Friday, February 28, 2014

World Builders and Storytellers: Hayao Miyazaki

Now and then I'll be spotlighting some of the people who have most inspired me. First off, in honor of his final film The Wind Rises releasing in the US last week, I'll focus on Hayao Miyazaki.

Famed animator and creator of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki's films are known for their poignant stories, beautiful animation and breathtaking landscapes. Being born and bred in the US, with practically no knowledge of anime, I'd never heard of him until eight years ago, when Turner Classic Movies devoted an entire month to featuring Miyazaki's movies...

One Saturday afternoon I came across his masterpiece Spirited Away, twenty minutes into the film. I didn't know anything about it. Not the story of the film, nor the history of Studio Ghibli or Miyazaki himself. But within five minutes, I was hooked.
Chihiro at the bathhouse of the spirits
Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro, a modern young girl who gets pulled into a world of spirits and gods. This spirit world is so wonderfully real and achingly beautiful and, being a very visual person, I was captivated. If there was ever a fictional world that felt like home, like I belonged there, this was it.

Through Chihiro, we explore themes of courage, hope, maturity, and Miyazaki's trademark environmentalism. I loved his take on the spirit world, and the assortment of beings Chihiro encounters there. I've always been drawn to tales of otherworldly beings, so the spirit world explored in the movie drew me in immediately.
OK, so the Nightwalker is from Princess Mononoke, but
he wanted to go here and who am I to argue?
Watching Spirited Away, I wished I could create something so original, so touching. As both a writer and an artist, I would honestly be thrilled to have even a fraction of the talent that Hayao Miyazaki possesses. Most of all, I wanted (and still want to this day) to create a story, a world that could touch someone the way Spirited Away touched me.

I watch more tv and movies than I should probably admit to, and I'm always blown away by how well Studio Ghibli's animation expresses the thoughts and emotions on the characters' faces (whether they be human, spirit, or something in between). In fact, I've often thought that the animated characters in a Miyazaki film are better actors than a lot of flesh-and-blood humans I've watched over the years.
Howl's moving castle for Best Actor
And his visuals are, in a word, stunning. I never cease to be impressed by the beauty of the worlds created in his films, whether otherworldly (Spirited Away, Nausicaa Valley of the Wind) reimagined history (Princess Mononoke, Porco Rosso) or somewhere in between (Howl's Moving Castle, Castle in the Sky). Have I mentioned I'd love to live in the worlds of his movies?

Since that Saturday afternoon I've watched all of the Studio Ghibli movies Miyazaki has directed. Spirited Away remains my favorite of Miyazaki's movies, though there are some very, very close seconds. Nevertheless, I'm always struck with the same sense: I want to create something like this. I want to build a world that feels real enough - and captivating enough - to live in. I want to tell a story that becomes a part of people the way the best stories have become a part of me. So thank you, Hayao Miyazaki, for your vision, creativity, and stories. Maybe someday I'll be a world builder and storyteller like you.

Also, if there are any Miyazaki fans who haven't yet seen the fan art of Roberto Nieto, take a look. You'll be glad you did!

No comments:

Post a Comment