Yom, Issue June 1994
Translated from Japanese to English by Ryoko Toyama
Edited by Marc Hairston, Tyler King, and Brian Stacy
© 1994 by Iwanami Shoten
Translated without permission for personal entertainment purpose only. This is not, by any means, an accurate word for word translation, and the translator is solely responsible for any mistranslation or misunderstanding due to it.
This interview consists of one long interview and several short ones, called "spots."
The work I wasn't sure I could finish
Y: Nausicaa has ended after 13 years.
There are 59 episodes, so if we simply sum up, it has been
5 years. But with time after and before that (the time for
preparation?), actually, I probably spent about half of these
12-13 years on Nausicaa.
Y: Is that so? Since it's a story world with such a big plot, which can be called an epic drama, we thought you had a detailed story plan from the beginning to the end, and you've been writing it up patiently, taking your time.
M: No, no, I don't have such a planning capability. I wrote something because I was facing a deadline, and I realized the meaning of it much later. I had such experiences many times.
Y: The movie was released in 1984, after three years you started the manga, and this year, ten years later, it has concluded. During this time there have been many words, including some criticism, about it.
M: There seem to be people who read the manga with the impression they got from the movie. They accepted Nausicaa as a warrior for environmentalism, and they never went beyond that preconceived notion. It could be said that the manga failed to have such a power (to change these people's preconceptions).
Y: The story itself is very different between the manga and the movie. Also, in the manga, we can see a more complicated side of Nausicaa's personality.
Of course, it is. If the manga and the movie
were the same, it makes no sense that I continued to write the manga.
I wasn't sure if or how I could start writing it again, but
there were some parts in the movie which I wasn't completely
satisfied with, so I forced myself to continue. To tell the
truth, it was like, I'd run away from the desk when I had to
stop writing to make the next movie.
Y: The movie became the flag bearer for the ecology movement, which was just beginning to boom in the 1980s...
I myself wasn't thinking about it at all,
but I think it happened to be there. It was what we had been
thinking about for much longer, and it started with such things
as the book of Nakao Sasuke-san.
Y: What did you try to write when you were thinking about a desert?
M: I really don't remember. I know I must have been thinking many things... The only thing I remember is that I was so irritated. It's the fact that I was disgusted with the way the society works or such things.
Y: Was it around 1981-82?
M: It was right before or after 1980. (I was disgusted with) not only environmental problems, but also where humans were going. Mostly, the way Japan was. And I was most disgusted with the way I was at that time.
Y: So during the height of the bubble economy you were...
M: I was so embarrassed. I was so angry. Am I calmed down now? I think the target for my frustration has moved somewhere...
When I finished the movie, I was cornered
Y: So, if you didn't have a plot to the end at the beginning, wasn't it hard when it was decided to make the movie Nausicaa?
I was really in trouble. If it had been another person's
story, I could've attacked it, but it had just come out from
inside of me, so I couldn't objectify it. Even if they
weren't written in the manga, behind each panel, I have my own
delusions, thoughts, and feelings. Using the same motives as
in the manga, yet, rearranging them, changing their meanings,
I had to put them inside such a boundary so I could conclude
Y: So, that's why Nausicaa the manga and the movie were totally different works. That's because there is a way of opening and closing the story in a movie.
M: Even if I had to make the movie Nausicaa now, after I finished the manga, I would make the same movie. I don't think that'll change.
Y: Didn't how you ended the movie influence the manga after that?
As I said before, the movie had concluded, and
I wasn't writing the manga to replicate it. I didn't think about what
I did in the movie at all. Anyway, I forgot what I did. -laughs-
Y: It was longer after you finished the movie.
M: Yes. So, there might have been readers coming and going, and I wrote it in the magazine thinking that they might not understand what's going on (because they joined in the middle of the story). However, I ended up thinking too much about things I can't understand at all.
Y: You mean?
If we take the (existence of) god as a premise,
we can explain the world by that. But I can't do that. And yet,
I stepped into the area I didn't want to get into, such as
humans and life.
Y: Near the end of the manga, the God Warrior had a role totally different from that in the movie...
You can find a meeting with a giant one who
gives you a power in many popular cultures. Such as the elephant
herd in Tarzan, or
Tetsujin 28go (Giganto). The reason why
they appear so many times in different shapes can be explained as
our wish to return to a huge existence or our impulse for
growing up, or something like that. Usually in the popular
culture, it's made ambiguous by just saying that a huge power
is OK if it's good.
