Still don't believe that Hayao Miyazaki is retiring from directing feature films? Now it's Toshio Suzuki's turn to retire as Studio Ghibli's producer. 36-year-old Yoshiaki Nishimura, who served as the producer on Isao Takahata's Tale of Princess Kaguya, will succeed as studio producer for all future film projects. Suzuki will continue at Studio Ghibli under the new title, "General Manager."
Presumably, Suzuki-san's role will be to manage the transition to Studio Ghibli's new generation, as they continue forward with new directors like Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Goro Miyazaki, and behind-the-scenes figures like company producer Nishimura and president Koji Hoshino (the former president of Walt Disney Japan*). His role will become one of guidance rather than direct influence.
Suzuki-san has always been the quiet force behind Studio Ghibli, and is responsible for so many of the directions and decisions taken by the studio over the years. He has an uncanny ability to influence and persuade Miyazaki, going back to his days as editor of Animage Magazine. It was Suzuki who championed the artist's directorial works like Lupin the 3rd: Castle of Cagliostro, who persuaded him to publish his serial comic, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, to open a new animation studio with longtime collaborator Takahata. Toshio Suzuki was the driving force behind the studio for years; Ghibli as we know it today would never have existed without him.
It's the end of an era, kids. Now would be a good time for all the fence-sitters and so-called Ghibli fans to head to their nearest theater and see The Wind Rising. No more procrastinating. This is your last crack of the bat, your last present from Santa Claus, so you better appreciate it while you can.
Update 3/13/2014: Not so fast. Japanese news sites report that Toshio Suzuki's "retirement" was an error, the result of a mis-communication. Suzuki says that he isn't going anywhere just yet; the internal shuffling may still be in effect. We'll report more when we have more concrete details.