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Creator / Hayao Miyazaki

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"In order to grow your audience, you must betray their expectations."

Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎駿) (born January 5, 1941) is both the co-founder of Studio Ghibli and the single most successful and renowned animator in Japan since Osamu Tezuka (which also makes him the most famous Japanese animator worldwide).

Miyazaki's father and uncle owned a large airplane factory, and as a child, Miyazaki mostly drew airplanes when he first learned how to draw; the influences of growing up around flying machines have resonated throughout his work since.

He began his career in the early 1960s at Toei, but came to prominence writing and directing anime for television in the '70s, including several episodes of the Lupin III: Part 1 TV series. This led to his first feature film work as director of an action-adventure caper flick starring the Lupin characters: The Castle of Cagliostro (which, despite its liberties with the characters, has become an acknowledged classic for both the Lupin franchise and Miyazaki). In addition to his early writing and directing work, he also lent his artistic talents to numerous anime series during this time by providing (among other things) storyboards, scene design, organisation, and occasional key animation for the early entries into the World Masterpiece Theater series. He named The Snow Queen (1957) as one of his favorite films and one of his biggest influences to keep him in the animation industry.

In 1984, Miyazaki and producer Isao Takahata scraped together a staff and enough financial support to make a feature film: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, based on a Miyazaki-penned manga. The film's success allowed Miyazaki and Takahata to set up their own studio — Ghibli — which became their base of operations from then onwards.

As far as recurring elements in Miyazaki's work go, he enjoys Green Aesops, airships, and Scenery Porn, has an unexplained love for pigs, is considered to be responsible for a fair amount of Nightmare Fuel by animation fans, and contains flying scenes in almostnote  all of his films. He dislikes the simplicity of Black-and-White Morality (i.e. "good vs. evil"); he generally eschews this approach by placing both sides of his main conflicts in the grey. Exceptions to this rule include Nausicaanote  and especially Castle in the Skynote .

One indicator of the stature and craftmanship of Miyazaki comes from who licenses his films in the United States — Disney paid exorbitant amounts of money to become the exclusive distributor of his works in English on his terms. Nausicaa suffered a Macekre (Warriors of the Wind) that completely missed the point of the film; when he heard that Miramax would alter Princess Mononoke for American audiences, he allegedly sent the American-language version's producers a katana with a two-word note attached: "No cuts."note 

Miyazaki has also gained notoriety for vocalizing his beliefs regardless of whom he might offend, which makes him a unique case of an executive who goes by his word. When his 2001 film Spirited Away won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003, he didn't accept the Oscar in person because America had gone to war with Iraq and he had refused to travel to the US. He also considers himself a feminist, which should make it no big surprise that nearly all of his films feature female main characters (though it should be noted that he left his wife Akemi Ota, a promising animator in her own right, to raise their two sons alone at the expense of her career, despite promising that she would not have to stop working). He doesn't keep in touch in high-tech gadgets and consumer products; only his most popular titles have CG elements in them, and he later shut down Ghibli's entire CG department. (Recently, however, he has said that whether hand-drawn animation or CGI is used is not as important as the talent of the person doing the animation.) He has also openly criticized high-tech materialistic societies (he once compared the iPad to "masturbation") and has criticized the modern anime industry for being overrun by otaku who "don't spend time watching real people" and are "humans who can't stand looking at other humans."

Miyazaki currently stands alone as the only anime director to win an Oscar — for aforementioned Spirited Away and for The Boy and the Heron. Spirited Away was the first traditionally animated film, anime film, and non-English-language animated film to win the award (with The Boy and the Heron being the second), with its victory also coming alongside the improbable defeat of both Ice Age and Disney's own Lilo & Stitch. The film's unprecedented — and unexpected — Oscar win caused Disney to widen the film's theatrical release for a few weeks prior to the film's DVD release; both film critics and fans of animation (Japanese or otherwise) heaped praise upon the film. (Miyazaki was also nominated for the same award in 2006 for Howl's Moving Castle and in 2013 for The Wind Rises. He also received an Academy Honorary Award in 2014 for his overall contributions to animation and film.)

