"Greatest of All Time". A bold statement, but well-deserved by the one and only, an inspirational icon, the great Hayao Miyasaki. Truly a force to be reckoned with, this genius artist has built a legacy on a solid foundation of unforgettable and one-of-a-kind movies that will live on for generations to come. I know my kids will be just as acquainted with My Neighbor Totoro as they are The Lion King, if not even more so.
There's just something about Miyazaki's work that is fascinating, exquisite, and prodigious. He is truly the epitome of a beautiful mind and has an imagination that knows no borders. The world is so fortunate to be graced with his existance - and yes, I'm a total fangirl! So, I thought, what better way to celebrate the epic life of this man than by dedicating an entire post to him? Behold, here are just a few of the many reasons Miyazaki-san kicks ass and takes names (and awards) - and why he's the greatest animation director ever.
He's an all-around stud. I mean, the guy ages as well as his movies do. His style, youthful appearance (can you believe he’s 76?!), black thick rimmed glasses…Miyazaki is the man. His success goes without saying; he has earned his fame and fortune, building his empire from the ground to the tippity top. He's won 50+ awards for his works including an Oscar for Spirited Away (my favorite animated movie).
His wisdom. Just check out these quotes - they deserve their own post. (In fact, now I'm inspired to write one!) It’s clear Miyazaki has a deep, empathetic and complex view of human nature and the world. His family fled from bombings in World War II and his mother suffered from spinal tuberculosis, and these experiences contributed to some of the themes he shares with us through his movies. He’s wiser than most, and well, it’s no wonder he’s the success that he is today. I only wish I could be his mentee and sit at his feet to listen to him speak his wisdom.
His portrayal of opposite sex relationships and his desire to go against the grain when it comes to "love". Sure, there's romance in some of his movies, but "Miyazaki" and "cliché" don't go together - and it's refreshing. “I’ve become skeptical of the unwritten rule that just because a boy and girl appear in the same feature, a romance must ensue. Rather, I want to portray a slightly different relationship, one where the two mutually inspire each other to live - if I’m able to, then perhaps I’ll be closer to portraying a true expression of love,” Says the great Master of hero-and-heroine relationships in his films. Woah. I love this! I think this way of depicting relationships makes his films even more cathartic; they'll fill any grown-up's heart with nostalgia for the good ol' days of innocence, friendship, and adventures outside. I appreciate the idea of love that he promotes in his movies - that love can be felt and expressed in a variety of different ways, for all sorts of people, including those who might've been considered unlovable by society's standards.
His empowering belief that people can change and are good underneath, despite their "evil" past. Miyazaki says, “The concept of portraying evil and then destroying it - I know this is considered mainstream, but I think it is rotten. This idea that whenever something evil happens someone particular can be blamed and punished for it, in life and in politics, is hopeless.” You can observe in his movies that "the bad guy" often gets a second chance and even has some likable qualities, and that instead of destroying evil, there is a quest to transform people and the self. Ultimately, there is renewed hope for a better future for the world. There is no true, 100% evil villain; rather, they're like you and me - they've just made many bad decisions, but are capable of being good, nonetheless. Miyazaki's characters inspire us to be empathetic, and his films teach us and our children that love and compassion have the power to change people and the world.
He respects women as badass equals who don't need to be saved. This is clearly depicted in all of his movies: Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo, Nausicaa, the list goes on. In fact, in his early years, he was inspired by the female heroine from Panda and the Magic Serpent. “Many of my movies have strong female leads - brave, self-sufficient girls who don't think twice about fighting for what they believe with all their heart. They'll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a savior. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man.” I love this statement by Miyazaki because it makes me feel invincible, and I love that his storylines are equally rich and exciting regardless of the sex and gender of the protagonist. Another reason why I believe young boys and girls should watch these movies before they watch Transformers or Sleeping Beauty.
His originality. Like I said, he's a beautiful mind. Yeah, creatives are creative - but Miyazaki-san takes it to the next level. He's different, and his style is truly original and incomparable. He's incredibly talented, and has changed the game for animation by proving that "cartoons" aren't just for kids; they can be timeless and unforgettable treasures that take us deeper than a typical princess movie will. (Sorry, Walt Disney. Still love you, though!) His storylines are unpredictable and exhilarating. He has married animation and realistic themes to create his own, beautifully unique world and for that he is the master of the craft.
His dedication and determination to learn and grow as an artist. And boy, has it payed off. He has become one of the greatest, most highly acclaimed animators and movie directors of all time and his name is known all over the world. His films are beloved and so is he. And he actually does the gritty work alongside his colleagues and is a huge, active role in the arduous creative process (by the way, his team is a peanut compared to those of big-time Hollywood productions). He's not just a boss - he's a true leader! You can see him hard at work in this clip. He even keeps saying he's going to retire but doesn't, and recently announced he's producing another film set to be released in 2018! It's like Santa Claus telling a child who caught him trying to go back up the fireplace, "I know you're spoiled, but here's another gift just because."
His humility. I'm sure he knows he's the man, but he's made it clear that he creates his films because he wants to deliver something beautiful with a powerful message to share with others, not for the money and the fame. And you can definitely tell in his movies; their authenticity trumps other films who try too hard to break records when they hit the box office. I respect a highly successful, famous, and rich man who is humble and down-to-earth.
His attention to detail and realism. Miyazaki-san is a student of human emotion, noticing tiny details, and making bodies and movements look natural. Kids have round bellies, girls aren't always proper, beauty isn't everything, some people run weird, and grandmas aren't boring. I love how blogger Kirsty Evans describes Sosuke's mother Lisa in her review of Ponyo:
Although Miyazaki-san's movies are child-friendly, he certainly is not conservative in his approach. He takes risks. He's unconventional. He challenges stereotypes such as villains are always evil, heroes are always righteous, women are feminine and fragile, princesses are damsels in distress, children are incompetent/helpless, etc.
He also crushes stereotypes about Japanese animation. He has several opinions about anime, but something that he has made abundantly clear is that he does not identify himself as an anime artist because he feels that the anime industry has become fanatical and generic. (I totally get that.) He explains that anime artists do not practice observing real people and aren't concerned with details, which makes characters stereotypical, unrealistic and unrelatable.
He founded Studio Ghibli. I could write an entire post about why this studio is l i f e and how I am so freakin' excited that A THEME PARK IS HAPPENING(!!!), but that will have to be for another time. Studio Ghibli, based in Tokyo, is now one of the most famous production companies in the world. I just cannot simply describe how much of an incredible gift Studio Ghibli is to the world. Along with the new theme park, visiting the Ghibli museum is on my bucketlist. One day I'll walk through those doors...it's going to happen. (And can you tell I can't wait for that glorious day?)
If this is your first time learning about Hayao Miyazaki, I hope it sparks your curiosity to watch one of his films. I'd love to hear how you like it! (And don't be surprised if you find yourself instantly hooked and watching them all ;)) I'll end this post with this short clip, because it shows him in his element and I love it.
Miyazaki-san, you will always get the gold in my book.
“I do believe in the power of story. I believe that stories have an important role to play in the formation of human beings, that they can stimulate, amaze and inspire their listeners.” ― Hayao Miyazaki
*NOTE: The images in this post are not my own*
VIEW RECENT POSTS