In the end, even the most iconic of Japanese artisans have to bow to demographics.

The announcement that Studio Ghibli, the famed animation studio responsible for "My Neighbor Totoro" and "Spirited Away," will be acquired by broadcaster Nippon Television Holdings might be the most jaw-dropping corporate story in Japan this year. For a company that famously eschews profit, the latest technology and even the trappings of modern society itself, to in effect sell out to one of the country’s big four TV networks came as a total shock.

It’s tough to find an appropriate analogy; the only one that comes close is Walt Disney's purchase of Pixar for $7.4 billion in stock in 2006. Even that fails to capture the significance; the computer animation firm, which at the time was controlled by Steve Jobs, had only been on the scene a decade. Studio Ghibli connects almost every generation now alive in Japan; parents who showed their kids "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind" in the 1980s are now grandparents.