Taking A Look at the Creator of Award-Winning Classics: Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki is an internationally known and respected Japanese animator, filmmaker, screenwriter, author and manga artist. You might know him as the writer and director behind “Spirited Away.” “Spirited Away” was released in 2002, and is the most well-known, often most loved film from the famed Miyazaki. It follows young Chihiro along the beautifully animated and captivating path of freeing her kidnapped parents. Spirited Away is often listed as one of the greatest animated films of all time from various publications and won 30+ international awards.

Born in the town of Akebono-cho in Bunkyo, Tokyo, on January 5th, 1941, Miyazaki was the second of four sons. When he was three years old, Miyazaki and his family moved to Utsunomiya. After the bombing of Utsunomiya in 1945, the family moved to Kanuma. The constant moving and bombing left a lasting effect on Miyazaki, and displacement can be a reoccurring, climactic event in a lot of his films.

Concerning inspiration for his works, the fact that his father was the director of “Miyazaki Airplane”inspired Miyazaki to include a lot of airplanes in his work. His mother, who was sadly diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis, regularly questioned societal norms. This resistance to norms and cultural expectations can be found in the characters and themes in his films.

Fast forward to the start of his career. His initial aspiration was to be a manga artist, but he soon discovered that he could not draw people. He could, however, draw airplanes and cars.This can be seen throughout his works, almost all of which have detailed and thoughtfully drawn automobiles and vehicles.

His personal style of writing really developed in a monthly manga (Japanese cartoon) strip titled “Kaze No Tani No Naushika” (“Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind”)published by Isao Takahata in Animage Magazine. The manga was well received and encouraged not only a film by the same name, but for Takahata and Miyazaki to pair up and start Studio Ghibli in 1985.

Studio Ghibli is the Japanese animation company created by the two, that has since churned out award-winning works like “Spirited Away” (2001), “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988) and “Howl’s Moving Castle” (2004).

Miyazaki was meant to retire in 1999, according to his own announcement, but that didn’t exactly work out.

“I wanted to retire,” Miyazaki said in an interview with Roger Ebert, an American film critic. “But life isn’t that easy. I wanted to make a movie especially for the daughters of my friends. I opened all the drawers in my head they were all empty. So I realized I had to make a movie just for 10 year olds, and ‘Spirited Away’ is my answer.”

“Spirited Away” was well worth the decision, as it broke the Japanese box-office record previously held by “Titanic.”, and became the highest-grossing film in Japanese history.

To save her kidnapped parents, Chihiro gets help from supernatural beings like Haku and No-Face.

Spirited Away is exquisitely drawn, and Chihiro’s character development is shown in detail and well thought-out. The alluring flying scenes and the genuine care Haku has for Chihiro allows viewers to dive into the world Miyazaki created. One thing that makes a lot of the scenes so powerful are the visuals or lack of dialogue that lets the viewer sit with the music, characters and themes.

So many of his films explore concepts of acceptance, love and friendship. “Howl’s Moving Castle” is one that comes to mind. The film includes an oddly fitting steampunk vibe, a forbidden love, a unique backdrop of a war and the complex character of Howl. An important fact about the movie “Howl’s Moving Castle” is that it is loosely based on a book of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones.

“Howl’s Moving Castle” follows introverted and often overlooked Sophie as she stumbles into the arms of the infamous sorcerer, Howl, only after falling victim to a spell-casting witch. The layers that the characters have, the breathtaking landscape scenes and the journey to understand the personalities and morality entice audiences everywhere. The comic relief throughout the film, from Calcifer in particular, pairs well with the more emotionally intense scenes, including one where Howl quite literally slips into a depressive episode. All of this contributes to the utterly intriguing journey of “Howl’s Moving Castle.”

“I do believe in the power of story. I believe that stories have an important role to play in the formation of human beings, that they can stimulate, amaze, and inspire their listeners.” Hayao Miyazaki said, when asked about his storytelling.

Hayao Miyazaki is a well-respected and often recognized filmmaker and has worked on countless beautiful animations and films. Miyazaki’s films have received over 177 nominations, winning 120 of them.