Hayao Miyazaki: The Splendor of Asian Animation

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By nature, I am a man who likes to explain more than his part of share. Describe more. Use more words, to explain his point clearly.

I am the sort whose disclaimer can get more than his article, if needed be … A J.K. Jerome type writing. So, when I was asked to write a cover on Hayao Miyazaki, my initial anxiety quickly gave way to a feeling of auspiciousness. I’ll be able to fill the article with junk if I had to and none could question me. I had that much confidence in my conversation themed writing.

But then, that would be unfair with all of you guys. After all, for those who have the know-how, purple prose is the most irritating style of writing, and there exists but a thin line between it and mine.

What this article isn’t

I have gone about and describe Miyazaki as I have known him and as I have felt about his works. If you want useful information go on and scroll for five minutes in Wikipedia and you’ll find more than what any number of reviews, literature, and covers combined could give you.

So the question is Miyazaki, Miyazaki, and Miyazaki. If someone of you are asking who, what, or when, then you’re out of luck. You’ve just missed a nexus of flavors, wonders and excitement — until now. As fate may be, it has fallen upon me to introduce you to a ‘concept’ — that is Miyazaki.

Before that – I’ll be frank, I have no formal training on Miyazaki. I don’t know where he was born, and though I know that as of 2016 he is 75 years old, I have no idea of his date of birth, or his marital information, or what toothbrush he used, or the sort. A woman is as old as she looks and a director is as human as his protagonists are. Films, especially animated, open a world of possibilities where one lets his imagination fly – visit worlds that are debarred by reality. So I only know Miyazaki through his films … Numerous beautiful pieces of arts.


And now on with the tale

That man made numerous films throughout his lifetime to explain his thoughts, feelings and emotions, ideals, and dreams to us, I quote,

I felt this country only offered such things as crushes and romance to 10-year-old girls, though, and looking at my young friends, I felt this was not what they held dear in their hearts, not what they wanted. And so I wondered if I could make a movie in which they could be heroines …

(Source: http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/interviews/sen.html)

If you recognize this quote, then you’re correct. This was said by Miyazaki himself on an interview for Spirited Away. I’ll elaborate slightly on his point of view, which I happen to share.

If you remember the time Spirited Away first came out, it was the early twenty-first century. At a time when mecha or shonen anime were in vogue and eastern Asia was struggling to cope with a fast changing western influenced world. Children’s tales from elders were being replaced quickly by video game consoles and the homely home gave its way to ultra-fast nuclear family. At that time, child entertainment was chiefly about blowing things up with a huge gun. At that day and age something like Spirited Away, which was a marvellous, sublime piece of pure artwork about a child was pretentious to the masses. It is a simple story of a child trying to save his parents – for all we know, that child could have dreamt the whole thing in the car.


This is what Miyazaki stands for, telling the tales of dreams of people, and weaving stories out of wishes and desires of not being a superhero but a simple ordinary person in an extraordinary situation.

Now we look at another one of his movies. Those acquainted with Miyazaki are screaming “Princess Mononoke” right now, and I agree. The first movie of Mr. Miyazaki to be discussed is always Spirited Away, and the second is always Princess Mononoke. And I say you’re wrong. The immediate closest thing to it should be Whisper of the Heart and My Neighbor Totoro.


The explanation is simple. Princess Mononoke was done by Mr. Miyazaki on a different front. It was more focused towards the environmental crisis of the modern world. But as I’ve said, Miyazaki stood for a wizard weaving stories out of the smallest feelings and desires out of our heart. He knows us all too well, for he knows himself. And thus he could create the mystical fairy-tale of My Neighbor Totoro. Again the protagonist is a child. If there are animated and modern versions of “Tales from Grandmother,” I’ll vouch that they are the films of Mr. Miyazaki.

Whisper of the Heart is again of a Ghibli production. However, to be fair, this was directed by Mr. Yoshifumi Kondo and written by Mr. Miyazaki. Unfortunately, this was his only film before he passed away. But, in essence this was again of two children, growing up and falling in love. It’s a cosy film, truthfully, one that does not change your life, but unconsciously brings a small smile to your face. I reiterate. NONE of the Ghibli movies (both Miyazaki and Takahata) are influencing or life-changing. They are all about little things and can bring a veiled smile to your face.


Same was with the Howl’s Moving Castle. The battle in the background was only to bring out the characters of Howl and Sophie to their fullest. And in the end, it entwines their destinies, with the naturally careless howl growing more restrictive and loving because of Sophie.


The Miyazaki concept


Miyazaki can remind you about your dreams and fantasies, the fairy lands of wonder and imagination that you roamed when you were young. The lands that were somehow lost from most of us when we grew up. Those lands of flying dragons; magic; Pegasus. Those lands of mysteries where we lost ourselves and those quiet dark corners where we hid ourselves. The first time we knew love, and the first separation. Somewhere in the line, we discarded all of those feelings, dreams and hopes, and entangled by reality, we dangle about like puppets in the hands of fate. To remind us about who we were: That is the Miyazaki concept.

I could go on … But I’m afraid I’ll lose it somewhere and move to the dreaded lands of purple prose. And I already digressed too much. Guess I’ll draw the line here and leave the rest to fate.

Daniel Defoy

Daniel is a part of our core writing force. (May it be with you.) His writing is in-depth, engaging, and opinion-based. Anyone who reads his smart words is left thinking or arguing. Btw, if we publish his articles without breaking his paragraphs down into smaller chunks, Nihonden will soon be an academic journal of sorts.