Hayao Miyazaki was born in Tokyo on January 5,1941. He started his career in 1963 as an animator at thestudio Toei Doga, and was subsequently involved in manyearly classics of Japanese animation. From the beginning,he was already commanding everyone's attention with hisincredible ability to draw, and the seemingly endless streamof ideas he proposed for movies. In 1971, he moved to APro with Isao Takahata, then to Nippon Animation in 1973,where he was heavily involved in the TV animation series'World Masterpiece Theatre'. He directed his first TVseries, 'Mirai Shonen Conan' in 1978, then moved to TokyoMovie Shinsha to direct his first movie, 'Lupin III: TheCastle of Cagliostro' in 1979. In 1984, his film 'Nausicaä ofthe Valley of Wind' was released, based on the mangacomic of the same title that he had started two years earlier.The creation of Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki’s new studio, wascreated for the sole purpose of releasing Nausicaa. Thesuccess of the film led Miyazaki to directed five feature-length films and produced another three in the yearsbetween 1986 and 1997. It is interesting to note that the allhopes were pinned on Nausicaa. Had the film failed studioGhibli would not exist today. All of these films enjoyedbox office and critical success. Miyazaki then went on todirect the film 'Princess Mononoke which received theJapan Academy Award for Best Film and was their highest-grossing domestic film in history (about US $150 million).He then went on to make Spirited away, which again brokeall box office records in Japan. Miyazaki also drawsmanga. His major work is the 'Nausicaä' manga; an epictale he had been working on intermittently from 1982 to1994 while he was busy making animated films. Anothermanga, 'Hikoutei Jidai', later evolved into his 1992 film'Porco Rosso'. Miyazaki was supposed to retire afterSpirited Away but rumours of a new project he has secretlybeen working on have already started. In this paper I hopeto zero in on his style of animation and story telling as wellas look at just how he changed the industry. I believeMiyazaki is one of the biggest and greatest influences theJapanese Anime Industry has ever had and he set thestandards for almost every other anime film that has everbeen made. His use of imagery, metaphors and the sense ofwonderment audiences get from watching his films cannotbe matches. His characters moved and touched people andhis stories are joyful, witty and full of hope.
In order to properly understand Miyazaki’s work, theJapanese Anime film industry must first be examined.The earliest animated programs in Japan were created in1917, consisting of storytelling of old Japanese folk stories.Most of these were only a few minutes long, but it spawnedan entire generation of animators who reached both backinto the Oriental past and far into the future for inspirationon for over twenty years. Many different styles wereexperimented with at this time, including paper silhouetteanimation; a type of art that still can be seen to this day indifferent areas of creative arts. During the 1920's and intothe early thirties many small animators worked out of theirown home in small studios where they would sell theirwork to theatrical companies in exchange for productionmoney for their next work. This way their artwork could bedistributed far and wide, and they maintained a very uniquehome atmosphere where the assembly-line creations of theUnited States never came to be. During the 1930's the folktales changed into a darker, more militaristic genre as therise of Japan's military was reflected in their anime. Manyof these became propaganda cartoons much like the oldDonald Duck and Mickey Mouse did in the Western worldduring WWII; urging the population to save and to supportthe soldiers at the front. The competition with the Americanstudios began soon after the occupation of Japan, with theanimators having to deal with films coming in directly fromAmerica with the forces and a slow economy as the countrystruggled to recover. The first color feature didn't appearuntil 1955 as the Japanese animators found a mix betweenthe American way of having studios and specific tasks foreach worker and artist and the individual creativity of theJapanese soul. Toei Animation Company, the company thatMiyazaki worked for was formed in 1956, with their firstcreation being a short cartoon called Doodling Kitty in1957. Toei had watched Disney closely and began to followthe same techniques; releasing feature films a year apartbased on folk tales - Oriental rather than American, but theformula was the same - cute, lovable creatures thatappealed to an audience wanting to forget the past anddream for a few hours. Soon Astro Boy burst upon theAmerican public in 1963; the animated adventures of arobot boy trying to be more like a real boy and still havingto save the world before dinner The public jumped at thethick storylines and characterizations that far outweighedthe lighter Saturday morning fare being produced for kids.And soon the style of changed and darker more sinisterfilms began to be produced, each touching on the concernsof modernization. The first to kick off this change wasreleased in the late 80’s, a filmed called Akira. Akira wasabout a futuristic Tokyo and genetic mutation, it shockingand mystifying the general public; it depicted a futurewhere a third World War had taken place and the day-to-day struggles of teenagers who had grown up in both afamiliar and unfamiliar world and the sudden problemsoccurring as a result of these times. Catching the eye of thegeneral public, it signalled one of the first major waves ofJapanese animation into the mainstream media and awayfrom the small clubs that had been the sole source of theunique storytelling of the Orient for years. This sparked awave of demand for Japanese animation and the invasionbegan. Macross hit Saturday morning cartoon, the U.S.Manga Corps finally imported Record of the Lodoss Warsby Ryo Mizuno and Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma came aswell. Soon huge productions were imported and had hugesuccess in the North America. Blue Seed, Ronin Warriors,Sailor Moon, Gundam Wing, Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Zand the recent Pokemon and Yugioh are all good exampleof Japanese Animes that made it big in North America.Movies were imported by the dozens and specialty shopsbegan appearing in cities. More movies and TV series arebeing imported everyday as the demand for Japaneseanimation grows. At the forefront of all this standsMiyazaki, perhaps the biggest influence on almost everyanime being imported to North America to this day.
