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Animator Hayao Miyazaki worries about children's future

45 Comments
By Taro Fujimoto

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."

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This guy is jealous, I think. His films are political. That he mentions Aso's liking of manga means he doesnt feel acknowledged(even with all the profits sitting in his bank account), and also shows his lack of tolerance for a different to him, "ethnic group". He is not affecting children as much as he likes? That may be a good thing, seeing he is now pondering the good and evil issue

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illsayit...I do not think you read the same article as me. Miyazaki...is the man.

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His films are political.

If anyone who loves his homeland is political, Miyazaki may be political. However, I suppose that what he wants is merely to protect our country from reckless exploitation of nature.

By the way, I'm just a political man probably. I believe the members of LDP have been destroying our beautiful country Japan. And, the Aso Corporation needs the exploitation of nature.

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Dear Hayao Miyazaki ...u are my favourite animator..your opinion in this article seems to be true to the core..it's sad to see the young generations of Japan..becomes weak...from the assault and obsession of virtual world..these young generations physically and mentality weak..and worse of all, they seems to loose interest in the real life and submerge themselves in the v.r (virtual reality) life..I'm a teenager myself, i had try hard to persuade my peers to involve more in outdoor sports activity..but my attempt seems to be futile..as more and more of my friends submerge and obsessed themselves with video games and online games...maybe they have not realize that they had wasted the time of their lives and are drifting further..and further away..from the real life..and the one who really cares for them..sorry for the long post..seems like i need to get this things out of my head...to all my friends..pls get a real life...

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His films political value doesnt play with the politics of country, no. His politics play with those between male and female. That is a lot more dangerous, perhaps. Though I agree a virtual world and its enticement can be dangerous, especially his type of videos are enticing, and until now within boundaries, though they seem to becoming tunnel-visioned. Totoro was great.....and each had a message of the times, but message of Japan? No that is wrong. That is where it has become political.

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That’s because stories about an 8-year-old boy, for example, inevitably become tragic.”

Yes, he is concerned about the future of children....deeply concerned! To have a strong male character means a rape and suicide scene. Maybe he should put away his pen.

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Miyazaki, 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 (BUT NOT ANIME!?!)are sapping children of their strength, he worries.

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“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.

this man has a good head on his shoulders

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Miyazaki should be worrying. His films add nothing to alleviate the spiritual vacuum among Japanese youth. The only spiritual message "children's souls" get in his major films is mysticism and the occult. What is sapping youth's strength are books and movies of this caliber. Miyazaki would do well to invest in what these kids really need -- a godly foundation.

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I love all his films, but all one need do to realize the political element of his films is turn on the English subtitle.

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Miyazaki should be worrying. His films add nothing to alleviate the spiritual vacuum among Japanese youth. The only spiritual message "children's souls" get in his major films is mysticism and the occult. What is sapping youth's strength are books and movies of this caliber. Miyazaki would do well to invest in what these kids really need -- a godly foundation.

Haha. I wonder if you realise how ridiculous you sound. Do you want Japan to turn into America? Fat lot of good Christianity has done there.

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a godly foundation? ahhahaha, go tell it on the mountain Isiah, not here.

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Adults worrying that the current generation of children are going bad - that's something new!

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He worries about children?

I worry about him and his fracked up mind with those messed up movies of his.

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morosophos - a godly foundation? they could go back to worship the emperor but caused a slight problem 50 years back.

Kameleon - messed up movies? watch "grave of the fireflies" and then talk again!

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I was lulled into the virtual world. For most of my High school years I revolved around video games and...cartoons...I love cartoons. I grew tired of myself, hating my self, but instead of just hating myself and not doing anything, I acted. When I graduated I kicked my self out of my partents place at 19 got a job and I now RARELY play video games. I don't watch TV. I do watch some cartoons and movies on my computer, but I go days on end without doing so. I lost a lot of weight, I enjoy the outdoors.

