SOAS University of London

Japan Research Centre

A Disappearing Kingdom: Studio Ghibli’s Legacy in the Ni no Kuni Franchise

Ni no Kuni
Dr Rayna Denison (University of East Anglia)

Date: 9 October 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 9 October 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Djam Lecture Theatre (DLT)

Type of Event: Seminar


When video game Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (Level 5, 2011) was first released, it was to great fanfare concerning the involvement of Studio Ghibli. The game was praised internationally for its character design and fantasy worlds, and reviewers went to great lengths to suggest how involved Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli were in the creation of the game. However, by the time the second film in the franchise, Ni no Kuni: Revanant Kingdom went into production, Miyazaki and his co-founders Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki had retired, placing the entire studio on hiatus. This led to claims that Ghibli had not been involved in the making of this second franchise text. With a brand new Ni no Kuni film being released in Japan this summer, there has been consternation about the fact that the film was not made at Studio Ghibli, despite the studio’s return to production in recent years. This talk unpacks the production of the Ni no Kuni franchise by considering how its animators are made invisible in such discourses. By focusing on Yoshiyuki Momose – a long-time animator and CG expert at Ghibli – and Jo Hisaishi – Ghibli’s frequent musical collaborator – as key individuals in the creation of this franchise, I argue that studios in Japan have important legacy functions that need to be attended to within wider discussions of media production. In doing so, I show how such overlooked individuals as Momose and Hisaishi have been under-regarded in the success of Ghibli itself, as well as in the ‘kingdoms’ of media production it has expanded into over the course of its near-forty year history.

Speaker Biography

Dr Rayna Denison is a Senior Lecturer at the University of East Anglia where she teaches and does research into contemporary Japanese animation and film. She is the author of Anime: A Critical Introduction (Bloomsbury 2015), the editor of Princess Mononoke: Understanding Studio Ghibli’s Monster Princess (Bloomsbury 2018) and the co-editor of the Eisner Award-nominated Superheroes on World Screens (University of Mississippi Press 2015). Rayna is currently working on an industrial history of Studio Ghibli.

Organiser: SOAS Japan Research Centre

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