He has teased retirement since 1997, only to defy himself every couple of years with the announcement of a new film, to the point that him announcing that each new film will be his "last one" has become a running gag among fans. As of this writing, he has released his most recent "last" film, The Boy and the Heron, as well as a computer animated short, Boro the Caterpillar, a break from his usual disdain of digital technology.

His older son, Goro Miyazaki, is an animator and director who also works at Studio Ghibli. However, their relationship is somewhat strained since he spends most of his time working for Ghibli and being an absent father to his family, which disillusioned Goro a lot, as evident in his directorial effort Tales from Earthsea, which shows his bitter feelings towards his father. Even during the production of From Up on Poppy Hill, things were tense due to their creative differences. Despite this, Miyazaki still displays some support to his son, as shown where he explains how even though his son doesn't understand how to be a director, it's OK for him to stop since it is not an easy job. He also added that he wanted Goro to try and tap in to his wisdom the production of From Up On Poppy Hill so he can change his vision and surely enough, the outcomes are positive enough that their relationship is mended a little.

He additionally has his own fan-made religion.

Television work:


Other works:

Hayao Miyazaki and his works provide examples of:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: Miyazaki is one of the more notable examples of this Trope. Initially, his seventh film, Princess Mononoke, was regarded as his final film way back in 1997. Yet, he would continue to work and released four more films. He would consider retirement again in 2013 (after the release of The Wind Rises). But this turned into another short-lived retirement, as his next film, The Boy and the Heron, started production in 2016 and released in 2023.
  • Adaptation Inspiration: Many of his works are adaptations, but he molds them into his signature style.
  • Animal Motifs: Pigs are featured in various films of his, mainly because of their likeness to people.
  • Author Appeal: Planes, pigs, cloudscapes, gorging on food, nature and strong female characters.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: He never actually said "Anime was a mistake. It's nothing but trash." It originated as a joke caption placed over real footage from the documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, which was then spread by fans who were aware of its humorous intent, but it's similar enough to things he's actually said that some have taken it to be legit.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: While not as explicit as his anti-war messages, there are notable anti-capitalist themes in Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Future Boy Conan and The Wind Rises, where it is invariably shown to be a corrupting force that ruins the environment and strips people of their identities. Up until about the collapse of the Soviet Union, Miyazaki considered himself a Marxist, and while he doesn't identify as one anymore he's still opposed to capitalism and runs Studio Ghibli like a socialist co-op.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: It's often joked that any person who comes within five feet of him will be animated into his next movie. No two characters in his movies look alike, as all of them are based on real individuals that he's met or drawn while people-watching.
  • Central Theme: His films pretty much follow Shinto traditions often found in Japan due to its themes of spirits and nature. Other major themes include humanity's relationship with nature and technology, the wholesomeness of natural and traditional patterns of living, the importance of art and craftsmanship, the difficulty of maintaining a pacifist ethic in a violent world, feminism, environmentalism, growth and redemption, and the disastrous effects of war.
  • Cool Plane: As mentioned above, airplanes were the first thing he learned how to draw. As such, most of his films also feature at least one fantastic flying machine or flight as a prominent theme.
  • Creator Thumbprint: He has a distinctive style that is made up of many of the tropes listed here.
  • Dull Surprise: It's unknown whether or not this is the result of the dubbing process, but there's at least one character that does this in a scene in his movies. This trope is so frequent in his filmography that fans have come to see it as a trademark of his.
  • Expressive Hair: His characters get so angry/horrified/surprised that their hair levitates.
  • Good Versus Good: Except for Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro and Laputa: Castle in the Sky, there are no typical villains in his films. Everybody has flaws and redeeming qualities, which makes them seem realistic and believable.
  • Green Aesop:
    • A recurring theme in his work, though he claims that it's never to encourage environmentalism, as he feels it's wrong to use his trade as a springboard for his own socio-political beliefs. In interviews, he'd usually conclude discussions about this by encouraging readers to go pick up garbage in their driveways (as he does every morning).