Y: The story changed after the God Warrior became cognizant.
When I'm writing this kind of story, I have no
choice but to think that even just a thought occurred to me or some
meaningless pieces do have meanings to me. Even though the
structure of the work would collapse, I shouldn't forget those
pieces. No, I can't explain it well.
Y: Is that what you mean by a religious domain?
Many things in a human's mind which are
said to be meaningful, you might call them attributes such as
various thoughts or beliefs, I think they might actually exist in
Y: Or, we start caring more for Ohmu (than for humans). When we are reading Nausicaa, many such things happen...
I lost words
Falling into such a situation, for me,
things haven't been sorted out. While I sometimes think it's
like Dr. Strangelove,
I don't even know if it's really strange.
Y: The story moved itself...
M: Rather than moving, it was just there. And it wouldn't move in the direction I wanted. And yet, I had to force the story to move in the direction I wanted even though I myself thought it was fairly false. But I don't like doing this. In the end, could Nausicaa, the girl who had to carry such burdens on her shoulders go back to the ordinary life? Could such a person continue to live without going mad? The only thing I know is that even though she won't be able to go back, she will continue to be there, and she (or we? he didn't specify the subject) will continue to witness it.
Y: There was a sort of solution in the movie, but in the manga, from the beginning Nausicaa asked many questions. And without solving them, it ended with more and more questions asked.
Yes. I couldn't help but to ask the question
of what a life is, the question I knew from the beginning I couldn't
Y: You learn that there are many things you can't understand...
Yes. I understand that I can't just simply and
superficially explain the relationship between nature and
humans, or the nature inside a human. However, to live is the
way to keep this "superficial balance," so I can say we'd
better do such and such to keep a balance.
Y: Shortly after Nausicaa decided "I'll keep lying," the story ends...
It suits more to my heroine, it just became
that way. I have no choice but to think that it is her love toward
the lives around her.
The collapse of the Soviet Union was easier than that of Doruk
Y: During the time you were writing Nausicaa, many incidents occurred inside and outside Japan. Was there something you were influenced by?
M: The most shocking thing was the civil war in Yugoslavia.
Y: You mean?
M: I thought they wouldn't do it again. I thought they were tired of doing such things since they had done such horrible things before, but they weren't. I leaned that humans never get enough. It taught me how I was naive.
Y: And unlike the Gulf War, it was an old type war.
In a sense, the Gulf War is easy to understand.
The Iraqi government is very similar to the Japanese government during
the war (World War II). They just send soldiers to some
island or desert, and tell them "you are on your own," without
sending any water or food. It was painful to see such a
military since it was like looking at the Japanese military.
But it's different in Yugoslavia.
Y: Nausicaa also said "there is no justice."
M: I read various things since I like (reading about) war. So, people ask me such questions as "do you like war?" I answer them "do you think AIDS researchers love AIDS?" But I was forced to realize that my understanding of history was really naive.
Y: How about the collapse of the Soviet Union?
It happened just when I was writing the
collapse of a country called Doruk in Nausicaa. Writing it, I
myself was wondering if it could be possible for such an empire as
Doruk to collapse so easily, so I was really surprised since the
Soviet Union collapsed much easier.
Y: I'll say, that's a good correlation...
M: So, there were many things I should have written about the collapse of the Doruk Empire. But, on the other hand, I'm embarrassed to say that there was a limit to my productivity, sixteen pages per month, so there were many things I couldn't write. Why did the country fall, or to begin with, what is a country? What kind of system did they have, why did the system stop working... I knew I had to write these things, but while I was making the excuse that I didn't have the time for that, the empire fell on its own in the manga, and in the real world, the Soviet Union, too...
Nausicaa has changed my way of thinking
During the time I was trying to conclude Nausicaa,
I did what some might think is a turnabout. I totally
forsook Marxism. I had no choice but to forsake it. I decided that
it is wrong, that historical materialism is also wrong, and
that I shouldn't see things with it. And this is a bit hard.
Even now, I sometimes think that things would be easier if I
had not changed.
Y: With your intuition...
M: The feeling that this is a nice person, rather than an intuition. Even if he/she doesn't have a political capability, this is a nice person. We can't expect big things from them anyway, so the nicest one is better. I'm at the stage of seeing things tentatively with that level (of thinking). In short, I went back to being stupid.
