The Animation of Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Studio Ghibli
Kinema Junpo Special Issue, Number 1166; July 16th, 1995.
Translated from Japanese to English by Ryoko Toyama
Edited by Brian Stacy
© 1995 by Kinema Junpo Sha
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.
[Miyazaki-san gave this talk on May 22, 1988, at the Nagoya City Imaike Hall, after the showing of Laputa, Panda Kopanda, and Panda Kopanda: Rainy Circus.]
Panda Kopanda was made, well, how many years ago was it, when Japanese TV animation was at its lowest. If you look at the history of TV animation, there are many such "lowest" times. It's still at a low even now. -audience laughs-
I thought we had used many more pieces (cels) than TV animation then, but I realized that we were still stringent. Watching it now, I feel that we should've moved it more, and it's a bit painful (to watch).
But I made it with Paku-san (Takahata-san), and (we) went to a movie theater, well, this was really an unpopular theater and there were very few children, but those children were really enjoying it. I took my kids with me, and they were really concentrating while watching it. It was commonly said that children would run around if they got bored. It gave me confidence that I could make something (which would entertain children), and this is an important work for me in terms of inducing me to do such works as Heidi later. Until then, I had been thinking that I wanted to make (anime) for myself, but I became a parent, and this was the first anime that I really wanted to make for children.
We talked about what we would do if we got to make a third or fourth episode, should we do this or that, but we only got to the second one (Panda Kopanda: Rainy Circus). We couldn't make more than that, so when I made Totoro, well, it wasn't like I wanted to recreate it, but I wanted to make a movie (for children) properly.
The pig who offers a tissue flower
It's really stupid, but I once planed a movie with a pig in a tank. -audience laughs-
There is a foolish pig who made a tank as big as this hall. He was a military officer, but something bothered him, and he says "I quit!" The pig hasn't been married yet, but he has many nephew pigs in the military: about thirty of them in total. So, the uncle and the thirty nephews get on the tank they made, and whatever the cause for the rebellion is, they make a stupid pledge that they would march straight across the country and never make a turn, -audience laughs- and start advancing toward the imperial capital.
On the way, when they are passing a town, they find a lovely girl, so they kidnap her as "the first war trophy." The tank even has a room, which can be elevated to scout from the higher point, then can be brought back into the tank. The pig locks her up in this room, and tries to win her over. With a flower made from tissue paper or something. The girl has a boyfriend, and he comes chasing after her, riding a motorcycle. He is no match for the tank, but in the end, the tank gets destroyed because of the boy and the girl. At first, it was that kind of a movie.
As I kept fiddling with the story, the boy began to disappear, and it ended up with a happy ending in which the pig's love won the girl over. -audience laughs-
At first, the girl was supposed to be an ordinary girl who was working at a station restaurant, but she began to change as well, and she became a bar singer like Marilyn Monroe in River of No Return, in which she was really lovely, only that this girl is a bit younger and purer.
Well, what do you know, this project got accepted as an original video animation. But I couldn't do it, since I was about to make Laputa at that time. -laughs-
So, I told a certain young person, "Direct this," and he said yes, but as we proceeded, we found ourselves totally disagreeing with each other.
The pig is a kind of guy who says "I love you" to the girl whom he kidnapped as "the first war trophy," offering her a tissue flower, and when the girl says "no, I already have someone I love" and rejects him, he says "that's fine, I'll wait forever till you change your heart," but the young director said he couldn't believe that such a man existed. He said "I have no doubt that he is going to have this girl (Mono ni suru)."
I insisted "No. If he did so, a life wouldn't be interesting at all. It's no use to make a story where a guy has a girl the minute he kidnaps her." "Instead, there could be a pig who does kidnap a girl, but still considers (her) heart very important. That's why people feel that it's a movie worth paying money." But the young director said, "I can't understand such a villain," and quit.
Because he quit, this project got scrapped. -laughs- Till today, it hasn't resurfaced yet.
I've made several movies, and I'm often told, "There is no true villain in your movies." Somehow, they (the villains) turn good, or become good people while they are working hard. These days, for example, I can predict that this villain will definitely become a good person before I finish three episodes of a TV series.
I mean, it's the way I wish things to be. Certainly, we don't know if a pig who kidnaps a girl will try to win her over stoically or platonically. But if there are billions of pigs, there could be one pig like that. The rest of them may be the violent ones who will have the girl. So, whether you think that since this is the pigs' truth, you should make the pig have the girl to make a true pig movie, or you think that if there is such a pig even though he is just one in a billion, you want to make a movie about such a pig, that's the point where the disagreement occurs.
