I found out today that the great Japanese artist and filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki is retiring from making movies. His career has spanned over fifty years. Miyazaki attained international acclaim as a maker of anime feature films. He and Isao Takahata co-founded Studio Ghibli, a film and animation studio. The success of Miyazaki’s films has been compared to that of Walt Disney, British animator Nick Park and American director Robert Zemeckis. To be honest–I LOVE his work.
I first heard of Miyazaki in 1986, when my ex husband bought a little VHS movie for our daughter, Meg, called Warriors of the Wind. It was a wonderful movie, and we watched it over and over, but it felt incomplete, as if we only had part of the film.
It turns out that was indeed the case: the true name of the movie was Kaze no Tani no Naushika, translated to Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds. The movie tells the story of a young princess of the Valley of the Wind, Nausicaä (Shimamoto), who gets involved in a struggle with Tolmekia, a kingdom that tries to use an ancient weapon to eradicate a jungle of mutant giant insects. Nausicaä must stop the Tolmekians from enraging these creatures.
The underlying story is so powerful and is told so well that I was immediately hooked on Miyazaki’s work. According to Wikipedia, the most prominent themes of that movie are the anti-war and environmental focus of the film. (quote) “Nausicaä, the heroine, believes in the value of life regardless of its form and through her actions stops a war. Loy and Goodhew state there is no evil portrayed in the film, but the Buddhist roots of evil: greed, ill will and delusion. Fear is what drives the conflicts, the fear of the poisoned forest results in the greed and resentment. Nausicaä, besides from being a transformative force, leads people to understand and respect nature which is portrayed as a welcoming, spiritual, and restorative for those who enter it peacefully.“
Nausicaä’s commitment to love and understanding—even to the point of death—transforms the very nature of the conflict around her and changes the attitudes and the hearts of those whose stubborn adherence to their biased views have brought the conflict to the boiling point.
All I know is his work in this movie is gripping, sweeping and superlative. My Tower of Bones series was originally written to be an anime based RPG, that was proposed but never built. When I began plotting the game, I had the great Final Fantasy style plots in my mind, and Miyazaki’s art and influence is clear to anyone who has played them as obsessively as I have. When the game fell through, I was so in love with the story and the characters that I HAD to make it into a book. In my mind, my characters are much like the ones in the poster to the left. Sadly, I’ve never been able to get a cover designed that reflects this.
Because of Miyazaki I have been a devoted fan of Anime and Manga since the 1980’s. That love of sweeping sagas where good triumphs over evil at the cost of great personal sacrifice drives my own work today.
Mr. Miyazaki, I will miss your brilliant work, but I will continue to to cherish those wonderful movies you have so diligently and carefully crafted for us over the years. I can only wonder what your poor heart is feeling now, with the ever-worsening, mindbogglingly horrific Fukushima disaster. My heart and my prayers are with the people of Japan and indeed with the Pacific Ocean as the same water that washes the shores of Japan also washes the coast of Washington State.
Miyazaki’s great works taught me that we are all just one small living, breathing world, and each one of us is responsible for making it better or worse.
I choose to make it better.