Y: Isn't it like climbing spiral stairs rather than going back?
I feel I might be just going round and round...
For example, there is a National Trust Movement called "Totoro's
Forest Movement," and they use the characters from the movie
we made to promote the movement.
But I'm cooperating not because they are right.
It's because those who are in the movement are such
nice people. They are so down to earth.
"Solving" the environmental problem by cleaning up the river in the neighborhood
Y: How about the Japan you said you were disgusted with at before you started Nausicaa?
Well, I passed the stage of feeling that "it
serves them right" after the bubble burst,
and I'm feeling refreshed now.
The problems haven't been solved at all, but this breaks
down the wall, and things outside are
Y: You mean, if we want to, we can buy (from outside).
If this had happened in 1940s, it would
have been a huge problem, but now we get by with just some complaints
such as "Thai rice don't taste
I thought this was an amazing power (i.e.,
the economic power of Japan). At the same time, I also
thought it's hard for a country without an economic power to
Y: If so, there won't be so many cars.
I get so angry when I hear someone say "if we
lower the gas price, it'll stimulate the Japanese economy." Only
those who are willing to pay the price should drive. Everyone driving
a car isn't a progress or an equality among humans, or anything.
Now, we have the problem of popularization of everything.
Since I myself belong to the general public, even though I see
a picture of the Zeppelin and want to ride an airship, if I
had been there in that era, I would've belonged to those who
could not ride one. Even so, I don't think we'd better make
an era where everyone can ride an airship.
Y: It's easy to pick on words. Whatever you say, you can get picked on.
M: There are many things I can't put into words. I say "we just have to clean the river," because so many people put the "eco mark" on me, so I just...
Y: You say these things intentionally to create a controversy.
M: Yes. In truth, I don't want to say anything. I'd better act and not say a word. It's better if I think that I do this because it's a communal effort.
Leaving what I don't understand as it is
Y: After you had made the movie Nausicaa, and while you kept writing Nausicaa, you made animes such as Laputa, Totoro, Kiki, and Porco Rosso. These are different types of anime from Nausicaa.
M: I think I was able to make them because I was writing Nausicaa. I had Nausicaa as the heaviest one. It's painful to go back to the world of Nausicaa, and I don't want to go back. Even though I'm writing it in this world, writing such a thing makes it difficult for me to return to society.
Y: You keep removing yourself?
Yes. But, if I'm in the middle of a movie
production, it's a big fuss. I get my attention pulled by every
trivial daily detail. "Why is he goofing off?" or
"he'd better get a wife," -laughs- or that kind of stuff.
It's really worldly. And we make a fuss about if people come to
see it or not.
Y: What are your perspectives after you concluded Nausicaa?
Concluding Nausicaa doesn't mean that the
events have ended or concluded. Things will keep on going endlessly,
but we came to the point of "from here, you know (what will
happen)." I mean, we came to the same starting point as that
of our modern day world which is difficult to understand.
From this point, countless stupid things will happen, and
there will be efforts to cope with them, too. And they will
repeat them over and over again. I tried to conclude at the
point we could see that.
Y: Anyway, at least we can see there are still many issues.
M: Yes. And Nausicaa knows this best.
Y: After Nausicaa, did you make animes according to your interests at that point in time? The things you wanted to do, or things you wanted to see...
M: I think I chose each of them because I thought it was interesting then. Even when I was obliged to work on a project, I tried to steer it to the direction I wanted to go. If I really don't want do it, I won't do it. But for Porco Rosso, I did things against my intention.
Y: What do you mean?
M: I intended to do totally different things in more lighthearted way, but I couldn't help but showing my true feelings (honne). Nothing has been sorted out. I was supposed to make it as a commercial film maker with a true confidence, but I lost control of myself. I'm embarrassed.
Y: What kind of honne?
If you couldn't feel it from the film, that'll
be better. I shouldn't have made the story take place in the Adriatic
Sea in the first place. Many people think it took place in Italy,
but Porco lives on the Croatian shoreline. Then it became the
warfield by the civil war. I was just going to make a story
you can just grin at (ufufu), but it became more complicated.
Then, I had to read the modern history of Yugoslavia, but
there isn't a consistent history book, and it was very
difficult to make sense out of it. Gosh, I was careless.
I always try to make a film uncomplicated, but somehow, it
gets complicated. It was the same thing with Laputa.
