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Hayao Miyazaki Overview

born: 1941
born in: Tokyo
lives in: Tokyo
Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎 駿, Miyazaki Hayao) is a prominent director of many popular animated feature films. He is also the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, an animation studio and production company. He remained largely unknown to the West, outside of animation communities,... [more]

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A+C Viewpoint: Hayao Miyazaki

The time is Japan in the 1400s. The place is a mythical forest where monstrous animal-gods dwell. A forest princess who has been raised by wolf-gods pits herself against nature-defiling industrialists. This is the essence of Hayao Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke," the all-time highest grossing Japanese anime film. The film grew so popular in Miyazaki's native land that the American entertainment juggernaut known as Disney picked it up for distribution, employing the voice-overs of a whole slew of Hollywood names to make the film palatable to English-speaking audiences. The film garnered particular attention for its complex treatment of good and evil. Princess Mononoke, while on the side of natural order, is nonetheless abrasive and somewhat narrow-minded. Meanwhile, her nemesis, Lady Eboshi, is indeed an environmental nightmare, but also surprisingly humane. While this thematic layering is not unusual for serious Japanese anime, such ambiguity caused confusion for Western audiences expecting a tidy moral victory. Miyazaki finds his drama not in formulaic characterizations, but in the mournful conflict that arises when no right answers seem clear. Even as tendrils of grass grow anew in the film, Miyazaki's camera lingers in contemplation of potential loss. For such innovative sensitivity, the film picked up the Japanese Academy Award for best picture. Miyazaki was born in Tokyo in 1941, and was involved in drawing and brainstorming many early Japanese animated films. After directing his first feature in 1979, "Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro," he established Studio Ghisli. He has directed five features and produced three more for this production company. Before the rather dark 'Mononoke,' Miyazaki focused on more children-oriented anime. Many of these films contain flying motifs and tend to be incredibly optimistic. Films such as 'My Neighbor Totoro' and 'Kiki's Delivery Service' are gentle childhood lessons on independence and love. Miyazaki believes that children should see a positive representation of the world. For his more contemplative work, he turns to the comic form (manga), where he delves into the darker side of human nature. An excellent draughtsman, he is an acknowledged master of the manga. His most famous work is 'Nausica', an epic comic written over a span of 13 years. Like 'Mononoke,' this manga tackles weighty subjects like humans versus nature and life versus death. After threatening to retire after "Mononoke," he received a reprimand from an acquaintance: "How dare you retire with 'Princess Mononoke' as your last film! How dare you try to look so cool?' Thus put in his place, Miyazaki has continued to release animated films.


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