The Animated Movies of Hayao Miyazaki
Hayao Miyazaki is a master of animation, adored by many. His stories are enjoyed by people of all ages and he is regarded as the Japanese Walt Disney. Miyazaki’s films are entirely original and draw up some important issues of deforestation, pollution and war. His whimsical characters, lush landscape drawings and the meaningful motives behind his stories make him one of the most popular directors of all time. I first started watching his movies when I was in primary school and was amazed from the beginning until the end of each fantastic film.
One famous piece is Spirited Away (2001). It prides itself on being one of the highest grossing movies in Japan and tells the story of a girl who tries to rescue her parents from turning into pigs. In the process, she meets a strange spirit called No-face and befriends a boy who has the ability to turn himself into a dragon. These strong heroes solve puzzles in Miyazaki’s mazes. Unlike a large number of films, the girls in Miyazaki’s movies aren’t sexualised and are portrayed as confident and independent; they also have feminine characteristics by way of being nurturing and empathetic. There are other hidden themes in the storyline like greed and capitalism. The protagonist’s parents turn into pigs after being distracted by food from the stalls and the character No-face – who was a harmless spirit – grows and turns into a monstrous beast that eats the workers at a bathhouse which represents excess. In an interview, Miyazaki commented on the nostalgic element of an old Japan – one that was untouched by industrialisation.
Miyazaki’s films are made at Studio Ghibli which was founded in 1985 and currently has 150 employees who work on some of the best animations, winning international awards as well as people’s hearts, young and old. The legendary animator had announced that he would be retiring, but on November 13th, 2016 he stated that he would still work on short films and also be releasing a feature-length film before his final retirement.
Ponyo (2008) is a personal favourite of mine. It follows the life of a fish who longs to be human. Ponyo befriends a young boy who lives on the coast and together they fight to keep their relationship. While this happens, the sea is disturbed and her father urges her to come back to the ocean where she belongs. It is similar to Disney’s The Little Mermaid and is definitely a light-hearted piece.
There is a strong sense that Hayao is influenced by what is happening within Japanese society as he sees it, which he then incorporates into his films. He is especially concerned about the future of children in Japan and worried about how difficult it is to connect with them in modern day life with all the technology around. He seems to be sending a strong message to Japanese society that children need to be cared for and nurtured in order to progress. Furthermore, he demonstrates that there is no need to make films whereby fighting is involved between good and evil characters and that learning how to live and work together can benefit everyone.
I admire Studio Ghibli’s use of fantasy, magic and their mixing of real and surreal themes. By doing so, the directors and animators have the power to take our attention away from real life and involve the viewer in their artistic productions. I hope that Studio Ghibli carries on releasing magical films for decades to come and continues to recruit artists who have such awe-inspiring talent as Hayao Miyazaki .
Global Seven News