I don't want to have such a true villain, who doesn't think of people as humans, who has completely lost sympathy towards other people, who thinks that since he already had 100 girls, it doesn't matter if he has 101 or 110 girls. I don't feel like making a movie to depict such a villain. Then, many people say "your villains are too good" or "they are too nice." They say "humans are not like that." Especially, girls say, "women are not like that." -laughs-
For some reason, men don't say "men are not like that." They think that there may be such a man, but women say with confidence, "this is not a (real) woman." I'm not sure (why).
(I've been told that) "You aren't developing characters deep enough" or "you are neglecting evils and stupidities inside a human, and depicting only affirmative or good things (in him/her)." For example, that's totally true with this Totoro. I intentionally did so. It was like "I wish there were such people, I wish there were such neighbors." Well, I can make a movie in which you moved only to find a nasty old lady living next door, and she always complains such as "don't touch my vegetable field." -audience laughs- And two poor sisters cry and cry... Well, this is getting more like a movie Paku-san makes. -audience laughs-
It is so. It is certainly so, but I don't feel like making such a thing. There are other people who make those kinds of movies, so I think those are their movies to make. For myself, even if I were told "there is no such woman," I think I have no choice but to keep going with "I wish there were such a person."
The memory of the war I experienced at age four
Actually, what I want to talk about today is how my childhood experiences may have influenced what I do. I was only able to talk about this story calmly after I got close to fifty, but until recently, I didn't want to talk about it at all, since it involves my father and mother.
The home I grew up in did very well during the war. Because our family business, of which my uncle was the president and my father was the plant manager, was a part of the munitions industry. Though it was at the periphery. It was making and assembling wingtips and wind shields for war planes in the rural part of Tochigi prefecture, where we evacuated to, it had more than one thousand employees during the war.
Speaking of war, we hear a lot of stories about people getting conscripted and forced to kill people or get killed, or that people suffered a great deal, but in short, it's a state in which a society conducts its activities very vigorously. So, although there are in a sense many noble things, such as self-sacrifice-- though they would be considered wrong in the end-, many ugly things happen. Many things happen, like doing terrible things to make money, deceiving people, or selling defective products.
More precisely, I heard this from my father that the wingtips of the Kamikaze planes, well, I guess it's not as serious as in the case of engines, but, those wings made by unskilled part-time girls didn't fit the standard. They were unfit, but they were still accepted if you bribed the inspecting military officers. So, the planes those Kamikaze pilots flew (had many defects) such as no holes for machine guns. It's a true story. The engines were in the worst condition when they were brand new, and the troops tinkered with them to make them usable. They were really in bad shape, such as engines leaking oil. For example, a 1000 hp engine had only 500 hp from the beginning. No matter how you tinkered with it, it wouldn't give you 1000 hp. Well, in such a situation, we lost the war.
But what happened when people engaged in this munitions industry was that, first, none of my relatives on my father's side went to war. By saying that they were needed to keep the munitions industry operating, they weren't even conscripted. Further, my father owned an automobile during the war. Not a charcoal car, but a gasoline car. Surely, my mother said that she had a hard time making sure her sons had enough to eat, but it was nothing compared to the hardships other people had to go through. In short, in my family's history, we were most prosperous during the war, though we certainly suffered some degree because of the war such as the air raids or the evacuation. And we did manage to eat during the confusion of the postwar period.
In July 1945, when I was four and a half years old, Utsunomiya, the city I lived in got bombed. So, well, it's no use going into details. Since this is the memory of a four year old, I think I created a large part of the story while I was recalling it over and over.
When I woke up in my futon, I mean, I was awakened because of the air raid, it was midnight, but the sky was dyed in red, no, pink, like an evening glow. Even the inside of the house was pink. So, since it was a big house, we went into the shelter made in the corner of the garden, but we were told that it was dangerous even there. I have three brothers, but my youngest brother hadn't been born yet at that time, my younger brother was a baby, I was four, and my older brother was six years old. My mother carried my younger brother on her back and my father held my hand. And my other uncle, I think he was also working for the munitions plant, he held my older brother's hand, and we evacuated to under the railroad bridge of Tobu Railway. It was under the bridge, outskirts of the town, and there were lots of greens, so we thought bombs wouldn't be dropped there. Actually, it was cloudy, and the firebombs, called oil and fat incendiary bombs which contained oil in them, were raining from the sky and the town was already on fire.
A night fire is usually scary, but it was so bright, like during the day, I wasn't so scared when we were evacuating on the railroad. It wasn't that scary for a four year old child.