Miyazaki’s style of animation has a few distinct traitsin it. The way the characters are drawn is perhaps one thebiggest influences in Japanese animation and the style ofcharacters is seen time and time again in a variety ofdifferent and popular series. The Miyazaki style is in basicoutline of the character. The characters in all his films,unless the character is special to the plot, (Example heneeds to be fat or say a pig) are always drawn with slimbodies and a sort of heart shaped face. The rest of thecharacters features are just the “trimmings” but the outlineis almost always the same. In almost every modern dayanime Miyazaki's style is seen again and again. The mostnotable examples being Escaflowne and Neon GenesisEvangelion. The characters are all slim with the heartshaped heads, looking like they just stepped out of aMiyazaki film.
Another notable Miyazaki trait that has influencedother modern day animes is the way he handles his maincharacters. For the most part, Miyazaki’s trademarkcharacters are, strong willed, independent female leads.These are women who are strong and sure of themselvesand not your typical girl. The trend started with the creationof his character Nausicaa from the first hit anime he didentitled Nausicaa The Valley of the Wind. Every single oneof Miyazaki’s films after that have a strong female lead inthem. From Kiki to Mononoke each one of these femalescan easily overcome any obstacles the world has to offer.The impact of these characters in Japan was enormous. Forten years running Nausicaa was voted the biggest femalerole model in Japan. The impact was so deep in thefollowing years of anime the example Miyazaki set hasnever been forgotten. In almost every large productionanime there is always a strong, fierce, independent femalecharacter. Example include the main character inEscaflowne, Sinji’s guardian in Evangelion, Caska fromBerserk, Akane from Ranma, Deedlit from Record of theLodoss War, Alita from Battle Angel Alita, the list is longand remarkable. Miyazaki’s creation of a strong femalelead has changed and influenced the industry so much thatthese characters have become trademarks of the JapaneseAnimation industry, almost the same way mechas have.(Mechas and tuff babes) It would seem Miyazaki is veryinterested in the female psyche almost to the point ofobsession. In certain interviews he explains how womenjust seems “cooler” doing certain things, more so than men.He believes it’s because men are accepted to be tuff, strongand independent but women are not so when women takeson those characteristics it’s a surprise and people are thenintrigued. This theory must be holding true for the rest ofthe world as well given the success rate of his films and thefame of his characters.
Another huge trademark of Miyazaki’s films is almosta childlike sense of wonderment and hope. Miyazaki’sfilms have a sort of awe to them. The reason for this is thathe wants his films geared to a children’s audience. Whilethere are tons of animes out there that are dark and scaryMiyazaki didn’t want any of this. He liked having a veryhappy, optimistic outlook and his films always have ahappy ending. Most of his films also have a certain childlike wonderment to them. The reasons he makes his filmslike this I believe is due to the fact that he himself has threekids and because he was greatly influenced by Americancartoons, such as the Silly Symphonies. These cartoonsalways had a child like view of the world and I think itstuck with him. The sense of wonderment and hope iseasily produced in Miyazaki’s films with the aid of themain character, who is usually a very young female herself.The situation and setting always helps obtain Miyazaki'ssense of wonderment and awe as well. Because the mainfemale role is usually a very young girl the films are seenfrom a very young point of view. Second Miyazaki’s setsup something so fantastic and simple that it’s impossiblenot to feel a sense of wonderment. In Totoro, fantastic,impossible things happen, a cat bus, a very funny tree sprit,plants growing because people will it, it’s so simple a pureand because it’s seen from a child point of view it’s hardnot to smile at the simplicity of Miyazaki’s imagination.Another good example of his sense of amazement is inSpirited Away a film in which a young girl is trapped in thesprit world, a place of incredible beauty and filled with allsorts of curious, delightful and sometimes dangerousthings. She encounters, witches, dragons, even a giantbaby. It’s a magical telling of very different love story.
The last huge Miyazaki trademark is his use of natureimagery, which he uses because he considers nature pure asopposed to cities and villages, which bring pollution, andcauses thing to become “tainted. Again nature is seen assomething simple and pure a fact that almost any child canrelate too. We see Miyazaki’s use of nature as somethingwonderful and pure in his film Princess Mononoke. Naturehas the ultimate power to cure anything, to give everythingand if necessary to take lives if it must. Humans intrude onland that isn’t theirs and bring pollution and guns, chopdown tress and make life hard for the creatures of theforest. Miyazaki goes so far as to give the pollution aphysical form, that of worms. These worms start tophysically corrupt the beast of the forest and kill them. Butlike all of Miyazaki’s films there is hope. If the forest andthe human world could just live together in peace then theworld would be a better place, is the message at the end ofthe movie. Terrifying, as everything was in the film, at theend it delivers a message that is prominent in every one ofhis films. There is always hope, as long as everyone has itthen everything will be ok. I think Miyazaki’s attitudetowards nature can be clearly seen in this film. His attitudetakes on the form of the main character in the film, a princefrom a distant land. He tries to exist in both worlds, livingin the human world and in the world of the animals as well.I think Miyazaki put a little bit of himself in this character.As a rule of thumb, because of the influence of Shinto, anindigenous religion tied in very close to nature, all Japanesepeople have a great respect for nature and the environmentand I think Miyazaki is no exception.
Miyazaki, the Father of animation has he is nowstarting to be called, is a walking legend in the industry.Film after film has broken box office records and despiteall the rumours of his retirement I think there is more tocome from this imaginative genius. Miyazaki set the stagefor the Japanese Anime industry, setting trends andguidelines for almost all over animes to follow. His storiesare always filled with creative, wondrous imagery anddespite it’s childlike qualities delivers a powerful message.Be proud, strong and true to yourself, respect the world,work hard and never give up and the world will be a betterplace.