"These Days, I Just Walk Around My House"

Edit 8:45 pm - I was told that this is actually Saturday's event at UC Berkely, not Friday's Comic Con. An even better scoop for us, since there's no news on Saturday's Miyazaki appearance.)

Writer and longtime Ghibl Freak Michael Burns attended the Miyazaki/Lasseter conference at Saturday's UC Berkely event, and he shares his thoughts with us, including a couple antecdotes that I haven't read elsewhere (I'm still searching for a complete video). Here is Michael's report via email.....

"I wrote to you awhile back regarding your comments on American culture. I still check your blog on a regular's simply the best thing out there when I slip into Ghibli mode.

"I wanted to let you know I was extremely fortunate to be able to attend a discussion at UC Berkeley last night with Miyazaki-san himself. When he walked into the room, the entire auditorium stood up as one and gave one of the most rousing rounds of applause I've ever heard. Miyazaki-san, perhaps a bit facetiously, broke into applause himself, before finally motioning for us all to sit down.

"The discussion covered many topics, such as the portrayal in Miyazaki-san's films of a desire to oneday see the balance between nature and mankind restored, the dangers of virtual worlds (which, Miyazaki-san admitted, have been around long before video games), the ambiguous, whimsical nature of the portrayal of animals in his films, the cultural dangers inherent in Japan's animators relying on Chinese and Korean labor, and the unfortunate fact that the current government in Japan relies so heavily on its soft power (i.e., its reliance on the export of software, i.e. anime and manga) to attract foreigners.

"Of course much (if not all) of this has been discussed before and can be found in various interviews with Miyazaki-san published online and in print. What really made the evening special was being able to observe many of the personality traits and dark humor of a man who, for so many of us, can seem, at times, more than a man.

"On many occasions during which a questioned seemed to irritate Miyazaki-san, he would utter a long, low grumble at the back of his throat before answering the question. At other times he was so taken with his own twisted sense of humor that he'd have to lean almost into the shoulder of the interviewer to stop himself from laughing. My friends, girlfriend and I were very taken by him. The conversation made me nostalgic for the grandfather I never had.

"In any case, I thought you'd enjoy a quick report. I'm incredibly thankful for aicn for posting the information about this event, but if anyone ends up posting this, I'd rather it be you than them. Your fandom is obvious, and you deserve the scoop. I'll leave you with some choice moments from the evening:

"Miyazaki-san at one point admitted that he hoped he could see the end of human civilization in his lifetime. Later he admitted that, sometimes, when standing in high-rise buildings in Tokyo, he likes to imagine the sea sweeping most of the buildings away as he watches from above.

"Also on the topic of floods, he discussed the regular flooding he and his wife experience in their small-town home. He said that when heavy rains bring floods, the water only goes up as high as peoples' knees, and since it doesn't pose all that big of a threat, old people begin to come out of their homes, play in the water, help eachother, and just generally be happy together in brotherhood with their neighbors. He admitted that, though they have the means to build their home higher to avoid the water completely, he and his wife have decided to leave things as they are, so they can experience the floods along with their neighbors.

"Finally, when one of the audience members posed the question "is there a specific place you like to travel to for inspiration?", Miyazaki-san replied humbly, 'These days, I just walk around my house.' "


Philip Daniel said...

I have to say that while I do not necessarily share his views on civilization (as is clear from the philosophy expressed in my own newly-started blog), I nevertheless greatly admire him for being a man of true integrity, intellect, and individuality, as well as an unmatchable craftsman and storyteller to boot. No matter what epistemology one subscribes to, it's self-evident that Miyazaki is one of the great minds of contemporary times.
As for Ponyo, it indulges, as many have previously written, in Miyazaki's post-apocalyptic fantasies, but in such a way that the visual rhetoric, so to speak, partly through its poetic beauty, convinces the viewer of its rightfulness, despite its apparent destructiveness. (It helps that the entire population of the town survives with nary a scratch and smiles of impenetrable joy.) I can't imagine anyone but Miyazaki succeeding at infusing such rationality into the basically irrational, turning devastation into resurrection.

Weigy said...

Thank you for this article!

I'm a greedy man and despite being able to attend the panel at Comic Con and the special screening later on, I'll readily admit I wasn't able to attend this particular event. I had strong suspicions more intelligent and thoughtful exchanges would be there... Not in Comic Con.

I had a friend who was there and he told me that he's convinced Miyazaki would like to see the world end. I thought it was an interesting thing to hear from a man whose movies always speaks of beautiful hope in the most dire of situations, at least for me.

I think it's also true that perhaps one who can see the darkest of things will also be the one to see the smallest ray of light as the bright pillar. Maybe we're forgetting that Miyazaki used to be a child when Japan was nuked... I think that would affect one's perception of life a little.

Also! I've included your blog among my links, I hope you don't mind. Thanks again for this great coverage!

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

It's been my argument for some time that Miyazaki's childhood traumas - the war and it's aftermath, the long bouts of tuberculosis that afflicted his mother - defined his worldview. Perhaps his youthful idealism and political radicalism were a rebellion against this. By middle age, however, the pessimism and apocalyptic leanings were taking over.

I remember that I felt the same way about Miyazaki's films when I first started watching them. It was only after looking across his vast career - from Toei to Heidi Marco Anne to Ghibli - that I began to understand his personal evolution.

The crucial link in the chain is Nausicaa. Once I read Nausicaa, everything changed. And I think Hayao Miyazaki continues to be seen in America as a Walt Disney figure, when clearly he is not. Heck, even Walt Disney wasn't merely "Walt Disney." That's more of a Norman Rockwell archetype. But it's so impossible to sum up any life so easily. Citizen Kane, Lawrence of Arabia..yadda yadda.

Great insights from everybody.

eugene t. said...

Just a little write-up from the UC Berkeley event, which I was fortunate enough to attend.

BTW, great blog -- discovered it recently while re-watching Pon Poko! And I agree, Takahata is much missed.

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