Hayao Miyazaki - Starting Point 1979-1996

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The first of two anthologies of interviews, speeches, and writings by the world’s greatest animated filmmaker, Miyazaki. This isn’t an easy read - well over 400 pages of granular insight into everything from Miyazaki’s changing views on Marxism to the difference between 5-cell and 6-cell animations of humans running. It’s the kind of treasure trove of information that appeals to ardent fans.

Miyazaki on animation

The general theme of currently popular shows seems to be that the protagonist jumps in a giant machine he couldn’t possibly have created on his own, battles the enemy in it, and then boasts about winning. I frankly hate these kinds of shows. I don’t care what types of robots are featured. For me, in a  truly successful mecha show the protagonist should struggle to build his own machine, he should fix it when it breaks down, and he should have to operate it himself. (1979)
Certainly, it takes great effort to create significant work given the current flood of animation. It is like pouring clear water drop by drop into the muddy flood waters. (1982)
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Miyazaki on life and work

As we grow from childhood into youth … anxiety grows exponentially, and we worry about how on earth we should live our lives. Our anxiety forces us to look for an antidote that will rid us of this feeling as quickly as possible. We want to find something that will help us grab our own chair in this world and sit in it. (1982)
What is needed when involved in collaborative work is the flexibility to use without hesitation a better plan than one’s own (even if it comes from a rookie hired the day before) and the determination to convince others through discussion to adopt the ideas one believes in. (1989)
When you criticize another person’s work at the workplace, you need to have an alternative plan and the ability to persuade other that your option is better. The workplace has no use for a critic. (1989)
Many people in Japan today are of the opinion that working all the time is a problem, but I happen to worry that in the near future so few people will work that it will become a problem. I think this is hinted at by the fact that so many people today just do the work they are told to do and are incapable of figuring out what they need to do beyond that. At the very minimum, I never want to lose the excitement I experience when I’m working. When I do, I think it’ll be all over for me. (1992)
What I’m trying to say is that if we’re mainly confining ourselves to big-picture, general statements about things, there’s simply too much beyond our control. One reason we humans have so many problems, I’m convinced, is precisely because there is this huge disjunction between the world of generalized statements and the wold of specifics, or details. But humans can be perfectly satisfied by working with the details. It’s an idea that I recently find very appealing. If you only think of problems from the big-picture level - as if looking down from a mountain or an airplane - they may seem to be truly unsolvable. But if you get closer to the ground, you may see a path to solve them that proceeds fifty meters or so. it may look like an appealing road, and if the weather’s good and the sun’s out you may feel energized and able to make it down the road. The point that intrigues me here is that by merely changing your perspective your thoughts on an issue may change as well. (1994)
Leaving decisions up to the collective wisdom of the masses just results in collective foolishness. (1994)
As humans, we probably can’t go on living unless we believe that within the finite environment in which we exist we can enjoy a variety of experiences, feel happy, and be emotionally moved. (1995)
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Miyazaki on environment

You can understand a lot about the world from looking at a single river. (1994)
The question then becomes, what is hope? And the conclusion I’d have to venture is that hope involves working and struggling along with people who are important to you. In fact, I’ve gotten to the point where I think this is what it means to be alive. We don’t know what’ll happen when we plant grass or clean rivers. Is it something that even connects us to the future? No, not at all. But nothing will happen unless we do it. (1994)
I think my neighbourhood river is better if it’s clean rather than dirty and foul smelling. If we do these sorts of things in our own limited way, thinking ho wonderful it would be if we could go fishing here, in just an hour of crawling around in the riverbed we can understand what it would take a renowned scholar to tell us in a two-hour lecture. (1994)
Opening an art museum is certainly a cultural act, but isn’t it also engaging in culture to consolidate electrical power lines, decrease the number of traffic signs, and make the city look less unsightly? (1995)