Time for another installment in our series on Hayao Miyazaki manga comics. Let's take a look at his 2006 color comic, "A Trip to Tynemouth."
Miyazaki's comic was published as a companion piece to British author Robert Westall's short story, "Blackham's Wimpy," which was first published in his 1982 anthology, Break of Dark. Many of his stories dealt with his experiences in World War II, addressing complex, adult themes for a children's and teenagers' audience. The two-time winner of the Carnegie Award (the first awarded to his first novel, The Machine Gunners, in 1975), Westall's novels have been translated into 17 languages, and remains an enduring figure in literature.
It's easy to see Miyazaki's love of Westall, from his love of military history, his obsession with aircraft, and the traumas of World War II that, to a great degree, defined him. And although the two never met (Westall died in 1993 from respiratory failure), he considered Westall a kindred spirit.
The "Tynemouth" comic follows several story threads. In the main story, Miyazaki (as his pig alter-ego) travels to Tynemouth to search for Westall's ghost (depicted here as a Scottish Terrier). On his journey, Miyazaki shares numerous details about British bombers in the war, recalling details in Blackham's Wimpy and other Westall stories. And he reminisces about his own childhood, captivated by those flying machines, and, of course, the war.
It is this segment that resonates most strongly for me. The young Hayao Miyazaki was tormented by the devastation of the war, he felt resentment towards his own people, terror at seeing his home town bombed, living with the shame and trauma of the aftermath. One panel depicts a series of words - "poor," "hunger," "murderer," "criminal," "yellow monkey," "Jap." In the center in large text, "Atomic Bomb." These themes often resonate throughout Miyazaki's career; Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind is probably the best and most fleshed-out example.
One detail I often enjoy in Miyazaki's manga comics is the non-linearity of the stories. You are keenly aware of his presence as narrator, and he often jumps out of his stories to offer comments, personal anecdotes or complete tangents. It's a very Tarantino-esque trait, and one that's never seen in his animated films. Perhaps his style of filmmaking, where only the first act is fully written before production begins, would make story jumps ala Pulp Fiction impossibly difficult. Perhaps future filmmakers looking to mine the Miyazaki canon will consider his comics for adaptations?
Anyway, those are my insights into Miyazaki's Tynemouth. I find it to be a very thoughful, nostalgic story, with a quiet, slightly mournful tone that resonates. Readers expecting another Totoro will probably be a bit bored, just as they were bored by The Wind Rises. But I consider this a very impressive and important addition to Hayao Miyazaki's career. An American publication would be most welcome.
After the jump break, Hayao Miyazaki's "A Trip to Tynemouth," from 2006. Enjoy, and thank you for not reversing the charges: