Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of Studio Ghibli and creator of such films as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke is retiring. Liv Siddall asks if his legend can live on, and whether Studio Ghibli films can be the same without his utterly unique input. As always we welcome your comments below…
Upon hearing the sad news that writer, director and legend of the animation world Hayao Miyazaki had announced his retirement, the first thing I did was text anyone I knew was a fan so we could discuss this travesty. The second thing was to look him up and actually read about his unique career – something I had somehow, embarrassingly, neglected to do in all the years of enjoying the fruits of his career.
In case you don’t know who he is (which is much more probable than the average fan can bring themselves to believe) Hayao Miyazaki is an incredibly talented Japanese illustrator and animator who in 1985 set up an animation studio called Studio Ghibli with his friend and director, Isao Takahata. The studio began creating and releasing feature films like no one had ever seen before. At the height of Disney’s power, these guys were creating animations that adults and children alike could enjoy together, on a seemingly much more profound level. Films like Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and My Neighbour Totoro received critical acclaim and were enjoyed worldwide by small children, teenagers and fully-fledged adults due to the strange spoonfuls of magic that Hayao was able to pour discreetly into them.
I first came into contact with Studio Ghibli when my brother showed me Spirited Away. He told me that the main character reminded him of me when I was about eight years old, so I watched that film open-mouthed from start to finish, immersed in a world of luscious meadows, kindly spirits and dumplings I could almost taste, all drawn in such rich colours and animated to perfection. It was a feast for the eyes, and it genuinely made me feel eight again.
That’s the beauty of Hayao Miyazaki’s work, he makes you feel little and brave. Amid his worlds of mythical ghouls, spirits, animals, monsters, gods and machines with thrilling stories interweaving throughout, the fundamental storylines are those classic Disney formulas of good triumphing over evil, of family values and love conquering over all. What differentiates his films from others is the skill, the pure, jaw dropping art with which each and every one is made.
He’s not just making animations with clever storytelling and loveable characters, Hayao Miyazaki is using beautiful, incomparable draughtsmanship and skill to encourage you to go outside more, to make more friends, to enjoy nature and to love your family. I don’t know any other director who can promote these things even half as well as he did.
Before embarking on what my imagination proves to be one of the most picturesque and relaxing retirements in history (picture it, Ghibli fans: apple-green grass, a deck chair, the flap of a newspaper in the breeze, Totoro waddling past) Miyazaki has left us a goodbye note in the form of The Wind Rises. The film, compared to the astounding fiction present in his earlier work, is based on a true story of Jiro Horikoshi, the Japanese man who designed a plane that was eventually used heavily in World War II. His grief at having unwittingly designed a weapon of war is what inspired Hayao to make a film about him, and to watch the trailer in the knowledge that this is his last film – his final wave – is enough to make you sob into your sleeve.
Apple hasn’t been the same since the lack of Steve Jobs. Nirvana wasn’t quite the same when Kurt Cobain died. Maybe the films will continue, but I sincerely doubt that such a rare, delicate level of magic will still be prevalent without this man to steer the ship.
Luckily we have one of the most magnificent and timeless back-catalogues of any filmmaker in history, and Hayao Miyazaki’s wise and beautiful quotes to keep us going for now.