Miyazaki on Tezuka

Hayao Miyazaki's thoughts on Osamu Tezuka in Yumiuri Shimbun. Translation courtesy of GhibliWorld:

"The later generations might not be able to imagine how much our generation was shocked to see Shin Takarajima (New Treasure Island, 1947) in the ruins of World War II. It showed us a quite different world and we felt the black curtain ahead of us clearly opened. Such a big impact couldn't be told as an imitation of Disney or an influence from American comics."

"The world that Tezuka showed us wasn't only bright, but often scary, absurd, painful or hopeful. Modernism meant prosperity and mass consumption and at a time it invented destruction. At the corner of Asia, only Tezuka found it. He realized the absurdity of modernism more deeply than Disney."


Chris said...

Miyazaki said, "[Tezuka] realized the absurdity of modernism more deeply than Disney."

Was Walt Disney even trying to do that?

I don't think Disney attempted or even cared to make any deep statements about society. He seemed only to be pushing the visual quality of animation forward. His arguably greatest artistic achievement, Fantasia, was eye and ear candy at most.

Tezuka Osamu was definitely interested in examining humanity on a deeper level. Just look at Phoenix, which I believe is his greatest achievement. It dares to examine humanity's place in, not just the world, but in the universe and all through existence, time, and space.

Walt Disney was much more interested in pushing the technology of animation in an attempt to (this sounds corny even as I type it) make the world a happier place. You could be cynical and say he wanted more and more money, but I really and truly believe he just wanted to make people happy through "cartoons". The unfortunate thing for Americans is that he was too damned successful and he single-handedly set the immutable tone for all animation that was to come in the United States for ever and ever more.

Chris said...

After writing my previous comment, my mind got to wandering and suddenly something struck my fancy which I'd never really thought about before. I'd love to pose another question to you, Daniel, or to anyone else:

In what ways (if at all) does Miyazaki Hayao express a Japanese nationalism in his work?

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Ah, good question! Is this a question you already have answers for, or are you throwing it up for everyone?

It's a really great question, dealing with Miyazaki's politics. I've dabbled in it here and there, but it's really something worth digging into in greater detail.

While I don't think Miyazaki is a nationalist per se, he was definitely a product of the '60s. And as he grew older, he questions Japan's modern industrial society, and the way it embraced and emulated the West after WWII. That nostalgia is THE major theme of the Studio Ghibli movies from Miyazaki and Takahata.

Anyway...that's a start. I'll do the proper posts and leave this space for everyone to share their thoughts.

Chris said...

I have no answers to any of my questions! But I love walking through possible answers with intelligent people.

Something that led me to this question was Tezuka himself. A few years ago I picked up all the then recently translated Astro Boy manga from Dark Horse. In them, Tezuka had added introductions (intended for their Japanese audience) to many of his stories. As I read through the books, though, I noticed more and more increasingly anti-American statements in these Astro Boy stories. It was kind of odd in this "children's" manga. It's not that, as an American, I'm not open to criticism, but it's strange to me given Japan's absolutely horrific inexcusable 19th and 20th century history.

I've mentioned before that I lived in South Korea for nine years before moving to Tokyo where I currently reside. Living in South Korea, although admittedly many Koreans are stubbornly unwilling to move forward, you get a strong sense of the horrors the Japanese committed before World War II. (I'm not even talking about the war itself.)

Japan is probably my favorite place in the world, but I've always tried (and constantly now try) to deal with historical Japan as it relates to modern Japan. It seems like a gap that is unbridgeable. (I imagine a similar struggle occurs for people dealing with modern Germany.) Modern Japan is a wonderful place, and modern Japanese are so kind and caring. I've had nothing but kind, wonderful experiences living here in Japan.

What I'm trying to ineptly say is that the modern Japanese artist has an odd dilemma: Do you deal with the horror of your country's recent history or do you move beyond it, choosing not to address it?

In interviews, we get the sense that Miyazaki has very strong political and social beliefs, but in his animated films, besides a general hatred of war, I've never really seen these otherwise overt opinions expressed. He seems to move beyond individual nations and looks at what it is to be human (but through the lens of a Japanese person).

