Hayao Miyazaki

Known as “The Walt Disney of Japan”, co-founder of Ghibli Studio, his works are praised by the public and the critic. He is considered to be one of the best authors in the animation business of all times.

Iconic Studio Ghibli's characters
Most iconic Studio Ghibli’s characters

Image source:
https://wallpapersafari.com/ghibli-wallpapers/

Filmmaker, manga artist and screenwriter, was born during World War II. This event had a significant impact on his vision: Miyazaki’s philosophy, commonly expressed by colourful, suggestive images, revolves around environmentalism, feminism, pacifism, and nostalgia, by criticizing the conflict between men and nature.

The Animation Genius

Hayao Miyazaki, 65th annual Venice International Film Festival (2008)
Hayao Miyazaki, 65th annual Venice International Film Festival (2008)

Hayao Miyazaki was born in Bunkyō, Tokyo, in 1941. His father’s aircraft manufactured company has served Japan during The Second World War. Animation was his passion ever since he was a child, and after important works, such as “The Castle of Cagliostro” and “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind“, he founded Studio Ghibli in 1985. This name refers to the Italian monoplane “Caproni Ca. 309 Ghibli” (“ghibli” is a Lybian Arabic desert wind). Studio Ghibli’s anime movies, such as “Princess Mononoke“, “My Neighbor Totoro” are considered milestones in animation. “Spirited Away” was the first anime movie in history to win the Best Animated Feature Film Award at the 75th Academy Awards, and it was named one of the greatest movie of the 2000s. Anyway, Miyazaki boycotted the ceremony in protest against Iraq War. Actually, after other major works as “Ponyo“, “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “The Wind Rises“, he is focused on short films and manga.

Image source:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/guadalajaracinemafest/5510293225

A World of Balance and Spirits

The spiritual balance of reality is one of the major themes in Miyazaki’s anime movies: an order which deeply connects natural elements. This philosophy is related to Shinto tradition, and its non-anthropomorphic religion. Kami are spirits or natural phenomena, who live in nature and become manifest in every-day life. These entities are always linked to the protagonists of his movies: in “My Neighbor Totoro“, for example, peaceful spirits helps Satsuke and Mey during their mother illness. It is evident that Miyazaki criticizes Western anthropocentric vision, according to which mankind has to turn the environment to his advantage.

Ashitaka and San, "Princess Mononoke" (1997)
Ashitaka and San, “Princess Mononoke” (1997) .

Image source:
http://postscarcitymagazine.com/Images/Vol%203/mononoke.jpeg

Miyazaki criticizes Western anthropocentric vision, according to which mankind has to turn the environment to his advantage: in “Princess Mononoke” the city of Irontown, ruled by lady Eboshi, fights against the Forest Spirits. Irontown is a metaphor for scientific progress, represented by industry and weapons. Ashitaka, the protagonist, understands that fighting only spreads hate and destruction, as shown in the ending. In Miyazaki’s world the balance is created by opposites: the good as much as the evil. There are often two protagonists, who evolve together thanks to their mystical bond. His characters are ambivalent and ruled by real feelings: they are neither completely good nor completely evil and there are no villains.

The Aesthetic of Magical Realism

Chihiro and No Face, "Spirited Away" (2001)
Chihiro and No Face, “Spirited Away” (2001)

Image source:
https://coubsecure-s.akamaihd.net/get/b97/p/coub/simple/cw_timeline_pic/8cab0413ade/161a4971a015e3a30cbe5/big_1512694452_image.jpg

The visual aesthetic of Miyazaki underlines and supplements his realism. Despite technological innovation in 3D animation, the author prefers the sketch drawing. The dialogue is completely subordinated to emotions evoked by the visual representation of the scene. In “Spirited Away“, for instance, Chihiro takes a one-way train ticket to the unknown, in order to save her cursed friend Haku. Her journey is characterized by the encounter with shadow-passengers, lonely travelers who seem to belong to a past memory, everyone with a personal destination, left to spectators’ imagination. Color palettes (and music) help to convey emotions: it goes from lively, detailed glimpses of city life in tones of red and yellow,(such as “Kiki’s Delivery Service”), to lonely, boundless spaces in green, white and light blue (like “The Castle in the Sky“). This world of realistic illusion, therefore, is characterized by everyday life scenes, in which untold stories are filled with deep meaning: the ambivalence of human being and the complexity of our feelings.

The utopian castle of Laputa, "Castle in the Sky" (1988)
The utopian castle of Laputa, “Castle in the Sky” (1986)

Image source:
https://medium.com/@astridastra/laputa-castle-in-the-sky-1986-of-humanity-and-technology-36de3e5fdd3a

“You must see with eyes unclouded by hate. See the good in that which is evil, and the evil in that which is good. Pledge yourself to neither side, but vow instead to preserve the balance that exists between the two”

Ashitaka “Princess Mononoke”

Info sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hayao_Miyazaki
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38074088
https://www.boisestate.edu/presidents-writing-awards/an-analysis-of-miyazaki-hayao-and-the-aesthetic-of-imagination/
http://www.openculture.com/2018/11/the-philosophy-of-hayao-miyazaki.html