Then, we thought being there might still be dangerous. That day, my uncle brought the company truck to the house. It was a very small Datsun truck, smaller than today's light car. It was a troublesome truck since the engine was hard to start, but my uncle went back home through the town in the fire to get that truck. He went back and found that the fire was coming right up next to the truck, but the truck wasn't burned yet, and when he tried to start the engine, it immediately started since it was warmed well by the fire. Well, (it was a kind of truck) you have to crank (the engine) up by hand. And he came back through the fire, and we decided to evacuate to outside of the town riding on this car. My mother holding my brother sat in the passenger's seat, my uncle was in the driver's seat, and it was full since it was such a small car. And my father, my older brother, and I sat on the loading platform, covered by a futon, since we had to run through the fire, and anyway, we started going.
Then, there were several people taking shelter under the railroad bridge, and I don't remember clearly, but I surely heard a woman's voice saying, "please give us a ride." I don't know whether I saw her myself, or I thought I saw her, since I heard my parents talking about her later, but anyway, a woman holding a girl, who was one of our neighbors, came running towards us, saying, "please give us a ride." But the truck just took off. And her voice saying "please give us a ride" gradually died away in the distance... Well, that was made up in my head like a drama.
Anyway, I kept the futon over my head until I was told that it was OK and I got off (the truck) in the middle of a field outside the town. The night was nearly ended, but only the sky over Utsunomiya (was bright), like the evening was just born, like the dome-shaped fort in Laputa on fire. I remember that I was watching it, thinking "Ah, there is Utsunomiya."
Fortunately, later I heard that both she and her daughter survived, and I think that's good, but it was possible that they wouldn't have survived. And the fact that I grew up comfortably under parents who were making money in the munitions industry when others were suffering during the war, and the fact that we ran away riding a rare gasoline truck while others were dying, deserting even those who were asking us to take them with us, those facts remained as a very strong memory even for a four years old child. That was very difficult to bear, when you think about what people say about living right or being considerate toward others. And as a small child, you want to believe that your parents are good people, the best in the world. So, I suppressed this memory inside of me for a long time. So I forgot about it, and I was forced to deal with this memory once again when I became an adolescent.
In my time, because of economic reasons, there were still many people, even in Tokyo, who couldn't go to high school, who had to go to work, who couldn't go on school trips, or who had to miss classes for a long time. There were several students like those in every class. And when I became interested in social issues, and, for example, as I compared myself with such kids, or as I became worried about such kids, I realized that there was a terrible fraud at the base of what I was, at the base of my life from the day I was born. But it was scary to confront it, so I pretended to be a sensible, gentle, good boy until I graduated from high school. I studied hard, too.
But I couldn't stand it anymore. I mean, if I had continued, I would have had to keep lying for the rest of my life. So, when I was eighteen, after I entered university, I was forced to deal with it: to think about the issue, what I thought about it, and why I was there then.
It was really painful. Of course I had a fight with my parents. But after all, I couldn't bring myself to ask them why they didn't give her a ride. Because I'm not sure about myself if (it happened) now. If I were in my father's or my uncle's shoes now, I'm not sure if I would stop the car. In other words, if most of the billion pigs are the pigs who would have the girl, I think I would belong to that side.
If there had been a kid who could say "please let her ride," I think maybe a mother and a father would have stopped the car at that moment. I mean, if I'm a parent and my kid says so, I think I would do so. There were many reasons that you couldn't do that. If you had stopped (the car), more people might have come and created more confusion. I understand that well, but I still wish I could've said so then. Or I wish my older brother could've said so. Of course, it would have been better if my parents had stopped (the car).
Actually, this story about the truck has very little to do with the essence of the war. Even if I satisfy my conscience by doing so, how about the issue of the munitions industry? Or, comparing the issue of some being burnt by the air raid and some not and the issue of, for example, Japan as a nation doing many horrible things such as massacres in China, the Philippines, or other countries in South East Asia, I have to conclude that Japanese as a whole were perpetrators, so the problem isn't that simple. But after all those years, I realized that I wanted to make an animation with a kid who can say "please stop the car" in such a situation, not (giving up since) humans can't say so after all.
So, offering a girl a tissue flower and saying "please accept my love" might sound unrealistic. A four year old kid asking his parents, "please stop the car" might be unrealistic. But if there is a kid who can say so, and if we can feel "oh, it's OK to say so in such a situation," I think that would be better. At least, I see myself as a person who can't make a movie in any other way. I saw many movies which depicted the dark side or stupidity of humans and made the audience feel that they were the ones who were accused and then go home depressed, and I think there is a significance to such movies, and we have to watch such movies from time to time, but I want to make something like, "I wish things are like this." It was so in Panda Kopanda. It was so in Totoro. Well, most (of my movies) were like that. I think I have no choice but to keep making such movies.
