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One of the very few names I knew from Japanese animation before watching any was Hayao Miyazaki,
his films are as widespread and well known as the medium itself.
A rather elusive and confusing man with an extremely interesting,unique story behind
his life.
I'd like to take this video to look through his career and see how he helped shape anime
into the medium we know and love today.
So sit back and enjoy as I take you through the story of Hayao Miyazaki.
To understand the career and impact of Hayao Miyazaki, we need to follow his life, to see
what influenced his work and what made him so unique.
Starting at the very beginning with his birth in 1941.
Growing up in a postwar environment that would become the basis for many of his future stories.
The Wind Rises in 2013 being an almost direct reflection of this period of his life.
And not only did the general era of postwar Japan influence him, but his specific life
at the time.
For example, his father worked for the Miyazaki family business, a factory that produced parts
for aircrafts.
This no doubt fueled Miyazaki's life long fascination with air travel, a recurring theme
in every stage of his career.
It played a huge part in his early movies such as Nausicaa and Laputa, and remains prevalent
to his most recent The Wind Rises.
Even small details such as his closeness with his siblings or his mother's illness become
huge signatures of his stories.
Miyazaki's early life seeps through every narrative he tells throughout his career,
it's the first step in understanding him as a practitioner.
This post war era also perfectly lines up with the rise of comics and animation in Japan.
Miyazaki grows up as legends such as Osamu Tazuka were revolutionising their mediums
and he enters his working career just as Anime is becoming a commercial industry.
Miyazaki has cited many of the comics from the 40s and 50s as influences to his initial
creativity, similarly with the first wave of colour anime films in the 50s such as Hakujaden.
This all lines up perfectly for Miyazaki as he finishes university at a time where the
anime industry was young and prosperous, ready for new talent to guide its direction.
His first foray into the industry was at Toei animation, a hugely important step in his
career for many reasons.
Here he took an immediate role in a management position and met Isao Takahata, whom he would
continue working with to the present day.
But, Miyazaki's time at Toei was brief, after he and Takahata finished The Adventures
of Hols in 1968, they became annoyed at Toei's corporate attitude, forcing commerce infront
of creativity.
As well as this, Miyazaki was disinterested by the industry's narrative limitations,
he wanted to stray from re-writing old stories and using boring character types.
Both Miyazaki and Takahata made a bold decision to leave Toei, and after a stint at A-Pro
Studios, the pair joined Nippon Animation.
This period of Miyazaki's career would be his most beneficial yet, progressing his craft
and earning himself larger roles.
He worked on a number of the World Masterpiece Theater series, some of my personal favourites
from the decade.
These series would each run for a year and would favour attention to detail and intricate
Miyazaki and Takahata clearly thrived here and many of their best attributes blossomed.
The idea of subtly mixing fantasy and reality is a common theme in their later works, World
Masterpiece Theater really showcased how great a storytelling tool this could be.
His years working on TV anime developed Miyazaki's talents, and in 1979, Miyazaki took the director
role for the first time with The Castle of Cagliostro.
This is where he belonged and where his skills were most effective: in the director's seat.
The movie was a small production with a budget that would be dwarfed by future Miyazaki projects
but it didn't stop him in injecting every scene with beautiful attention to detail and
revolutionary animation.
This is one of the biggest leaps i've ever seen a director take.
It might not have been where Miyazaki wanted it to be narrative-wise, but visually it was
amazing and is still rightfully regarded as one of the best from its time.
From now on out, there was no stopping Miyazaki's obsessive creativity.
In 1984, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind was created, an adaptation of Miyazaki's
own manga that he was working on at the same time.
And the leap I talked about from his Tv work to Cagliostro is only surpassed by the leap
from Cagliostro to Nausicaa.
The film was once again, revolutionary, in it's visual achievements.
Showcasing mind-bending animation and breathtaking compositions.
And it's easy to overlook Nausicaa's technical achievements as the introduction of CG a decade
or so later would offer an easier way to show of complicated multi-layer compositions, but
Miyazaki didn't have this at his disposal and he created unimaginably complex 3 dimensional
scenes using purely 2d animation.
Even bringing in young talents such as Hideaki Anno to help with more complicated scenes.
The movie's ambition was borderline psychotic, a huge production to be taken on by a fairly
young team.
But the risk paid off and Miyazaki and his team achieved something that had scarcely
been achieved in the medium before.
Making an artistic leap that still baffles me today.
This became the springboard for his next venture…
Studio Ghibli.
Miyazaki was pushing the medium with every project he was taking on, and Studio Ghibli
was his biggest yet.
It was setup to differ from the more commercial establishments that Miyazaki and Takahata
had grown to dislike.
They enforced a no-quality drop policy, the projects would be ruthlessly worked on so
that the team could push themselves as far as possible.
