Japanese cinema shines at Oscars 2024 with historic ‘The Boy and the Heron’ and ‘Godzilla: Minus One’ wins

Japanese productions featured heavily at the 96th Academy Awards with multiple wins and nods across various categories

March 12, 2024 01:40 pm | Updated 01:40 pm IST

Takashi Yamazaki poses a Godzilla figurine with his Oscar

Takashi Yamazaki poses a Godzilla figurine with his Oscar | Photo Credit: JORDAN STRAUSS

In a triumph for Japanese cinema, the Oscars 2024 saw a remarkable showcase of talent, with Studio Ghibli’s The Boy and The Heron and TOHO’s Godzilla: Minus One clinching the awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Visual Effects respectively, while other Japanese productions featured heavily across the 96th Academy Awards.

Ghibli, the Japanese studio that just won its second Oscar for feature animation for The Boy and The Heron, hasn't said yet what it plans next. But founder Hayao Miyazaki, who at 83 was the oldest director ever nominated in that category, won’t rule out making another film, even if his next project is a short instead of a full-length feature.

Miyazaki, according to a longtime confidante, is a bit embarrassed about having pronounced a decade ago that he would no longer make movies, citing his age. “He regrets having announced to the world he won’t make another film,” producer Toshio Suzuki, the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, said after the latest win.

Miyazaki celebrated his Oscar win in private at his atelier and did not attend the studio event, Suzuki said. Ghibli didn’t do much publicity for the film, choosing instead a low-key approach for a work that was 10 years in the making and released after Miyazaki was supposedly retired.

When the Oscar was announced early Monday in Japan, a cheer went up in the tiny, humble building that houses the studio on the fringes of sprawling Tokyo where dozens of invited media had crammed in to watch the ceremony on a big screen.

Meanwhile, Takashi Yamazaki’s Godzilla Minus One, made Oscar history, winning the award for Best Visual Effects and marking Japan’s first win in that category, as well as the franchise’s first win in its long-running 70-year history.

Takashi Yamazaki, Kiyoko Shibuya, Masaki Takahashi and Tatsuji Nojima pose with their Oscars for Godzilla: Minus One

Takashi Yamazaki, Kiyoko Shibuya, Masaki Takahashi and Tatsuji Nojima pose with their Oscars for Godzilla: Minus One | Photo Credit: Carlos Barria

Japanese media heaped praise on both the Ghibli and Godzilla films, noting that a double win at the Oscars hadn’t happened for the country since 2009. An editorial Tuesday in the mass-circulation Yomiuri newspaper heralded “a new page in the history of Japanese filmmaking.”

Wim Wenders’ touching film about a sanitation worker, Perfect Days, was also nominated as Japan’s official submission in the Best International Feature category, but lost out to Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest. Japanese actor Koji Yakusho, won Best Actor for his performance in the film at last year’s Cannes International Film Festival.

War is Over, which won for the Oscar for Best Animated Short, was inspired by Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s music. Their son Sean, who co-wrote the film, gave a shout-out to his mother, who is Japanese, at the Academy Awards.

Japan is also very much in the backdrop of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, which won seven Oscars, including Best Picture. The biopic centers on the titular American scientist working on the atomic bomb. However, the film has yet to be released in Japan.

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