I would say that according to Callavaro Miyazaki’s work has a generally anti-war bent and is generally centered around coming of age stories.
Given Japan’s recentish history regarding war and more personally Miyazaki’s family history it’s not hard to see why this would be the case, especially given that anti-war themes are not exactly uncommon, even beyond Miyazaki’s work (Callavaro, 2006).
This is shown very well in the film Nausicaa of the valley of the wind. The film takes place entirely in a post-apocalyptic world that has descended back into a number of absolute monarchies. In the opening of the film we see an opening in which several enormous living weapons of mass destruction referred to as Giant Warriors, surrounded by fire as whatever the old world was is picked clean by fire. Although the film from this point on features Princess Nausicaa many times saying that the violence of the world must come to an end, this seems to be an opinion she forms after walking in the scene of her father’s body after his death, leading to her swiftly killing the people responsible. After this point she becomes staunchly anti-violence, while she does threaten its use she never actually hurts anyone from this point on. With this outlook she is able to save the world and prove herself worthy of becoming queen and thus comes of age through her renouncing of violence (Miyazaki, 1984).
I would argue that many Japanese artists do not conform to the idea of higher and lower genres as many do here in the west. Take for example 2017-2018’s tokusatsu series Kamen Rider Build. Despite being in the same subgenre of science fiction as Power Rangers, being made to promote and sell toys and being aimed primarily at children, Build does not shy away form the affects of war and death. At the start of the show we learn of the Skywall incident wherein, stay with me now, Pandora’s box is brought to Earth from Mars by an astronaut possessed by an alien called Evolt causing a wall to separate Japan into three fairly corrupt and dangerous governments. These three regions of Japan from this point on wage war on each other many times (usually at the behest of Evolt) these attacks are shown to do serious damage and kill several people. As the series progresses the initially villainous Kamen Rider Grease appears with three minions who are his closest friends until they die one by one. The first of them having been at the hands of Kamen Rider Build after loosing control of his powers. After the loss of the rest of his friends Greese eventually joins the heroes, but this ultimately leads to his own death, fading from existence in the arms of the woman he loved, after having become a beloved fan favourite character (Muto, Ōmori, & Yanaka, 2017).
I don’t think it’s controversial to say that Japan has valid reasons to be anti-war given their history. Not only did they side with the nazis in world war II, they are also the victims of the only two nuclear strikes in war. As such they, as a culture, have firsthand experience of the horrors of war that many other nations dread to imagine. But Miyazaki knows of WWII better than many, his family having produced parts for war planes that lead to the deaths of many. Given how influential Miyazaki has been on the Japanese media landscape it’s not unlikely that his anti-war views have gone on to permeate all the way to today.
Callavaro, D. (2006). Introduction. In The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.
Miyazaki, H. (Director). (1984). Nausicaä of the valley of the wind [Motion picture]. Japan: Studio Ghibli.
Ōmori, T., & Yanaka, T. (Producers), & Muto, S. (Writer). (2017). Kamen Rider Build [Television series]. Tokyo, Japan: TV Asahi.