Of Miyazakis and Men

Mark Tjan, blogger Hidoshi, writes a worthwhile (if not lacking structure, but that’s how rants and my own writing are, so that’s not a complaint) piece, Marge, I think I hate Hayao Miyazaki. Hayao Miyazaki gets idolized behind what he should, or at least that’s gist of the post. Read it for the full detail of the argument, namely the “why” behind the sentiment.

It’s obviously the inexperienced fans (fans having seen little high quality animation) hyping up and strongly defending Miyazaki’s works, no matter what, “Miyazaki-sama can do no wrong”, leading up to the point where Mark writes with such passion about his views on Miyazaki’s moves. Without the hype, there would have been nothing worth writing about.

Because there’s something worth writing about, Mark is able to descend into analyzing many of Miyazaki’s films, at least a little here and a little there. I must admit, for his views, what he says has a lot of merit. I don’t agree with all his views personally, but that’s my views of what I like to watch and his views of what he likes to watch. I gave my own reply in a comment there:

Wow, talk about the type of topic which should get a countless number of replies.

I think my older brother summed it up best when he and I watched Princess Mononoke one night, and were about halfway through the film, when he asked me, “Why was he doing this thing, again?” Ashitaka was roaming through some forest, and you can off course say “the attentive watcher knows he’s trying to cure his curse,” but it all comes across as a haphazard mismatch of events. Then suddenly it’s getting involved with a wolf-raised girl, followed by saving a godly Forest Spirit.

Back when I had more time to sit an enjoy watching media for long periods of time, and when I had no income, meaning I was left re-watching what I owned time and time again, I re-watched Miyazaki’s films so many times. I do enjoy them, but if I try watching one today, it I find myself overly aware of the amount of time having passed. I have to break it up and watch it over a number of sessions. This would be different if I were watching a movie for the first time, of course.

I think Whisper might be my favorite not by Miyazaki. By Miyazaki, that position goes either to My Neighbor Totoro or Kiki’s Delivery Service. I enjoy (more so when time allowed) sitting back and watching Satsuki and Mei’s adventures, their joy and their sorrow.

With Kiki’s Delivery Service, it’s enjoyable for me to watch the struggles Kiki has as an individual, the feelings of inadequacy, and how an inability to fit in leads to depression which she must work through. No matter what Kadono may think of what Miyazaki did to her characters, I’ll content that he took a girl who simply followed one event after another (call it “slice of life for the broom rider”) on paper, and created a personality for her.

As for Porco Rosso, I think maybe I can see where it can appear unfinished, but I see it as telling the story as far as it needs to. Marco finds redemption, and because of this, he’s finally able to be with Gina. To me, it was a movie about Marco all along. The other characters simply passed time and put him into situations of growth.

To me, Castle in the Sky is …I’m not sure what to say about it, actually. I’m not fond of all the shooting and robots destroying things, but I like the story. A boy with a dream. A girl with an unknown legacy. Their paths are intertwined even before they meet one another, and their chance meeting is what sets off their adventure. In the end, the bad guy is defeated, the kids survive, the boy’s dream fulfilled and the girl’s past no longer a mystery. The castle in the sky and its inhabitants can rest in peace, knowing no longer will the power of the crystal there be used as a weapon.

On the other hand, Howl’s Moving Castle had me confused the whole way through. Blame it on me not noticing minor items (such as a single comment about the prince by a guy reading a newspaper), but it wasn’t until my second watch through when I finally understood the ending. It’s a nice enough film, I guess. It just didn’t have the magic of Kiki’s Delivery Service or Spirited Away for me.

Finally, Spirited Away for me was set completely by the pacing. You may be right about the bath seen taking way too long, and but I feel the characters had enough time to introduce them for their roles. Things such as the new tie for Chihiro’s hair were little bits which complemented the whole of the movie for me. I won’t blindly say the movie couldn’t have been better, though. I simply enjoy it as is.

I will say that the “save the environment” preachiness is a bit too much for me with Princess Mononoke and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. It’s not that I have anything against the environment, mind you. Just don’t dump it over my head. That’s like having Satsuki and Mei’s father order Pizza Hut pizza and Coca Cola for dinner to me, in that it’s blatant and out in the open, not even trying to be subtle about it.

All my own views, of course. I don’t see why people have a problem with others’ views. If someone says “Spirited Away is the most boring, pointless, senseless, God-awful movie EVAR”, what am I going to do, try and make them like it?

I’m with Martin on some of these films being aimed at a younger audience — that makes them “my kind of movie”, and that in part explains why I am able to enjoy Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away, and My Neighbor Totoro so much. Additionally, with Martin’s comment of comparable anime, I’m reminded of the gorgeous backgrounds found in Janggeum’s Dream (series one, not series two). Some backgrounds have me thinking, “Why can’t Studio Ghibli’s backgrounds be this good?” That thought typically is followed by “Man, Disney’s movies have such dull backgrounds in comparison”, but that’s a whole other discussion altogether.

I think that’s enough from me. Any more, and I’ll actually have to restructure it as a blog post, having it appear as a trackback instead of a comment.

A fun read after Mark’s piece is a piece by DS of Daijoubu: What About the Miyazaki-Haters?. This one looks more at the similarities and differences between Miyazaki’s films, grouping them based on when they were released, and how similar they were to one another. One piece stood out to me:

I read the original novel, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, and the film is an extreme departure from what was originally an entertaining and cleverly plotted book. The heaviness of Miyazaki’s anti-war message makes an uncomfortable fit with the original story’s lightness.

I never read the novel, and I felt lost and confused on my first watching-though of the movie. However, it’s no suprise for me to learn it was not only a departure, but an “extreme departure” from the original book. The same thing happened with Eiko Kadono’s Kiki’s Delivery Service. Of course, Kadono’s story is more an episode format, but Miyazaki took the general ideas of Kiki, Jiji, and Tombo, and made his own, new, different characters from them. This is not a complaint from me, as I absolutely adore his movie. I only hope some readers of the Howl’s Moving Castle novel can say the same about the movie.

Finally, I want to say I agree completely with DS’s sentiment here:

Castle in the Sky, on the other hand, was always a favorite of mine. In many ways it’s the more conventional of the two, but there’s a greater sense of humor and comradeship in Castle in the Sky that makes the film much more approachable than Nausicaä. Scenes such as the one where Pazu plays his horn and the birds fly, or when they go down into the glittering cave are beautiful and resonate with the viewer. The air pirates, who begin as a threat but end up presenting an unconventional family model, are particularly enjoyable.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Wish I could, though.

Edit: Upon rewatching On Your Mark, I found empty Coca Cola cans by the angel’s body. No wonder she nearly died, having to drink bad-tasting sugar water.

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