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A talk between Hayao Miyazaki and Moebius

Translated from French to English by Achille Autran

© 2004 by Point du jour and Laurent Cotillon (Ciné Live n°86, January 2005)
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.

First Excerpt: The Meeting; Crossed Influences

Moebius - On the work part, it's true that first we roughly belong to the same generation and we started to work in a common context, and this is already a kind of similitude. Then, there were sensations. I don't know how Mr. Miyazaki discovered my work, for me it's very mysterious, whether through professional channels or...

Miyazaki - Through Arzach, which dates from 1975 I believe. I only met it in 1980, and it was a big shock. Not only for me. All manga authors were shaken by this work. Unfortunately when I discovered it, I already had a consolidated style. So I couldn't use his influence to enrich my drawing. Though, even today, I think he has an awesome sense of space. I directed Nausicaä under Moebius' influence.

Moebius - It's true that when I saw Nausciaä... It proves that influence doesn't matter much, what matters is that there was a community, a like-mindedness of inspiration that predated the conscious meeting, that, beyond cultures and beyond time and space, lets a person meet another one and feel synchronized with her. I was stricken not by what makes us look alike, but that people could see resemblances while so many things separates us. Mr. Miyazaki struck me because he was almost an executive, an industry director; because I know that animation cinema is an industry that demands a lot of power, since you have to lead 100, 150 or 200 people. And I'm amazed by the continued inspiration, the quality of inspiration, despite all this heavy machinery, over so many years. This I find absolutely incredible, and admire immensely. For I work alone, I am solitary.

Miyazaki - I am an animator. I feel like I'm the manager of a animation cinema factory. I am not an executive. I'm rather like a foreman, like the boss of a team of craftsmen. That is the spirit of how I work.

Moebius - It's interesting to know this because it is a great mystery. The authority and power of Mr. Miyazaki express themselves in invisible ways, and magical. It proves that in a magical way, the authority and power of Mr. Miyazaki express themselves in an invisible way. [Translator note: I kept it literal here, I have yet to understand what Moebius meant here besides the almost-tautology.]

Second excerpt: About Howl's Moving Castle.

Miyazaki - You think so? (Embarrassed smile.)

Moebius - A short time ago Mr. Suzuki was asked questions during the press conference, a Japanese journalist said the film, the last film, had been a little criticized in Japan, and Mr. Suzuki replied that Mr. Miyazaki liked to always break up the systems he stand upon, but that his foremost concern was the public, the satisfaction of the pubic. So there is a mix of adventure and care for the spectator.

Miyazaki - The 21st century is a complex and unforeseeable epoch. Our thinking habits and our values, which until now looked settled, are being challenged. Even if this film is intended for the young public, and must be entertaining, I couldn't be satisfied with reproducing films that had already been made, where you only had to fight off the bad guys. When I am doing a film I always wonder whether what I'm doing is interesting. I cut off all that is dull. By way of, it becomes a film that even my team cannot understand. It's embarrassing. (Laughs.)

Moebius - It's true that the last film is very complex concerning the ins and outs of places, the age of characters, etc. And to an extent what's unsettling is that the time dedicated to explanations is cut short. Well, many things are left unexplained in the film.

Miyazaki - I consider that this film is intended for a sixty years old little girl.

Moebius - Ha ha! That's great!

Miyazaki - Is someone different at age 18 or 60? I believe one stays the same. A 90 years old woman once said to me that she felt the same as when she was 18. So an 18 years old young woman is struck by a spell and changes into an old lady. I didn't want of a film where the key to happiness would be to break the spell and get youth back. In other words, what means breaking the spell? It's not only to rejuvenate. Being young is not panacea. So what is? How can this heroin be happy? I wondered about this very seriously, and this film is the result of my thinking.

Moebius - That's true.

Miyazaki - I didn't have time to show Howl's character in detail. My coworkers often said: "in the evening, when we go back home, after long work day, our wives do not know what we have done, and they don't care much." I did this film with the same spirit. Sophie doesn't have to care about what Howl is trying to do. So I didn't show it.

Moebius - At the beginning, the character really look like shoujo-manga archetypes. I mean, those characters with big eyes and hairs that flow like that (he represents a long lock a hair in front of the face) like a somewhat mysterious curtain. To, at the end, become very childish. At the end, he loses all his heroic - and a little arrogant - clothing attributes, and he becomes like a young man, naked.

Miyazaki - I'm very pleased. (Laughs.)