To work at Ghibli was to dedicate your life for the duration of a production.
The studio was founded on the back of Nausicaa's success, not only it's commercial success
but the success of that specific team and Miyazaki's working style, this gave Ghibli
the breathing room to be different.
Miyazaki then headed the studio's first production, Laputa: Castle in the Sky.
A very similar production to Nausicaa with a lot of staff returning and a very similar
visual style.
You can see here aswell Miyazaki's distinct storytelling style really starting to cement.
Aspects like strong female leads and trademark themes that i'll touch on later in the video.
Laputa then a shared similar success to Nausicaa and the risk that was Ghibli had payed off
This was where Miyazaki's impact begins to show, he strayed completely from traditional
anime production practices, creating his own machine.
And to not only be able to finish now two major movies, but to have them be two of the
most successful animated movies of their year is outstanding and really something very few
people had done before.
Miyazaki was a visionary, and he was making a change.
This is a good point to look back and see that his plan experiences with early studios
and projects completely shaped his career, Miyazaki's movies are a reflection of himself,
they're a direct expression of his experiences and how he feels.
But even this did not quench Miyazaki's thirst for progression, and the studio's
next project would not be 1 film, but 2 films, produced simultaneously.
My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of Fireflies.
A seemingly impossible task for the studio and one that could have easily destroyed what
they had built.
Miyazaki would direct Totoro and Takahata would direct Fireflies.
Although these were vastly different movies, they would be worked on together, with animation
staff switching between jobs and Miyazaki working closely with Takahata.
Here, we see Miyazaki's management skills flourish, there aren't many other places
where such a large amount of work could be done in a fairly small environment.
Their policy of not dropping quality was maintained and they didn't have to dilute the production
with too much outside help.
Miyazaki was proving that he could maintain the environment for creation that he envisioned.
The two films were somehow finished and released in 1988, both incredibly well received critically,
and rightfully so, they are two of the most interesting and polished anime films of the
Totoro even went on to further help the studio financially a few years later with the surprise
popularity of Totoro merchandise.
1988 was an achievement for Miyazaki, his hard work and vision had led to him from directing
his first movie to orchestrating two movies with his own studio in under a decade, he
had helped set a new standard for japanese animation along with a handful of other films
in the late 80s.
And this was only the beginning.
As if two movies in 1988 weren't enough, Miyazaki took on the producer role of a 3rd movie that
would be directed by Katsuya Kondo, it was Kiki's Delivery Service, a Novel adaptation,
but after during production, Miyazaki became unhappy with the movies direction and after
the release of Totoro and Fireflies, took over the position of director, re-writing
the story and redesigning many aspects of the world.
He took the movie in a completely different direction and it was released as a feature
film in 1989.
It's hard to show just how well Kiki performed in the box office but it surpassed Totoro
& Fireflies combined, became the highest grossing japanese film on the year and sent Studio
Ghibli to a whole new level.
This is really where it all changed for Miyazaki and his studio.
After Kiki, they could afford to fail and continue going.
They had a huge amount of financial padding and now, a well established name for themselves,
in Japan and across Seas.
A huge movement was happening in the west were 1000s of movie fans were discovering
Japanese animation and there was a new massive desire for the movies of the medium.
Miyazaki was a name at the forefront of that wave.
This setup Miyazaki nicely to sail with ease into the new decade, a time where the economy
was forcing other studios into a creative corner and destroying projects.
Kiki made enough money for Ghibli to continue working as they had been without any worries.
This was Miyazaki's opportunity to further stamp his influence into the medium.
The 90s started off rather interestingly for Miyazaki, the studio seemed to develop a rotation
of Miyazaki and Takahata for the directors role of their films.
1991 seen Only Yesterday by Takahata, 1992 seen Porco Rosso by Miyazaki, and Takahata's
Pom Poko in 1994 and Miyazaki's Whisper of the Heart in 1995.
This was a period of stability for Miyazaki, all these films were incredibly successful
in the box office and managed to ease the studio's transition through a difficult time
in the industry.
I personally think this period is rather overlooked in Miyazaki's career.
There was less progression with production volume or box office numbers but I genuinely
believe some of the studio's best work was done during this period.
Whisper of the Heart for instance is one of Miyazaki's most interesting storylines,
using a much more regular setting.
And Only Yesterday is an amazing step into a narrative outside of the studio's comfort
Miyazaki and his studio were still working endlessly to hone their craft, and that would
pay off with their next project.
Miyazaki was actually working on his next years before it's release, and worked on
it years after as well.
Princess Mononoke was a project very close to his heart and had colossal impact on Anime.
It's fair to say that Mononoke dwarfs everything the studio had down prior in terms of it's
success and impact, it made Ghibli a worldwide brand and cemented Miyazaki's place as one
of the most important names in Japanese cinema.
