It’s nearly impossible for someone who’s a fan of animated movies, to not
have heard about Studio Ghibli at some point in his or her life. It’s not
only the best-known and highest-praised Japanese animation film studio in
the world, but it has also been bringing Hayao Miyazaki’s unique and
inimitable projects and masterpieces to life since its establishment in
But Who Is Hayao Miyazaki?
Hayao Miyazaki was born on January 5, 1941, in Bunkyō (Tokyo). Hayao,
despite having completed academic degrees in Political Science and
Economics, revisited his adolescent passion for anime and manga, joining
Toei Animation Company’s staff as an artist.
He began by directing some episodes of the Lupin III series
(including a film, Lupin III – The Castle of Cagliostro) andSherlock Hound. Hayao’s first written and illustrated work, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, was released in 1982
in the magazine Animage. Two years later, an animated film produced by that
company – which he also directed – was a success. The achievement convinced
Hayao to begin his own studio. Together with Isao Takahata, Studio Ghibli
arrived on the scene –– and it was here to stay.
His work has garnered the highest awards of the film “academies”: Two
Oscars (Spirited Away, for best animated film, 2003, and a
lifetime achievement award in 2014), a Berlin Golden Bear (2002), and a
Venice Golden Lion for lifetime achievement (2005).
Miyazaki’s work, and that of his studio – unanimously acclaimed by both
critics and the public – have made such a mark on the world of film
animation that they have changed how people view them. They might have even
made people lose their prejudices against the world of anime… dipping their
toes in deeper than just the movie Sol Levante.
He tells realistic, poignant stories in such a heartfelt, tender way, while
showing the beauty of new evocative landscapes. He succeeds in not only
appealing to a young audience but to older viewers as well; his films are
truly made for everyone.
What most distinguishes this anime creator from others is his ability to
tell real stories through fantasy, depicting real life in a fantastical
way, but never in a fictitious way.
Making One’s Battles One’s Anthem
Miyazaki’s worlds and landscapes are almost reminiscent of a dream… like
childhood dreams and fantasies that come to life in pastels, allegorical
images, and surreal contexts. The magic of these landscapes isn’t so much
in the magical powers, however cleverly represented, nor in characters that
are classic fantasy figures… rather, it’s in the unseen and unspoken aspects of the plot that make these creations original
It is not easy to describe in words the intensity of each story. The
creator uses visual and musical poems to express his ideas, feelings, and
Each story is extremely different from the other… the theme of each story
is clear but not prevalent, which allows for a coherent and immersive
Miyazaki seems almost obsessed with the theme of flight: a
passion “genetically inherited” from his father Katsuji. He was an engineer
and co-owner of a factory that produced airplane parts, which greatly
influenced Hayao since he was a child. For him – as he says in several
interviews – flying is like being liberated from gravity. He consistently
writes about the concept of liberation.
He depicts dreams and desires with a natural poetic feel, showing his own
warmth, making him a leader and primary reference in contemporary cinema.
There is no absolute good – just as there is no absolute evil in his works.
Every character has such depth and development that, to define them
traditionally as either the good guy or the bad guy would be reductive and
Miyazaki’s films always show their young protagonists on a path to growth
and maturity, brought about through experiences that deeply impact them. In My Neighbor Totoro, the two young protagonists move with their
father to a small village in the countryside so that they can visit their
mother more often while she is in the hospital for a serious illness. The
same happens in The Wind Rises, whose main theme is suffering and
Both works are explicit references to the creator’s own childhood
experience when his mother, Dola, fought tuberculosis.
The Constant Search for a Muse
The world does not give enough importance to the concept of inspiration,
often misunderstanding the term. There are those who consider “drawing
inspiration from something” as a sort of emulation rather than a homage,
thus belittling the work itself.
In art, it is fundamental to understand the path of an artist, and to
notice and understand the change and the maturation that makes him a real
artist with his own unique and defined style. Miyazaki has not limited
himself to repeat. He recognizes that he has taken something from every
other creator he has ever followed, and then reworked it to make it
entirely unique and his own.
To name a few, there’s Akira Kurosawa, another Japanese film director; Jean
Giraud, who more Westerners might be familiar with, a French writer and
illustrator; and writers Ursula Kroeber Le Guin and Roald Gahl who have
written numerous novels about pilots and airplanes.
Even though Miyazaki has now surpassed eighty years of age – and even
though he had announced several years ago that he intended to retire from
the film scene in order to spend more time with his son Gorō, who will
inherit all his father’s cultural and artistic heritage – dear Hayao just
couldn’t stay away from his work for too long.
How Do You Live?
is the latest of his projects, Studio Ghibli announced. According to
interviews given by one of the members of the Japanese production studio,
Miyazaki might be nearly finished with the production of this film.
“What Miyazaki wants is more than a simple reproduction of reality. It is
the creation of an image that goes beyond reality!” says Toshiyuki Inoue,
veteran animator at Studio Ghibli.
It’s a fact of life: time passes for everyone. We get older, and we risk
falling behind. What makes Miyazaki truly exceptional is his ability to not
only keep up with others, but to anticipate trends.
Thanks to his ideas and skills, the world has been given timeless,
To his morals, we owe messages of hope and precious life lessons.
To his life’s works, we owe the future of anime and film animation.