ready to enter a whole new magical world from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. The acclaimed director of such iconic anime films as Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro is back with a new work.

The Boy and the Heron, the first trailer for which arrived Wednesday, comes a full decade after Miyazaki's previous (at one time thought-to-be-final) film, The Wind Rises, and eschews the realism of that biopic of real-life Japanese inventor Jiro Horikoshi in favor of a fascinating fantasy adventure more in line with Spirited Away.

The Boy and the Heron hit theaters in Japan back in July (under the title Kimitachi wa Do Ikiruka, or How Do You Live?) with little fanfare other than an enigmatic drawing of a heron. American distributor GKIDS initially announced they would follow that same pattern of minimal marketing, but that policy has been reversed in light of the Japan premiere. American viewers eagerly awaiting a new Miyazaki film were treated to a plethora of photos last month and can now enjoy actual footage.

Here's the official description of The Boy and the Heron, courtesy of Studio Ghibli: "A young boy named Mahito yearning for his mother ventures into a world shared by the living and the dead. There, death comes to an end, and life finds a new beginning. A semi-autobiographical fantasy about life, death, and creation, in tribute to friendship, from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki."

The trailer mostly shows us scattered images, beginning with a scary scene of young Mahito running through a burning battlefield, screaming out for his parents. It's reminiscent of Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies, one of the iconic Studio Ghibli films not directed by Miyazaki himself.

The Boy and the Heron
The Boy and the Heron

Studio Ghibli 'The Boy and the Heron'

Then we see Mahito in a new environment, being led around a house by an older woman. He sees a heron (perhaps the titular one?) and abandoned structures that shine with ethereal lights, like in Spirited Away. We see him encounter magical creatures, including a bunch of adorable little pale spirits (who evoke the tree entities from Princess Mononoke), a school of fish that chant "please join us" and a woman made of water (both of which seem similar to Ponyo), a boy made of fire (a nod to Calcifer in Howl's Moving Castle, perhaps?), an older man drawing a sword, and more. "About time you came," says a voice from a light-filled doorway that concludes the footage.

Since Studio Ghibli describes The Boy and the Heron as "semi-autobiographical," perhaps it's no accident that we see echoes of Miyazaki's earlier films in this teaser. Maybe we'll get an idea of where the artist gets his inspiration from.

The Boy and the Heron hits U.S. theaters on Dec. 8.

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