    • Played with in the Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind manga, in that what's pollution to humanity is necessary for the new humanity to survive.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality / White-and-Grey Morality: He's very big on making people empathic to both sides of an issue, expressed best with the following quote. At times it can stray to Black-and-Gray Morality with some outright inexcusable types fighting flawed but on the whole decent human beings.
    Miyazaki: The concept of portraying evil and then destroying it - I know this is considered mainstream, but I think it is rotten. This idea that whenever something evil happens someone particular can be blamed and punished for it, in life and in politics, is hopeless.
  • Implied Love Interest: He prefers to use these instead of giving his characters actual love interests.
  • No Antagonist: Aside from Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro his films don't really have clear cut villains. If there is one in other movies, they will still have a lot of human depth.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: Bar Howl's Moving Castle (due to the story being a romance) and The Wind Rises, none of Miyazaki's films see romance ensue between the protagonists. Miyazaki notes in interviews that he dislikes this plot development, viewing it as cliché and overused, and as the only image children's media, even when targeted at girls, markets to people.
  • Ocular Gushers: Several of his films include at least one scene of a character crying massive gobs of tears the size of golf balls.
  • Plucky Girl: Because of his strong feminist views, many of his female leads will have strong personalities.
  • Rousseau Was Right: This is the philosophy trope his works seems to follow the most. The films he has directed where this trope is shown the strongest is in My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke.
  • Rule 34 – Creator Reactions: He lamented that while he prefers to have female protagonists, "It's difficult. They immediately become the subjects of Lolicon artwork."
  • Scenery Porn: One of his films' major characteristics.
  • Silence Is Golden: Oftentimes his works will have long gaps between conversations just to let the world breathe, such as Lupin silently exploring the ruins of an ancient castle, or the long, quiet train ride in Spirited Away.
  • Sliding Scale of Gender Inequality: Level 5. The vast majority of his works treat female characters as equal to their male counterparts, if not superior in one way or another. This is quite intentional on the part of Miyazaki, an avowed feminist. To Miyazaki's credit, when there is any clear superiority of female over male (for example, it's heavily implied that only females can perform magic in Kiki's Delivery Service), it's never treated as a failing on anyone's part; that's just the way it is.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Despite some of its themes of war and ruining nature, his films are told from an optimistic point of view and often have a sense of magic and wonder to them.
  • Sliding Scale of Realistic vs. Fantastic: Miyazaki's films usually combine realism (complex characters will realistic movements) with something fantastical.
  • War Is Hell: A common theme in many of his works. War is always portrayed as inglorious and futile and militaristic or warlike characters tend to be the most unambiguously evil people in his films. He grew up in the aftermath of World War II, when Japan was largely reduced to rubble by firebombing, so this is quite understandable.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Miyazaki and Takahata had plans for an anime adaptation of Pippi Longstocking back in the early '70s, but they were forced to end the project after author Astrid Lindgren denied them permission, given her thoughts about her works being animated during her lifetime. The animated Pippi's design would later be used for Mimiko in Panda! Go Panda!. His son Goro Miyazaki would later go on to direct the anime adaptation of Ronja the Robber's Daughter, which aired 12 years after her death.
    • He was at one point interested in directing an animated Parasyte film with Studio Ghibli, but since New Line Cinema owned the film rights to the series at the time, his plan was quickly dropped. The manga eventually did get a TV anime by Madhouse and two Japanese live-action films after New Line's rights expired.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Most of his films feature end credits, with images depicting the characters' future.
  • Write What You Know: His mom, Yoshiko, was diagnosed with Pott Disease (Spinal TB) in 1947 and was being treated in a sanitarium for the first few years. She was cured in 1955 but the disease had irreversible effects on her spine, leaving her wheelchair/beddbound until her death in 1983. Her illness would go onto influence Yasuko in My Neighbor Totoro being cured and going home healthy with Mei and Satsuki and the wheelchair-using elderly women (especially Toki) in Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea.
  • Write Who You Know: According to Hayao Miyazaki: Ten Years With the Master, he based the characters Yasuko, Dola, Toki, and Sophie (to name a few) on his mother Yoshiko Miyazaki.