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Miyazaki Hayao

Entry updated 3 April 2023. Tagged: Artist, Author, Film.

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(1941-    ) Japanese artist, director and author, primarily known for the animated feature films that made him Japan's most lucrative and best-loved filmmaker from the 1980s to the 2010s. The scion of a well-to-do industrial family, Miyazaki graduated in Politics and Economics from the aristocratic Gakushūin University in 1963, going straight into work as an animator at the Tōei studio. There, he fast established a reputation for artistic innovation and union disputes, as a shop steward who argued against the proletarianization of artistic labour. He spent much of the 1970s working unhappily in the sausage-factory of television Anime, where he specialized in worthy adaptations of children's literature from around the world, as well as Future Boy Conan (1978), based on Alexander Key's novel The Incredible Tide (1970), and the proto-Steampunk serial, Meitantei Holmes ["Famous Detective Holmes"] (1984-1985; vt Sherlock Hound, 2010 UK), in which Sherlock Holmes is recast as an anthropomorphic dog.

The bulk of Miyazaki's Cinema output is in the mode of fantasy [see Hayao Miyazaki in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], although his early Kaze no Tani no Nausicaä (1984 Japan; heavily cut vt Warriors of the Wind, 1985; uncut release as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, 2005), based on his own Manga, was undeniably sf. Its success led to the formation of a new studio, Studio Ghibli, largely dedicated to making further works by Miyazaki and his long-term collaborator Isao Takahata. The studio's first production was Tenkū no shiro Laputa (1986; vt Laputa: Castle in the Sky; Castle in the Sky; Laputa: The Flying Island), directed by Miyazaki and inspired by Laputa in Gulliver's Travels (1726; rev 1735) by Jonathan Swift. Both Nausicaä and the later Pastoral fantasy Tonari no Totoro (1988, known in the West as My Neighbor Totoro) won the Seiun Award in the Media category. Also notable is Mononoke Hime (1997) (see Princess Mononoke).

Miyazaki's work is generally characterized by a sense of nostalgia and Ecology, and an unsurpassed appreciation of the role, uses and concerns of Children in SF. Such themes reached their apotheosis in his Oscar-winning Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (2001; trans as Spirited Away US) and the subsequent Gake no Ue no Ponyo (2008 Japan; trans as Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, 2009 US), which deftly present a Magic Realist view of the world entirely in keeping with both the limits and possibilities of the imagination of a child. His later works often seem to contain an element of self-figuration, symbolizing the rising fear at his studio that he was irreplaceable, and repeatedly enticed back for just one more film. There is certainly some such sense in Hauru no Ugoku Shiro (2004; trans as Howl's Moving Castle), based on Howl's Moving Castle (1986) by Diana Wynne Jones, which in Miyazaki's hands becomes a parable about an adoring maid to a distracted magician, his mind ever preoccupied with distant wars and requests for aid – Miyazaki himself married a fellow animator, Akemi Ota. However, Miyazaki's films always leave room for multiple interpretation; he has since admitted that he also saw the film as an allegory of the Second Gulf War, since much of its offscreen action involves the invasion of a sovereign state under false pretences. This film won a 2006 Nebula for dramatic presentation.

With films that have surpassed many live-action rivals at the Japanese box office, and an unassailable creative standing that has led some, rather patronizingly, to refer to him as Japan's answer to Disney, Miyazaki's work as a filmmaker has largely eclipsed his relatively minor dabblings in Manga, but also his far more noteworthy efforts in media criticism (see Critical and Historical Works About SF). His nonfiction writings, collated in two books with an implied third yet to be published, not only form a narrative account of his life and work, but also a dissenting voice against the developing style of "anime", railing against the rise of the hyper-real and the commodification of children's entertainment begun in earnest by Osamu Tezuka and developed in subsequent years by the likes of Yoshiyuki Tomino. Despite being seen by many as a standard-bearer for Anime abroad, Miyazaki framed much of his work in opposition to it, a stance allegorized in his last feature work as director, Kaze Tachinu (2013; trans as The Wind Rises), the biography of an aircraft designer whose creations are put to horrific use in World War Two.

He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2014; he received the Chesley Award for life achievement in 2017 and the World Fantasy Award for life achievement in 2019. [JonC]

see also: Asteroids.

Hayao Miyazaki

born Tokyo: 5 January 1941

works (selected)

about the film-maker


previous versions of this entry

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