Third Excerpt: About the Job of an Animator: Doubts and Fears.

Moebius - Well, yes. Though it's true that working on films, creating complete artworks with a finely crafted script, sequences, some music, etc, is truly a path into the highest luxury available for a drawer.

Miyazaki - When it works alright, it's a luxury. But when it goes bad, I'm sad.

Moebius - Did Mr. Miyazaki go through periods of doubt about his work?

Miyazaki - All the time! (Laughs.)

Moebius - Is it true? That's crazy.

Miyazaki - When my coworkers say that they don't understand my film, I feel like the Earth is collapsing right under my feet.

Moebius - For example when I saw Princess Mononoke, and even more Spirited Away, I was struck by the fact that I couldn't imagine a producer, any producer in the world, accepting the script.

Miyazaki - My producer does not oppose to what I propose. He merely asks me to respect the time schedule.

Moebius - Oh, right. But, had he worked for Disney, he would have never managed to do that, not even Nausicaä.

Miyazaki - I can't do a film after having debated it. I am unable to do a film while discussing it with my team. I issue directives. I do not achieve it otherwise.

Moebius - But I think that this self-confidence is what nourishes Mr. Miyazaki's work, and makes it so unique, in cinema.

Miyazaki - About Howl's Moving Castle, we cannot say anything yet. I don't know how will the public accept the film. I never read reviews. I'm not interested. But I value a lot the reactions of the spectators. And I do not have the answer yet.

Fourth excerpt: Where Moebius Talks About Miyazaki.

Moebius - I would like to ask a little question, if I dare, or rather, make a small observation about something that struck me from the beginning: it's the fact that Mr. Miyazaki drew, well, drew inspiration in almost all his fantastic films from Europe, and European mythologies and spaces, be it Italy through Porco Rosso, or some sort of ideal Germany through Kiki or Howl, and even some others, Nausicaä could draw from Finland. We feel that this perception of Europe is very distant, idealized and liking, amorous. Somewhat akin to how we look at Japan. However, I found that films like Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away at once represents, (he hesitates) a coming home, that is very moving as well. And I like both. I love it. I think it sets the planet back upright.

Miyazaki - Of course, I have a lot of negative aspects in me. I can cast a cold and often desperate or pessimistic eye on things. But I do not want to include all this in a film potentially seen by children. On the contrary, I do all I can so that my films are merry and that they cheer up the spectators.

Moebius - That's good.

Fifth Excerpt: Where Miyazaki Talks About Moebius.

Miyazaki - I would like you to talk about yourself.

Moebius - Well, well, if you have some questions?

Miyazaki - Where did you learn to draw like that? How did you acquired this mastery of drawing?

Moebius - I had the presumptuousness, around age 12-13, to think that I was the best drawer in the world! And after that, I spent my life running up to the belief. Sometimes I feel like I know how to draw very well, and some other times I feel like I am an extremely naïve, and ignorant, drawer. Miyazaki - A star touched you. A shooting star. (Mimes the falling star.)

Moebius - Yes.

Miyazaki - I am convinced of it.

Moebius - Yes, it's a shooting star, exactly. But it stayed! (They laugh.)

Miyazaki - We were really amazed when we saw Moebius' drawings. How to explain that, we had discovered a new way to look at the world.

Moebius - I tried to work on that, on perception rather that on drawing technique.

Miyazaki - I think that world perception and technique are one.

Moebius - I am an obsessive about technique, but at the same time I think that all great artists did work on perception. This is what causes that suddenly, we are surprised by an artwork, whether by a writer, a musician, or anything; suddenly, he shows something that everyone had right in front of them but that nobody had seen. Or nobody had seen with this particular truth. Sometimes it can be very minute details, it can be the tip of nails, it can be the way hairs begin to curl, it can be how much information you use to depict an eye. For example on someone running, it's the instant when you stop the movement. The foot is that many centimeters off the ground. It had never been done before. You see, it is small things like that.

Miyazaki - Characters are pictured very simply in Moebius' drawings, yet they have a sort of atmosphere around them. And the characters themselves exhale all kinds of things, notably solitude and a great nobleness. For me, it is the greatest quality of Moebius' drawings.

Moebius - Thank you. Domo arigatou.

Miyazaki - In the name of many Japanese manga drawers, I would like to thank you.

Moebius - (Is flabbergasted by the compliment.) I learnt a lot from the manga drawers.

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