I like to draw. When I lived in that virtual world, my artwork sucked ass. When I moved out and didn't have television to distract me. My artwork has improved tremendously. If you have kids or if your a kid. Get that damn Television out of your damn room. Go out side. If you want, play your stupid video game outside, cause eventually you will put it down and enjoy the scenery. Find yourself a constrictive hobby. Be it painting, drawing, music, cutting hair I don't care. Something that makes you think. Video games should be just a small brake from your mundane life, it shouldn't BE your life.

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Even though I admire his work very much,some of it does tend towards the Lolita complex on occasion.He seems to have a very unusual knack of understanding young girls very well.Who can forget Mei in Totoro?

I think one of the problems here in Japan that Mr.Miyazaki himself adds to, is the complete lck of toy animals in stores here.My niece loves little model animals and delights in naming them and expanding her very impressive zoo.I looked everywhee in Japan for these little animal figurines and eventually gave up.Japanese kids have their heads filled with mythological monsters like Totoro (based on a wombat) and pikachu and of course, Kitty Chan, and yet they have very little chance to play with animals that actually can be found around the world.Kids have very little association with real nature here.I find that very sad.

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The only spiritual message "children's souls" get in his major films is mysticism and the occult.

It worked for the Greeks and Romans, and even the Nazis. Spiritualism can come from many sources and drive people, and all three groups I have named were very driven at certain points in history.

What is sapping youth's strength are books and movies of this caliber.

I cannot say whether they are being sapped or pacified. All I can say is that I don't care either way so long as they do not grow up to bother others, such as the Greeks, the Romans and the Nazis did. Spiritualism is great until it motivates people to stomp on others.

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Dear Mr. Miyazaki, I agree and you are an intelligent, talented man. However sir, bread and circuses are the language of the common people. That is basically what all this manga, consumerism, electronic gadgetry are: bread and circuses.

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Why is anime so accepted in this country ?? 40 year old Tom and Jerry has more imagination and creativity than modern Japanese anime.

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“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.

nobody commented on this great statement. this is exactly what I believe Japan should do: stop worrying about becoming the greatest economy in the world, and start worrying about the happiness of its people. and the best way is to start with the children and their environment

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this is exactly what I believe Japan should do: stop worrying about becoming the greatest economy in the world, and start worrying about the happiness of its people

luckily Aso agrees with you! Japan will be very vibrant and everyone will be happy by this time next year

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Aso is a tool. He will be gone in 12 months, just like Abe and Fukuda before him.

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Umm...has anybody ever met a truly happy Japanese ?? Maybe anime is the answer !!

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“That’s something he should enjoy in private.”

There is an abundant amount of Manga that Aso enjoys in Private. I am sure the toilet is his last refuge and he must spend a considerable amount of time locked in there.

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I always liked Miyazaki's movies and feel that tell stories of empowerment and morality. His remarks are sensible and should be heeded by those in power as well as parents.

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As wonderful as Miyazaki's works have been - and they are indeed wonderful -, I'm puzzled at the conception that an 8 year old boy's life is somehow "inevitably tragic." What is so tragic about being a little boy? If I were to go out on a limb, I would suspect that perhaps Mr. Miyazaki's childhood was less than happy at said point and that he is projecting.

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I have always loved Miyazaki's works. I thought he also did Castle of Cagliostro, the Lupin the III film, and Kiki's Delivery Service too. Both of these are the first of his films that I saw, and have always loved for a long time. I had also liked his Puss in Boots as well, having seen that as a real young kid - but I never knew that he was the one who made that one (or even that it came from Japan) for a LONG time.

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timeon, you're right. there's a lot of knit-picking and hair-splitting going on here, but the underlying sentiment he expresses is exactly right: children are the future. childhood should be valued and nurtured, not as an exploitable market source, but as the future source of ideas for our world. children with little time spent imagining as children, inevitably have a narrower spectrum of ideas when they're older. exposing children to a variety of experiences spurs the imaginative process. its the long-term investment in children that is too often sacrificed for short-term economic gain. at least, that's my take on what he's saying.

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Wow what a collection of negative comments.

Traditionally children's tales are inflused with adult realities. Look at the song "Ring Around the Rosies" if in doubt.

