Miyazaki’s list of works could basically be titled as, the most famous Anime films to date. With such titles as, Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited away and My neighbor Totoro, this is not hard to work out why. I have never been interested in Animated films or television as it simply does not appeal to me but even I have heard of two of those titles and could roughly summarize the plots for you. Miyazaki is the Steven Speliberge of the animated picture. His distinct style differs from traditional western narrative conventions and his films are often an amalgamation of western and eastern influences, that still remain distinctly unique to his own style.
Callavaro (2006) gives us a basic breakdown of how Miyazaki’s films end. They steer clear of a summary in which all loose ends are tied up and instead, the stories conclude in a more life like manner. Where though the principal conflicts in the story are concluded, there is an implication that there is more to say or do. Not everything has ended completely. This is in fact one of the western conventions which Miyazaki’s films avoid. Western cinema and Western television, to a certain degree, will give its audience a happy ending. We can leave our couches and movie theaters knowing that all is well and everything is back to normal. However, as Miyazaki said himself, the resolution in the film is only one ending, things will happen afterwards. The western three act structure, Act one set up, Act two, development, Act three, conclusion (Mesce 2012) is not popular in Japanese entertainment. Often films are the adaptations of manga, Japanese comics, which have a story ark that has been developed on for years. Therefore the condensed versions of these in Anime form could not faithfully represent the source material by adhering to this Western narrative structure (Callavaro 2006) The themes employed in Miyazaki’s film, that of the ever present threat to the environment, the phantom of war or self development bring a degree of severity to his art. Even his films which are aimed at a younger audience such as my neighbor Toto, still discusses issues such as death, sickness and growing up. This compared to Western films, that when made for children, are almost always designed as simple entertainment. Any message or theme, plays a secondary role to this idea. The Japanese sub-genre, Shoujo (little female) is another specific style which deviates from western cinema. This is largely down to its specific applicability to Japanese life. Shoujo films are a sort of coming of age story, that showcase the transitional phase become childhood and adulthood. In her article Butler (2011) discussed the complex relationship between the audience of Shoujo and the show itself. This relationship is characterized as unique, due to the typical style of the art, which often depicts young female characters, facing impossible and fantastic challenges, though despite this the style does not cater to a single type of audience. In fact, despite the fact that the characters are female, much of the viewership of Shoujo is male. The reason for this is because of the demanding and stressful work culture, which many young Japanese males find themselves apart of (Callavaro 2006)These films then come to represent a break from that life, a brief escape, into a more playful exploratory world. Miyazaki’s films are also closely linked to Japanese history, specifically their role in World War two as an Axis power and the cause of some of the more vicious and bloody events of the war. Miyazaki’s family enjoyed a privileged war, with his father’s role at the head of a factory and living outside of Tokyo, the war was passed without event. Why this is relevant is the way this guilt is reflected in his films. This is another way in which Miyazki’s films diverge from classical western cinema. With such a strong historical basis, the gravity of the themes of these films is, in comparison to western cinema, much greater. Take for example Star Wars. Arguably one of the greatest movie/movies series in history. Not to reduce its cultural impact, but this film(s) is designed for entertainment, and follows a simple narrative curve (Andrew 1978) Miyazaki’s most famous work to date, Howl’s moving castle, encapsulates all those themes mentioned above. In an interview about the film, Miyazaki discusses the film and its almost organic conception, which I would argue adds a level of depth beyond entertainment. Miyazaki talks about how hes does not write scripts for his movies. He says that he would like that change this but that, that it simply the way he works (Miyazaki 2012) Perhaps this is a reason why his films become so soaked in his own personal history and ideals? without a original design or plan to follow, the natural course of his art takes is to take on these themes?
The large amount of eastern and western influences on Miyazaki’s works lead to the films having a mixed sense of place and origin. Miyazaki himself notes that his love of western writers, such as Tolkien and Asimov were great influences for his art (Callavaro 2006) What we find is that his films would perhaps have a more Western look, though strongly endowed with Eastern mythology or the reverse, an Eastern setting with a theme and story more recognized by Western audiences. This blending then, not only gives his movies a unique look and feel, but separates them from western cinema which often only tries to be that (Napier 2006)
Cavallaro, D. (2006). The anime art of Hayao Miyazaki. London: McFarland & Company
Napier J, S (2006) Matter out of Place: Carnival, Containment, and Cultural Recovery in Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away The Journal of Japanese Studies Vol. 32, No. 2 (Summer, 2006), pp. 287-310 (24 pages
Hayao Miyazaki. (2002). Retrieved from http://www.midnighteye.com/interviews/hayao-miyazaki/
Mesce, B (2012) The Myth Of The Three-Act Structure: Retreived from https://www.shorescripts.com/the-myth-of-the-three-act-structure/
Butler, S (2011) Shoujo Versus Seinen? Address and Reception: Puella Magi Madoka Magica retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10583-018-9355-9
Andrew, G (1978) Star Wars: A Myth for Our Time: Literature/Film Quarterly; Salisbury Vol. 6, Iss. 4, (Fall 1978): 314-326.