A person who makes and a person who eats
I had one more experience.
Since it was such a household, we had a maid. Well, we should call them "helpers" now, instead of "maids." I guess it was when I was around six, since the war had been over, that I saw the ohitsu in the kitchen and said, "Oh, that's the ohitsu we eat rice from." Then, the girl said angrily, "in my home, there was nothing we could put in such a thing." I think she was one of those who experienced the severe food shortage while growing up, and her words still remain inside of me very vividly.
I have been very sensitive towards unfairness since the time I was a kid. I think that's because I was a second son. My first memory was that my older brother took my egg, and I cried, thinking there was nothing more horrible than that in this world. -audience laughs-
I thought life was so unfair. I remember feeling so then. I was three years old, so my childhood memory wasn't a good one from the start, but I was a kid who was really sensitive towards unfairness.
There is a Russian Proletarian children's story called Whose bread is it.
The characters are a little red cock, a dog, a cat, and a pig. The cock has wheat seed, and says, "let's sow it," but the other three are playing cards or something, and say "no, we don't want to." So the cock sows it by himself. Then the wheat grows, and when the cock proposes "let's pull the weeds," the dog, the cat, and the pig say "no." When the cock asks them, "help me harvest," the three say "no." So the cock does it by himself. He asks, "help me grind the wheat," and the three say "no." So he grinds it by himself. And then he makes bread, and when he is about to eat it, the three say "let us eat it." The cock says, "this is my bread. I won't give it to you." I remember that I was very much absorbed in reading that story.
For me, that is another important motif. Not only about being fair, but also about who makes it and who eats it. It can be a relationship between production and possession, or it can be a relationship between labor and capital.
I mean, even Mobile Suit Gundam is made by someone. When you create a world in a manga movie (i.e., animation), no matter how imaginary it is, unless someone makes it, no one can eat it. We think that humans work in the fields, farmers work in the fields and make (crops), but if you think deeper, the plants in the field are making (crops) with the power of the sun and photosynthesis. So, if you ask who is making it (possible) to live on this earth, actually, plants are. I mean, including fossil fuel, everything was made by the sun, the sun and plants on the earth. The earth doesn't have more production power than that. If it has, that would be nuclear power or nuclear fusion, but I think everyone knows what kinds of consequences such power would and did bring. In short, you can use it because someone is making it. It is so with electricity. It is so with manga movies. I think that we shouldn't create a world in a manga movie without thinking about such things.
Even Nausicaa, or even Laputa, someone is making it. Someone is making the bread. It's the same with Totoro. Someone is making it. Sci-fi, detective stories, anything. It's the same with Lupin III. If Lupin thinks being a thief is the coolest job, he is the lowest man. He can be a thief because there are honest people. Because there are honest people and there are those who exploit these honest people, he can steal (from the bad guys). I think he is that kind of guy. Even if it's not the movie in which you tell who is making and who is eating out loud, I think we have to realize that there is such a relationship.
There is a movie called Hakujya Den (The Legend of White Snake)-- I was once captivated by it, and it was one of the reasons why I decided to become involved in animation-- and in it, although the white snake is a mononoke, she falls in love with a human. When the Dragon King says "what were you thinking falling in love with a human?" she answers, "a Human has a soul, a very precious thing we don't have." When I watched it, I thought that's not true. Because, all the faces of other people in the movie were drawn indifferently. Only the faces of the handsome hero, Shusen and the heroine, Pai'nyan were drawn in an affirmative way, but others had almost indifferent faces. They were either coolies who pulled ships and got drunk on cheap drinks, or (people) lying wearing rags. At best, they were some kids who were walking the road. I wondered why (she thought that) humans were better, where is the soul. In short, they didn't draw as they spoke.
So, when we are making a movie, I often tell the staff members not to draw the incidental characters indifferently. Especially in Lupin III. Well, the faces of the policemen don't matter so much, but if you draw the faces of other town people indifferently, and make the film, thinking Lupin is cool, this will be the worst kind of movie. Rather, we have to draw the faces of those "others" as well as we can, even if they are characterless, and we have to recognize that because of them, fools like Lupin can go on, and standing on it, (we can make a story in which) he steals a girl's heart. I tell them so. Though, it's difficult to achieve.
As the pig who offers a tissue flower to a girl and never uses violence even if he confines her in a room, I think I should never forget about these two things, and I have to make a movie standing on them.
There might be many contradictions in it, but I can't change it anymore, so I've decided I just have to keep going with it, no matter what people might say.
The transcript of the talk was originally published in Anipeke, a fanzine published by the Tokai Animation Circle.