The Boy and the Heron and Godzilla Minus One both won Oscars at the 96th Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Monday morning (Japan time). The former, believed to be Hayao Miyazaki’s final movie, won for Best Animated Feature Film, beating off competition from Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Elemental, Nimona and Robot Dreams. It’s only the second Japanese film to win in the category after another Miyazaki flick, Spirited Away, triumphed more than two decades ago. Two of his other films, Howl’s Moving Castle and The Wind Rises, were nominated in 2006 and 2014 respectively.

Godzilla Minus One was the first Japanese film to be nominated in the Best Visual Effects Category. Now, it’s the country’s first-ever winner. It was up against Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, Napoleon and The Creator. Directed and written by Takashi Yamazaki, Godzilla Minus One is the 37th film in the famous Kaiju series. It is set in the 1940s as Japan, still reeling in the aftermath of World War II, faces a new crisis in the form of a giant monster.

The Boy and the Heron: A Film Without Any Fanfare

Despite being the most expensive movie ever produced in Japan, The Boy and the Heron was released without any fanfare. In advance of the film’s premiere there was a poster, but no trailers, images, synopsis or casting details. It centers around a boy named Mahito Maki who is sent to the countryside after losing his mother during World War II. He then encounters a talking heron that entices him into a mysterious tower. The Japanese title, Kimitachi wa Dou Ikiru Ka? refers to a 1937 Genzaburo Yoshino novel of the same name. However, the story is not connected to Yoshino’s book.

the boy and the heron oscar

Hayao Miyazaki

A Box Office Hit

That didn’t seem to have any effect on sales, though. Released on July 14, 2023, it grossed ¥1.8 billion ($13.2 million) on its first weekend in Japan, surpassing Howl’s Moving Castle as Studio Ghibli’s biggest opening. In December, it became the first original anime film to top the North American box office. As well as the Oscar, The Boy and the Heron has also received several other accolades, including a Golden Globe, BAFTA and two Annie Awards. Neither Miyazaki nor producer Toshio Suzuki were in Los Angeles to collect the film’s latest prize. 

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