Influential man in our children’s lives –

By on July 12, 2014
It was announced a week ago that Japanese film director, manga artist, animator, producer and screenwriter Hayao Mizayaki (73) will join Bradbury, Verne, Le Guin, Heinlein and Moebius in the hall, making him the first Japanese ever to make it to a highly honourable seat.

Hayao Miyazaki is the prominent director and artist behind globally successful Japanese animation films such as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbor Totoro. He also co-founded Studio Ghibli, one of the most famous animation studios and production companies.

He remained unknown in the West outside animation communities until the release of Princess Monoke in 1999 by Miramax. His work quickly gained recognition and is often nominated for and wins various film awards worldwide. In 2001, he was bestowed the title of “Officier des Arts et des Lettres’ by the French government. In 2003, his ‘post retirement’ production Spirited Away (2001) won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. In 2006, the master storyteller was featured in Time magazine’s list of the most influential people in Asia over the past 60 years.

Miyazaki’s films are rich in emotion and attempt to explore complex relationships. Popular themes include the relationship between humans, nature and technology.

Miyazaki is himself an interesting character and holds firm political beliefs. In many ways, he could be considered a philosopher cloaked in the talent of an artist. Years ago, during a press conference at the animation film festival Nouvelles Images du Japon in Paris, Miyazaki talked avidly about his work and shared some of his principles and concerns.

Im a pessimist. But when making a film, I don’t want to transfer my pessimism onto children. I don’t believe that adults should impose their vision of the world on children; children are very much capable of forming their own visions. There is no need to force our visions upon them.”

From this strong conviction comes a very distinct style. The frank presentation of the bleakness of reality placed in an idealized environment clearly distinguishes Miyazaki from other anime artists. His movies do not give in to commercial pressures of happy endings. Instead, his endings work to motivate people, encouraging them to examine and compare their circumstances with similar events within the film and to take action.


My Neighbor Totoro

Realism is an important aspect in Miyazaki’s work. The main protagonists in his films are often drawn with the average Japanese girl or boy in mind. Throughout the film, they are constantly faced with problems and difficult choices. The fact that ordinary people can relate to the protagonists and that the protagonists are imbued with such noble qualities provides hope that there is good in everyone. Villains in Miyazaki’s films are similarly ambiguous and have many repentant characteristics.

When I first saw Grave of the Fireflies as a teenager, I saw the tale of two children who had lost their home and led brave lives, albeit in a futile battle against a cruel outside world. At the time, I agreed with the protagonist that pride was something worth preserving at all costs and thought that being true to his beliefs made him an honourable person.



I had the opportunity to see the film again in an art house in London. I was stunned at how powerful the film spoke about suffering and foolish pride. It was out of pride that Japan continued a war it could not sustain, causing the loss of millions of innocent lives; in the film, the foolish pride of the brother causes the death of his beloved sister.

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