Miyazaki and My Vision of Anime

I’ve been an anime fans for more than a decade. I only realized recently that I never watched many of the anime classics. Among them is the bulk of Ghibli movies and mainly Hayao Miyazaki’s. I’ve seen one or two years ago but that was a long time ago when I wasn’t mature enough to realize the genius of his works.

So I decided to watch all of them and I started this week with My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Let me put off talking about Miyazaki for a moment. After a decade of watching all kinds of anime genres, I came to internalize anime traits and tropes that at some point they became what define anime.

I now can spot an anime based on a manga from the Shounen Jump Magazine without prior knowledge that it is in fact from that magazine because almost all of the titles in it follow a certain structure. I only watch those shows when I don’t feel like thinking too much.

 

There was a time when whenever I hear the word anime, images of exaggerated expressions came to mind or perhaps the idea of violence which comes from a preconception that anime tolerates violence more than cartoon. These are a few examples that I mistakenly believed define anime. I bet you had similar thoughts at least once when you thought about anime.

And I think that the producers and writers in the anime industry also came to unconsciously define anime by the strata of what has been done before. Consequently all anime looks the same and feels the same now.

I’ve come to a point now that I wish to watch an anime that doesn’t feel like an anime at all. That’s my dream! I’d like to see an anime that makes me forget that I’m watching one!

Well, shame on me!

It’s been out there since before I was born! Hayao Miyazaki’s approach to anime successfully exceeded my vision of what anime should be like! How stupid could I be for not realizing it sooner?!

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Hayao Miyazaki

I’m not sure how to describe his works in words. I’m not a critic and if I feel like writing something about his movies I will need a lot of time for research and re-watching So maybe I’ll write a future post dedicated to that later. For now, I’d rather urge you to watch them yourself (if you’re reading this and you’re an anime fan, I’m certain there’s 99% chance you already did! I feel bad for calling myself an anime fan!)

I’ll just say that Miyzaki’s works are one of a kind. His movies are rooted in realism with regards to their characters which are multidimensional and emotionally charged. He draws his characters in daily and mundane situations whereas other directors won’t bother to put on screen but because of that we get to know another layer of his characters and sympathize with them more.

Miyazaki’s movies do not deal in black and white, good and evil. And there is no winning or losing. They’re about carrying the characters on a development journey through which they will learn new things about life and about themselves. Ultimately, bringing joy and hope to us, the audience.

When I’m watching a Miyazaki film, I am already beyond anime and animation, being pulled into an emotional and a realistic exploration of human condition.

You might think that I’m ignoring or underestimating the animation aspect of the anime medium but let me assure you that I’m not. In fact, I’m trying to say that anime is being underestimated even by the people who are working on it! We haven’t seen truly revolutionary titles in a while.

In this article, my point is not to limit anime to its identifiable aspects. I want it to transcend those barriers. My hope is to find an anime that I can put on par with a live-action film without any distinction or prejudice. And after seeing Miyazaki’s movies with this vision in mind, I thought to myself “this is it!” He might be a great anime producer, a great animator and a great director. To me, He’s simply a great story-teller.

Although Hayao Miyazaki’s works satisfied my search and longing for my dream anime style with perfection, In  lesser degree, many other story-tellers also have. Watanabe Shinishiro is one of my favorites. His works always push forward to something more than what the status quo in anime industry offers. Since he mostly works on tv series, his works retain some of the mainstream anime traits and structures but he knows how to utilize those to his advantage and create masterpieces with a uniqueness that even the uninitiated can notice that it is distinguishable from the rest. If you haven’t seen his works yet, I recommend the classics Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo and his most recent series Sakamichi no Apollon and Zankyou no Terror. He works a lot with Yoko Kanno who is also one of my favorite musicians.

I didn’t aniticpate the length of this post. It’s a mess but I have to post it now because I’m going to sleep soon! So I’ll wrap it up now.

Finding out that my vision of what anime should be has been in existence for as long as I’ve been alive was a joy. I have a lot to catch up on. As for the mainstream anime series, I truly hope someday we get beyond the school life, fan service and superpowers and do something like Wolf’s Rain once in a while. I’m not asking for more Miyazaki. No one does Miyazaki better than Miyakazi but let’s see something good and utterly different.

I do not own any of the images used in this post.

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