Japan's Nippon Television Network (NTV) has announced its nine-filmslate for the upcoming fiscal year, headlined by the return of animation giant Hayao Miyazaki with his latest, and possibly final, effort Ponyo On A Cliff.

The film is slated for a July release through Toho. NTV has been producer Studio Ghibli's TV investor since 1997's Princess Mononoke, handling television promotion and holding exclusive broadcast rights to Ghibli films.

The network, one of Japan's five major broadcasters and producer of hits such as the Death Note and Always: Sunset On Third Street films,announced details on nine titles it either produced or is supporting as a production consortium TV investor.

Mamoru Oshii's animated air battle opus Sky Crawlers will be released in early August through Warner Brothers. The film is co-produced with animation house Production I.G.

The first installment of NTV's $56m (Y6b) trilogy live-action adaptation of Naoki Urasawa's hit sci-fi manga 20th Century Boys is set for release on August 30, with parts two and three to be released in the spring and fall of 2009 through Toho. Yukihiko Tsutsumi is directing the series.

Other titles include typhoon disaster rescue film 252 Seizonsha Ari, opening December 6, and The Legend of the Fiend with 20 Faces (K-20 Kaijin Nijumenso-den) starring Takeshi Kaneshiro as a criminal mastermind in post-WWII Japan, also to be released in December. Warners Brothers is distributing both films.

Titles which NTV has come on board as TV network partner include the next installments in the Detective Conan and Anpanman animated franchises, to be released April 19th and early July respectively.

On the live-action front, the previously announced reworking of Akira Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress, directed by Shinji Higuchi (Sinking Of Japan), opens in theatres on May 10 through Toho.

NTV invested in a total of 16 titles in the 2007 fiscal year (April 1, 2007 to March 31, 2008). The 14 titles released thus far have earned a total of $201.8m (Y21.5bn), with seven of the projects developed in-house taking $143.6m (Y15.3bn).

NTV-developed hits have included Tokyo Tower: Mom & Me, And Sometimes Dad (Shochiku), Always: Sunset On Third Street 2 (Toho) and current release L: Change The World (Warner Brothers), which has held the top spot at the box office three weeks in a row, surpassing Y2bn ($18.78m).

NTV's Sweet Rain, starring Takeshi Kaneshiro in his first Japanese film in six years, will be released on March 22 through Warner Brothers.