Hayao Miyazaki is probably the most famous animator in the history of world cinema. Known for his seminal achievements with Studio Ghibli such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away among many others, Miyazaki created a unique vision of the world that transcended cultural barriers and resonated with fans all over the world.
Although many were upset when Miyazaki announced that he was going to retire after The Wind Rises, he delighted fans by returning to the world of animation to make one last feature before bidding farewell. Titled How Do You Live?, Miyazaki’s upcoming project is going to be an adaptation of the eponymous novel by Yoshino Genzaburo.
Throughout Miyazaki’s body of work, the auteur has maintained a coherent and nuanced philosophy of art. Despite the fact that many modern animators have resorted to various software programs in order to create digital art, Miyazaki has always placed an emphasis on hand-drawn animation as well as a certain style.
His own son – Gorō Miyazaki – directed Studio Ghibli’s first proper 3D computer generated anime titled Earwig and the Witch which was dismissed by critics as a soulless product from a studio whose legacy is threatened by these new directions. That’s exactly why many anime fans still return to the timeless classics made by Miyazaki and his Ghibli contemporaries even though the anime industry keeps churning out new stuff at a rapid pace.
While explaining his philosophy of art and animation, Miyazaki once said: “Anime may depict fictional worlds, but I nonetheless believe that at its core it must have a certain realism. Even if the world depicted is a lie, the trick is to make it seem as real as possible. Stated another way, the animator must fabricate a lie that seems so real viewers will think the world depicted might possibly exist.”
In Studio Ghibli films, this realism is defined by the incredible detail in every single element within the frame. While many modern animators are forced to prioritise production speed over these intricacies, attention to detail has always been a major principle for Studio Ghibli. The pace of production also translates to non-stop action in many contemporary anime projects while Miyazaki’s idea of motion is characterised by the balance between meaningful pauses and bursts of action.
From Steven Spielberg to Pixar, Miyazaki’s influence on animation can hardly be quantified but his philosophy of art is very antithetical to industrial production demands which is why most artists can’t follow in his footsteps. Thankfully, there are artists like Shingo Tamagawa – an independent animator who spent three years making a three-minute short film titled Puparia and it proves why Miyazaki’s critique of industrial practices has been right all along.