One notable aspect of the typical Miyazaki film is his sympathy towards villains. His greatest villains turn out to be less villainous and more human as the stories progress. In the end we develop a deeper understanding and even a respect for his villains. This is interesting to note as the Japanese, in Miyazaki's own lifetime, were considered villains themselves by much of the world (most especially by Japan's neighboring countries). It is almost as if he is examining what it means to be a villain as a way of exploring how his own people could have done the things they did.

I am making a huge theoretical leap here, and I don't really think I believe what I just wrote, but it's something to think about. I shouldn't forget that, as amazing as Miyazaki is, he is essentially making popular films for mass consumption. If he vehemently condemned Japanese history and nationalism in his movies, no one would watch the damn things! (It would be like Pixar condemning the Iraq war in their next film!) Perhaps his feelings are more openly expressed in his manga, Nausicaa, as that is free from the constraints of popular film.

I really don't know. I think I'm babbling without coming to any worthwhile conclusions. Sorry.

Chris said...

As an addendum to my previous post, I was thinking that it's more in the realm of the novelist to self-examine a country's identity. Japan has quite a few of these: Mishima, Oe, Murakami, just to name a few. I don't want to give the impression that I believe Miyazaki HAS to examine his country's history. It's more that as a Japanese person he is part of a chain of evolution from the past to the now as we all are to our respective countries of origin. I guess I'm wondering if there is a self-examination hidden or overt in his films.

Doug said...

Go a little easy on Uncle Walt. I understand your anger at the situation we find ourselves in with animation being pigeon-holed as kiddie fare - I share it. But I think Disney was a sentimental, nostalgic person who was trying to create on film an idealized America, or world. In some ways he was too successful as you say. I think these were reactions to how he saw the world moving and in many ways he spoke to a rising anxiety in America at the time. The context of the times in which Disney's greatest works were done confirms this to me.

However, the guy was an amazing story teller and an innovator to the nth degree. We all might not like his product but I feel we can still respect the achievements, which were many.

Chris said...

Hey, wait a second . . . I was actually defending Walt Disney! :)

I thought it was a little unfair of Miyazaki to criticize Disney in that way. I don't think Disney ever tried to examine human existence through animation, but I don't think there is anything necessarily wrong with that.

The thing we should always keep in mind when we judge Walt Disney is that his product was grown of the Great Depression and his films were very much a response to the times and society. Definitely he was showing an idealized landscape.

For me, I completely lose interest in any and all "Disney" films after the death and involvement of Walt Disney, the man himself.

asuka said...

chris, could you connect a general interest in "alternative history" as a mode of fantasy that might offer ways of either avoiding or dealing with difficult real history?

Doug said...

Chris - sorry I misread your first comment and I apologize on reading it further. I agree with you!

And an excellent question re: Nationalism you posed. I won't comment but just read but I'll happily lurk in the background of that one.

Chris said...

After a good night's sleep, here is what I've come up with, superficial though it may be.

Films such as Sen to Chihiro are such vibrant celebrations of Japanese culture. From the onsen in Chihiro to the many gods of Shintoism, we see all of this so lovingly shown on the screen. I wouldn't call this "nationalism" but more of a deep love of his own national identity, a celebration of who he is and where he came from.

In addition, in most of his work there is a complete distrust of both warmongering nations and technological progress without a conscience.

In Laputa, we have this idealized society showcasing the most amazing technology. However, when this society is finally revealed, we see how horribly destructive it was. Only in its ruin does it find salvation as nature reclaims it and its own technology defies its original design. That last sentence could be written for Nausicaa tens times over. Like Laputa in Nausicaa conscienceless technology is the downfall of most of human civilization.

Howl's Moving Castle really condemns the idea of a militaristic government, a world addicted to war. The government of Howl's Moving Castle is very much an imperialistic, warmongering nation. . . .

You know, I have to stop there. I'm pretty creatively dry right now. This morning when I was taking my daily walk along the Sumida river, I was filled with so many wonderful ideas, but they seem to have all let me now. Sorry.

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