Posted by: Spacehamster74 | 03/17/2009

Discovering the wonder of Miyazaki’s films

The first Miyazaki film I ever heard of was Princess Mononoke in 1999. This was mostly because Neil Gaiman was writing the English adaptation and Claire Danes was voicing one of the main characters. I never could find a way "in" to Miyazaki's films. I think my biggest problem with watching new films is trust. I need to know I can trust that filmmaker to tell me a good story.

It wasn't until recently when a friend introduced me to My Neighbour Totoro that I finally understood Miyazaki's appeal. Totoro is an extremely pared-back film about two girls and their encounters with a Forest Spirit.The power of this film lies within the story itself and the charm of the characters. And the opening and end themes are definitely the most memorable I've ever heard. No wonder people love this film.

I now understand the appeal of Miyazaki's films. I think his greatest strength is his ability to tell a great story and not to be distracted by side-issues. Miyazaki won't add needless action sequences or a manufactured conflict if it takes away from the power of the original story. Best of all, as a storyteller he's a firm believer in humanity's compassion towards one another. It's a philosophy that I heartily agree with.

What's interesting is that although Miyazaki's films are often optimistic and show the best of human nature, he himself is a pessimist regarding modern 21st Century humanity. He also isn't particularly fond of modern anime.

I don't feel like defending, speaking for, or analyzing Japanese
anime. Anime is more suitable to be discussed together with
computer games, foreign cars, or playing gourmet. When I
discuss anime with my friends, it somehow turns into a
discussion about our cultural situation, the desolation of the
society, or our tightly controlled society. Something called
the anime boom had come and gone, but about 30 TV series per week,
several scores of theatrical and video anime, and subcontract
works for the United States are still produced in this country today in
1987. But there is no use talking about it. If there is
something we have to talk about, it's the "excessive
expressionism" and the "loss of motives"
in Japanese anime.
These two are corrupting Japanese popular animation.

What's interesting to note is that the article was written in 1988, and Miyazaki's opinions haven't changed since then. I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with his opinions – although I think it's the art that flows from these convictions are what makes his films so brilliant. I think email and the internet and general are little more than tools. The problem is with human nature rather than the tools we use.


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