Animation has become symbolic of Japan's culture and industry thanks to the work of anime guru Hayao Miyazaki. At 67, the Oscar-winning Miyazaki is still going strong, continuing to create philosophical films for children. "I don't want to create films as a catharsis," he says. "I want to create films through which children can see and experience something new. I want to make that one unforgettable film in everyone's childhood, something they can enjoy for at least 30 years."
Born in 1941 in Tokyo, Miyazaki studied politics and economics at Gakushuin University. After graduating in 1963, he joined Toei Animation Company. In 1985, he co-founded Studio Ghibli with fellow director Isao Takahata, and has directed nine feature films since, among them "My Neighbor Totoro" (1988), Princess Mononoke" (1997), the 2001 film "Spirited Away," which won the 2003 Oscar for best animated film, and "Howl's Moving Castle" (2004). His latest film, "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea," was released in Japan last July and will be released in the U.S. next year. It tells the story of a goldfish that longs to become a girl after getting a glimpse of the human world when she's rescued from a jar by a 5-year-old boy.
In all of Miyazaki's films, children are the central theme, with the main character frequently being a strong, independent girl. "I find girls more grounded in reality and confident in themselves," he explains. "It's quite difficult to make films about boys. That's because stories about an 8-year-old boy, for example, inevitably become tragic."
Miyazaki, who says "utopia exists only in one's childhood life," believes it is becoming difficult to reach out to children's souls because of increasing consumerism and the virtual world. Television, video games, email, mobile phones and manga are sapping children of their strength, he worries. "Rather than looking at how to stimulate domestic demand by building bridges or roads, we should provide a proper environment for our future generations because children are Japan's best investment," he says.
Miyazaki also cautions about Japan viewing the world from a homogeneous perspective. "We need to see the world from a multi-ethnic viewpoint. "I think nationalism stems from the belief that most of the troubles in the world are due to multi-ethnicity. We learned, or should have learned from the last war, that the town or country we love can turn into something bad in the world. That is a lesson we must not forget. I don't create films where good and evil fight."
Miyazaki, who was largely unknown outside of Japan before "Princess Mononoke," says "it is a sort of bonus for me that my films have been accepted around the world. It would be good if my work would have something universal as a result."
The director cautions, however, that he doesn't want Japanese animation to be used for political purposes. "I don't want us to be simply categorized as 'soft power,'" he says. Even Prime Minister Taro Aso's publicly stated of manga embarrasses Miyazaki. "That's something he should enjoy in private."© Japan Today