Archive for August, 2009

Miyazaki Heavy Industries

I’ve been meaning to blog about Hayao Miyazaki’s visit to the U.S. last month, but the words kind of escape me.  Except this: Hayao Miyazaki is a genius.


(photo courtesy of UC Berekeley Center for Japanese Studies/Alfred Laij)

My article on Miyazaki’s visit ran in last week’s PW Comics Week. quotes directly from Miyazaki’s actual appearances at San Diego Comicon and the Los Angeles Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences.

Cinema Blend has footage of Miyazaki at San Diego Comicon.  Ghibli World has all the news of Miyazaki’s visit and a load of information about Ponyo.

Susan King at the Los Angeles Times looks into the financials of Miyazaki’s past films in the U.S. and Disney’s push to make Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli household names.  Will Ponyo be the huge success Disney wants it to be?  That’s a discussion for a separate blog post.

The Los Angeles Times has another, lengthier article on Miyazaki-sensei.  It’s long and a bit directionless which is sort of a testament to my argument that writing about this man ain’t easy.

But I love a challenge.  So I’ll be writing a review/profile of Miyazaki for Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper.  And it will be awesome.

In the meantime, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea will be opening at select theatres starting this Friday (August 14).

Watch for the scene where Ponyo is running on the water.  Allegedly, Miyazaki-sensei himself did the bulk of the drawing for that scene.  This is not a man who’s afraid of hard work.  In fact, he’s said himself that when he goes, it’ll likely be at his drawing board, pen in hand.

“It’s not a very cool way to go.” He said during his onstage interview at the Zellerbach Hall at U.C. Berkeley.

You don’t need “cool” when you’re a genius.

It’s intimidating to write about this man – to try and touch on all the facets of his personality and his work.  There’s the “I hate America” Hayao Miyazaki, the chain-smoking, think and think and think Miyazaki, the Miyazaki who will draw til the day he dies, the Miyazaki whose body memory remembers the Japan of 50 years ago, the Miyazaki who is waiting impatiently for the world to rebel against humanity and wash away the cities and swallow-up the people, the cellphones, the shipping containers of laptops, the Facebooks, the PSP’s, the heavy industry.  And then, vomit up forests filled with tiny sprites, or lush green fields of sunbathing dragons, or intertwining streams of dancing frogs.

Duncan Williams, the Chair of the Center for Japanese Studies at Berkeley, said in addressing the audience of thousands waiting for Miyazaki at Zellerbach Hall:

“The worlds Miyazaki presents to us are wildly fantastic – robots live in abandoned castles, grinning cat busses glide over fields of grass, rivers and mountains embodied as fish and frogs perform stately dances in a magical bath house – but they are, at the same time, incredibly familiar; they are familiar because they are rooted in worlds we already inhabit.  We believe the drama of a dragon being fed a pill because we’ve seen that same sideways look and bulging gums in a dog taking medicine.  We’ve seen the wind rushing through that field of rice and can guess the spirit or force that was responsible for it.  It is realism in service of the imagination AND imagination in service of our lived realities.”

This week, we have Friday – and Ponyo! – to look forward to.


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