The first time I saw Totoro I thought I had seen the most brilliant children's story for our time. I am not an anime fan really. But it was clear that the themes of nature, imagination and the real challenges of growing up were all there. The characters were ones kids could relate to, their mystical encounter something kids wish for. And yet it showed the challenges of a family with an ill Mom and working dad taking on an unusual role.

Unlike Disney, which has taught generations to dream of being a princess waiting for some prince to set her up in life, Miyazaki's characters are imperfect, often simple, sometimes dark but always teaching a lesson about responsibility, growth and the value of imagination.

Give my Gibli any day over the vast armies of other animation out there. And if I have kids, you can bet Totoro will be something they grow up with and Cinderella will be hidden as long as possible. I'd rather have my daughter dreaming of a fur covered god of nature teaching respect for the magic of the earth and imagination, than some pink princess with unrealistic expecations and dependency issues.

Miyazaki is a genius. I hope we can see more of this man's intelligent and insightful work.

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Traditionally children's tales are infused with adult realities.

Stories are also frequently told from a child's point of view by directors working under state censorship to explore the hypocrisies of the adult world (or political system) without stepping on toes.

I've never actually seen a Japanese anime film. But an upcoming three-day "anime after dark" festival in my town will provide the opportunity. Once I began reading about them, well they are getting good reviews from discerning critics: "By the end of this phantasmagorical journey, I was as wrapped up in the precarious fate of these two wounded kids and the honorable yakuza warlords of Treasure Town as I've been in any film all year." Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com

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Betzee

Whatever animes are being shown at the festival, it would behoove you to rent a few of Miyzaki's works; you can find some at most rental video shops. I recommend Sen to Chihiro... ahem... Spirited Away, that is...

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I often watch his movies from childhood to now. His animation's contents are so deep. His movies include a lot of important messages in our future, like war, environment, and history and so on. My favorite Ghibli movie is “Princess mononoke”. I watched that when I was around 10 years old. I remember the impact after finish the movie. Even sleeping, mononoke appeared in my dream. At that time, I felt human can’t live without nature. His movies can enjoy not only children, but also adults. And his movies have strong power. And I think children need to watch his animation. I think these days, people is lacking consideration to people and also environment. So, his movies give us a lot of opportunities to consider about important things in future. I’m looking forward to his work!!

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i'm worried 4 the kiddos too...specialy for the stupids animators...is better read a book than make sicks kids looking the tv all day or make them fanatics...

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three things:

Miyazaki's work is political (just not Japanese politics) Is kinda tiring that only girls are the main role of his movies, a boy's life cannot be that tragic and that demonstrates lack of imagination, that's dissapointing I only watched "Mononoke" and "Porco Rosso", so far I liked the Porco Rosso... the other one was too dense
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Triumvere,

In fact I try my best to see films of interest first on the big screen, which are meccas for movie geeks who become attached to the theatres where we experience our cinematic epiphanies. I'm looking forward to this anime festival, held in a restored movie palace. Later I will try to rent more or to watch the ones I enjoyed again. Even on my HDTV, it's not the same.

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I enjoy many of Miyazaki's works, but he is a god blasted tree hugger. While Mononoke Hime was a very good film, San is a literal posterchild for ELF style Ecoterrorists.

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Miyazaki is a tree hugger. But then again more of us should be. Unless you like living on a desert planet. Or leaving it to the roaches.

Teaching kids to respect nature is good. Teaching kids to have an imagination is good. Look at some of the values taught in his movies.

Totoro: Imagination, family, respect for nature, gentle undoctrined spirituality.

Sen to Chihiro: Patience, empathy, learing unselfish values.

Mononoke: Respect for and protection of the environment.

Nearly every movie of his has positive values. Far and away better than the plastic values of Disney.

1.Cinderella: Don't worry your prince will bail you out of your bad work/home situation. If you are cute enough.

2.Sleeping Beauty: Don't worry your prince will bail you out of your cursed situation. If you are cute enough. I route for the dragon at the end anyway. But still...

