Hayao Miyazaki is a renowned auteur in not only his native Japan, but also the world. A masterful storyteller and director of some of the best animated films, he is one of the two founding directors of the renowned Studio Ghibli. He’s created a number of films that has captured the imaginations of children, as well as the hearts of adults. His films- such as “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” “Princess Mononoke,” and the Academy Award-winning “Spirited Away”- often incorporate magical elements, the power of flight, the value of nature, and headstrong female protagonists who overcome the odds that are thrown their way.
With his career spanning nearly 50 years, it would only seem right that he would have more than something to say about it all. That’s why in 2009 and 2014, Miyazaki fans everywhere were treated to two collections of essays and interviews he has done over the years; “Starting Point: 1979-1996” and “Turning Point: 1997-2008.”
The first book, as the title makes evident, starts from the beginning; in the days before Studio Ghibli was even established. Miyazaki goes in depth on what it takes to be an animator, what he wants to show through his stories, as well as proposals, character descriptions, and interviews that were done for the first films by Studio Ghibli. Picking up where the former ends, the second book explains Miyazaki’s transition to the international spotlight, especially as he garnered success with his later films.
Having been a huge fan of Miyazaki’s films since I was younger, I was immediately intrigued by what he had to say about his films, the subjects touched upon in his films, his life as a filmmaker, and about the ever-changing world. I am the target audience; the people who love his work and get more than a kick out of them. That’s why I wouldn’t find it fit for just anyone to read. I would, however, find aspiring animators as potential readers as well; especially of the first one, where he spends a large amount of time discussing the drive of an animator, what they overcome, and what kind of mindset they have be in when on the job.
Miyazaki, much like his films, is an atypical animator. He talks of how he works without a screenplay and how in the beginning, he’s never quite sure what direction the story will take. He digs deep on how “Princess Mononoke” was ultimately an explosion of frustration over the ongoing battle between humanity and nature and how the power of words play a prominent role in “Spirited Away.” He has essays devoted to his daily routines and why he doesn’t allow photography at the Ghibli Museum, as well as poems about the characters in his films that he writes for composer Joe Hisaishi, in aid to the making of the films’ scores. It’s through his writings and conversations that will have any Miyazaki fan have their mind blown by what he uncovers.
The pacing in both books are very stop-and-go, as you may go from reading an essay devoted to nature on one page, to finding yourself at the beginning of a conversation between Miyazaki and the late Roger Ebert on the next. But if you’re all for learning more about the magic behind this master storyteller, then “Starting Point” and “Turning Point” are a worthy read.