Princess Mononoke was an idea that Miyazaki had had for decades, the story is that he
had drawn his first ideas in the 70s, and the story had been brewing in his head ever
He instantly inserted his meticulous direction over the film, narratively, this would be
one of his most technical stories yet.
And storytelling wise, Mononoke can be seen as a perfection of the kind of narrative Miyazaki
had been telling for the past 20 years.
Themes of environmental issues and man's battle with nature, they're all present here and
explored in great depth.
And seeing the direction of his films after Mononoke, it's clear that he felt he finally
addressed those themes as he'd have liked.
One of the most important aspects to the film's production was the scale of the animation.
The film contained 144,000 cells of animation, Miyazaki is rumoured to have individually
supervised 80,000 of them.
This, in a production sense, is insane.
Almost obsessive from Miyazaki, but it shows in the movies unbelievable fluidity in it's
This was the first time computer animation was used in a Miyazaki film.
Computers were only just being introduced to Japanese animation in the 90s and many
were rather unfavourable.
Works like Ghost in the Shell a few years prior had used them beautifully but it wasn't
an easy craft to master.
Miyazaki utilised them not as a substitute for animators or as a branch of style but
as a tool for efficiency.
Mononoke's production seemed never ending so computers were used in segments of the
film to increase production speed.
Miyazaki was one of the early adopters of computer animation in the industry, which
is interesting considering his rather traditional attitude in many areas.
The movie was released in 1997, production only finishing a few months prior, it was
met with colossal success.
Becoming one of the highest grossing films of the year, worldwide.
Not bad for the same year as Titanic.
Mononoke has attained this legacy as the an end of an era.
It was one of the last movies before the industry was consumed completely by digital animation
and was maybe a catalyst for that.
For Miyazaki to have pushed the boundaries of traditional animation so far, it's understandable
to see why his studio and the rest of the industry would move on.
And it's true, Mononoke was the end of an era, anime evolved and Mononoke is a beautiful
example of what it once was.
Although a lot in the industry had been left behind, Miyazaki was still firmly on the front
line and was ready to grasp the new digital age with both hands.
And with the turn of the 20th Century, production began on Spirited Away, Miyazaki's next
At this point the studio had gone completely digital, Ghibli had a full in-house CG team
and all their animation was done with digital ink on computers.
Again, Miyazaki was careful to not let CG animation take over and to keep the aesthetic
of Ghibli as traditional as possible.
They even animated artificial movement in still frames to replicate cel animation.
It was important that all important production remained in-house as to not let quality slip.
Another important element of Miyazaki's production during this movie was that he started
production before he had finished planning the movie.
Each section of the movie was produced while it was being storyboarded.
This puts a lot of strain on scheduling but it let's the story develop naturally and
helped towards the films dreamlike narrative.
The film was released in 2001, just 18 months after production began, and it was a worldwide
hit, not only surpassing Mononoke's box office but becoming the highest grossing movie
in Japan ever.
It was also a massive hit overseas as it was dubbed and released by Disney the next again
This is something I want to touch on as well.
Miyazaki and his studio were becoming more than just a Japanese animation studio, but
they were becoming a international brand.
Their likeness to classic Disney films made them extremely compatible with western audiences
and the Ghibli library become known across the globe.
This is an achievement that very few individual anime titles had achieved before, never mind
an animation studio.
Miyazaki was now getting old.
He couldn't work as efficiently as he wanted to anymore and young talented directors were
thirsty for work at the studio.
Miyazaki had actually considered retirement after Mononoke, a recurring theme from then
Although the gaps between movies got larger and larger for Miyazaki, he kept getting drawn
back, starting with Howl's Moving Castle in 2004, then Ponyo in 2008, and finally The
Wind Rises in 2013.
Of course he took smaller jobs like such as Co-Screenwriter on various projects but it's
clear Miyazaki's days as a production madman were over.
And i'm not surprised, he's spent the last 50 years of his life dedicating himself
to animation.
Giving every ounce of his being to his work, making sure every inch of every movie was
how it should be, building one of the most successful animation studios in history from
the ground up, defying industry standards and changing the medium with every stroke
of his pen.
He's given his life to his movies, and he's done it purely for the love of creation.
You can really see his influence in every single anime movie you watch today and it's
hard to see how modern Anime would be without Miyazaki's fantastical touch.
We really owe a lot of what we love about the medium to the work done by Miyazaki and
the rest of studio Ghibli, and I hope this video has done a good enough job of highlighting
I've got many more similar videos coming up in the future so please be sure to click
the subscribe button.
And if you enjoyed this one, please do share it around.
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How Hayao Miyazaki Changed Anime

209 Folder Collection
二百五 published on September 11, 2019
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