3.Snow White: Forget all the tiny old guys who have taken care of you all your life, some prince will come and improve your annual income.

4.101 Dalmatians: Ok this one I like. Dalmations are evil and Cruella was on to something there.

Give me Miyazaki for my family any day over the dependency laden stories of Disney.

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As usual, an adult commenting on today's children can only think of them in terms of his own childhood. Today's kids are today's kids, not the kids of anyone's yesteryear - it's a failure of imagination, reason and perception to associate them with any context other than their own.

The kids will be fine; they always have been. It just may not be a "fine" that fits some oldster's anachronistic definition.

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I like Miyazaki's movies. I often watch he's movies. I went to watch "Princess Mononoke" with my family when the movie was screened. When the "Mononoke" showing, I was 11 or 12 years old. But I really thought about human, animals and nature at the time. I think his animation moves children's mind. We can learn many things in his movies. He makes animetion for children, but it appeal to heart even adult and take us back to our childhood. I think naturally he's animation won the Oscar.

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That he doesn't make movies about "good vs evil" is something that always attracted me to his stories. Mononoke is a shining example of this, that each of the many parties involved could at any point be seen as good OR evil, depending on your point of view, and the film made this very clear.

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frankthedm


>I enjoy many of Miyazaki's works, but he is a god blasted tree hugger. While Mononoke Hime was a very good film, San is a literal posterchild for ELF style Ecoterrorists.

Though San is against humans and their civilization that takes over the forest for their own interest, Shishigami (Forest Spirit) himself does not seem so instantly vengeful; he even lays to rest the ecoterroristic leader Okkoto Nushi who began to decay due to his rage over the destruction of the forest. The message here seems to be that it's your rage and hatred rather than your enemy that will destroy yourself.

Miyazaki's eye does not condemn one-sidedly Lady Eboshi the leader of exploiters of the forest, who though seemingly callous actually cares about the welfare of her people. It even seems somewhat sympathetic to her. Everyone has his/her own god blasted logic and way of life which are undeniable and compelling as long as we live. Could such a viewpoint be any sublation to the belief that most of the troubles in the world are due to the multi-ethnicity and the like?

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I shiver in despair at the Miyazakis book adaptations - hey they slaughtered my favorite books without a single gomen-ne. I was ELATED when Ursula K. Le Guin told Miyazaki's son to his face, he had made a delightful movie but it certainly wasn't about her book. I wished Diana Wyne Jones would do something similar. Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle was an assassination attempt my inner child barely survived.

That unfortunate lack of empathy from the Miyazakis aside, I love My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away (especially the part where the dragon child explains he was left a wandering homeless when men canalized shut his river with concrete - so modern Japan, I was so sorry for him). In the light of the river deity's plight, I think the message about the ill effects of doing away with nature for personal benefit and greed, reflected on Chihiro's selfishness which disappears once she must assume a place in the chain, responsibilities over others and care about those she loves instead of whining and demanding all the time, is a useful message for both children and adults. I think it is good that Miyazaki has basically devoted his movies to try to awaken the so-called Japanese old spirit kept by fading traditions such as forest care and family values centered around work and communal effort. Children need to be told and to learn about these things, because they are the future. This is a message that gets drowned in the SAMURAI WAY smoke-screen of right-wingers and politicians. Miyazaki has not only spoken about his concerns - he's done something about them.

Just KEEP THEM AWAY (both Miyazaki and his son) from adapting books to screen.

Ah, and their DVDs are ridiculously expensive in Japan. They are way cheaper overseas (like everything else).

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I was happy to watch his interview: http://www.mayomo.com/#/category=9;keywords=%22Hayao%20Miyazaki%22;id=27718/

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i want my children to grow-up happy, well-rounded. so, i will do my best to keep them away from mr. miyaki's and the works of other japanese animators. that NARUTO TV program has more than enough violence to twist a child's mind. ONEPIECE is even worse. lot's of people bleeding with no deaths. how're japanese children supposed to learn that violence eventuates in death, if they never see anyone die?

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