I thought I could make it more uncomplicated, but it's
inevitable that my own various thoughts creep in, and make
things complicated. When I finish making up the story,
somehow, I find I made the story complicated.
M: Because I made Porco, I felt like I can't retire until I somehow make one proper film. I thought I had to produce a work which is truly for children.
Y: When you started Laputa, you said anime has to be for children.
Maybe it's related to what's going on in the
society, but more and more people now don't consider children as
their purpose for making films. Many of our staff members have
become over thirty without being married or being parents.
When we were at that age, we already had a few children, and
our motivation was such that we wanted to tell them "dad made
Y: Is it for theater release?
M: Either theater or video release. No television. Unless we make it an "event" people have to pay money for, they wouldn't really watch it.
Y: After Nausicaa, you made Laputa.
M: Things will be easier if a film like Laputa does well.
Y: The numbers weren't good?
To tell you the truth, it was about a [three???] quarter
All the people who liked Laputa said they liked
serious ones better.
Y: Nausicaa and Laputa were produced under the producer Isao Takahata and the director Hayao Miyazaki, but in 1986, Takahata-san directed Grave of the Fireflies, and you directed Totoro. They were completely separate productions...
Our thoughts about movie making are
completely different. If we discuss a production plan, we definitely
won't reach an agreement.
Y: But it's amazing that just the one word determines everything, focuses energies, and makes a movie. When you were making Nausicaa or Laputa, were your roles divided clearly?
Usually, a producer chooses a director and
gives him a project, but it was reversed in Nausicaa.
Y: So, Takahata-san and you have been building a firm relationship in which you can delegate to each other.
Delegating or not, I just take it as "you gave
me this project, so that means I can do it as I want."
If one meddles into the other's work, we can never reach an agreement, we
definitely have such a relationship.
Y: It was 2 hours and 45 minutes after all. But I didn't feel it was so long.
M: I think two hours would have been better if we wanted more people to see it, but we can't do anything about it (shouganai). From the moment we chose Isao Takahata as the director, it was destined to end up like that. Movies are such things. We can't do it with a movie for general public, but we can do it with that kind of film. With that, we let go of our frustrations we'd been accumulating. Feels wonderful to say "it doesn't matter if tickets sell or not." Actually, we are patiently recovering the investment a bit by bit.
M: Originally, I was not supposed to do Kiki. What I did was just set up the project. When this project was proposed to us, I said "this is a good project for the young staff members," and lined up the young staff members and started the project. However, I didn't like the presented screenplay. So, I said if no one would write, I would write, and I wrote one. Then, the young director got intimidated and didn't want to direct. After all, I got myself into directing it. I got trapped by myself.
Y: You were the producer of Omohide Poro Poro, but the film was definitely Takahata-san's world.
I regard myself as a person of tsuuzoku
(popular) movies and I think I'll continue to make tsuuzoku
But on the
other hand, somewhere inside of me, I have started feeling that I don't
want to make a tsuuzoku movie.
|Notes from the translator|
|1.||So did I. It's really difficult to translate these "philosophical" conversations ^^;; If you can't understand this interview, it's half my fault, half Miyazaki-san's fault --Ryo|
|2.||Shinran is the famous monk who started a Buddhist cult in Japan|
|3.||They use Totoros as the symbol characters|
|4.||Sayama Hills is where Totoro was supposed to take place|
|5.||"The bubble burst" means the collapse of the stock and the land markets in the late 80s|
|6.||In his other interview, he talked about a story of a noble's house surrounded by a wall to protect it from all the poverty and the misery outside|
|7.||There was a huge rice shortage in Japan in 1993|
|8.||Not to offend someone from Thailand, the problem was that Japanese weren't used to the long grain rice, and didn't know how to cook them ^^;;|
|9.||Since the government decided to import rice, which had been "sacred" and well protected, there were many heated debates about the future of the Japanese farmers who are so dependent on rice|
|10.||"Eco mark" is sort of like the "recyclable" mark in the United States. It's to tell "environmentally correct" products in Japan|
|11.||This is a difficult sentence to translate. What he is saying is, since Japanese live action films have not been good both quality wise and business wise, anime got too much attention. Movie companies expect anime (especially Ghibli) to make a lot of money, critics praise anime and give anime movie awards. He thinks this is too much attention for anime.|
|12.||The interview was done just before Ponpoko was released|
|13.||This "popular" is that of "popular culture"|
|14.||The folk tales and myths of Japan's northern aboriginal people, Ainu.|