Toshio Suzuki Toshio Suzuki

The films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, Studio Ghibli’s founding directors, are well known. The achievements of Toshio Suzuki, the third man who has steered the storied studio from day one, are harder to pin down. That is partly because they’re so disparate: he has served as Ghibli’s managing director and president, produced most of its films, orchestrated their marketing campaigns, promoted them through his charismatic media appearances, and more.

His route to Ghibli, however, ran through publishing. Throughout the 1980s, Suzuki was an editor at the influential Animage, Japan’s first dedicated animation magazine aimed at the general reader. He championed the works of Miyazaki and Takahata in its pages and came to know the men well in the process, eventually co-founding Ghibli with them in the middle of that decade.

Animage and Suzuki are the joint subjects of an exhibition coming to Japan this spring. “Animage and Ghibli — The Work of Toshio Suzuki: It Began with One Magazine” will trace Suzuki’s career through his time at the magazine, which played a key role in fomenting an anime fandom in Japan through its coverage of Miyazaki and Takahata, but also other epochal works like Space Battleship Yamato and Mobile Suit Gundam.

Animage, Nausicaa
Miyazaki’s manga “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind,” on which his film of the same name is based, was first serialized in “Animage.” © 1984 Studio Ghibli

The exhibition will also cover Suzuki’s time at Ghibli, which he joined as a full-time producer in 1989 (having moonlighted there as a behind-the-scenes fixer for some years). It will look at how his methods as a producer developed out of his work as an editor, and consider his and Animage’s influence on Japanese culture and world animation.

When Suzuki was hired in 1978 to edit the inaugural issue of Animage, he knew so little about animation that he had to be schooled in the basics by a bunch of high-school girls. Today, he is the most successful producer in anime history, and remains central to Ghibli’s operations. (He most recently produced Goro Miyazaki’s Earwig and the Witch, which will be released in the U.S. next month.)

Suzuki’s career is fascinating, and has already been widely documented and mythologized in Japanese. It is less well known outside Japan; with the exception of Mixing Work with Pleasure: My Life at Studio Ghibli, none of his many books have been translated into English. How nice it would be if something of this exhibition — even a catalogue — made it to the U.S.

Animage and Ghibli — The Work of Toshio Suzuki: It Began with One Magazine” runs at Matsuya Ginza in Tokyo from April 15 to May 5. It will transfer to the city of Ishinomaki in the summer, then travel around Japan. More information (in Japanese) can be found on the Animage website.

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