- 1 Wall Street Journal interview with Toshio Suzuki
- 2 Miyazaki talks about the Studio Ghibli Museum and "Tales of Earthsea"
- 3 The first Gedo Senki interview with producer Toshio Suzuki
- 4 Toshio Suzuki Q&A in Australia
- 5 Entertainment Weekly Interview with Miyazaki
- 6 Newsweek Interview with Miyazaki
- 7 Second Nausicaa.net Interview with Cindy and Don Hewitt
- 8 Miyazaki talks with Moebious
- 9 Miyazaki talks about Howl's Moving Castle
- 10 Nausicaa.net Interview with Cindy and Don Hewitt
- 11 Nausicaa.net Interview with Carl Horn (Viz Comics)
- 12 Miyazaki talks about Spirited Away and his influences.
- 13 Miyazaki talks about Mononoke-hime.
- 14 Miyazaki and Kurosawa Fireside Chat (Part 1)
- 15 Miyazaki and Kurosawa Fireside Chat (Part 2)
- 16 Takahata talking about Grave of the Fireflies and Seita.
- 17 Miyazaki is asked "why are you obsessed with girls?"
- 18 Miyazaki and Science Fiction
- 19 Miyazaki and Itoi discuss voice-acting for "My Neighbor Totoro".
- 20 Miyazaki talks about Grave of the Fireflies.
- 21 Miyazaki on On Your Mark
- 22 Mamoru OSHII talks about Miyazaki and Takahata
- 23 Yom Special Story: "Now, after Nausicaä has finished"
- 23.1 Interview
- 23.2 "The story won't end" --Hayao Miyazaki
- 23.3 The work I wasn't sure I could finish
- 23.4 When I finished the movie, I was cornered
- 23.5 I lost words
- 23.6 The collapse of the Soviet Union was easier than that of Doruk
- 23.7 Nausicaa has changed my way of thinking
- 23.8 "Solving" the environmental problem by cleaning up the river in the neighborhood
- 23.9 Leaving what I don't understand as it is
- 23.10 Spot 1
- 23.11 Porco Rosso and the civil war in Yugoslavia
- 23.12 Spot 2
- 23.13 Anime is for children
- 23.14 Spot 3
- 23.15 Laputa and healthy passion
- 23.16 Spot 4
- 23.17 About Isao Takahata-san, about Ponpoko
- 23.18 Spot 5
- 23.19 Kiki's Delivery Service
- 23.20 Spot 6
- 23.21 Things I can't do even if I want to do
- 24 Animation Makari Toru (Here Comes Animation)
- 25 Miyazaki on the ending of the Nausicaa manga.
- 26 Miyazaki on Japanese animation
- 27 Miyazaki and Takahata talk about their works and Japanese animation
- 28 Miyazaki and Oshii discuss Patlabor 2.
- 29 Money Can't Buy Creativity
- 30 Foreword to Art of Kiki's Delivery Service
- 31 Reasons Why I Don't Make Slapstick Action Films Now
- 32 An Interview with Miyazaki at Studio Ghibli
- 33 An Interview with Takahata at Corbeil-Essonnes
Wall Street Journal interview with Toshio Suzuki
WSJ: What was your first job and what was the biggest lesson you learned from it?
Mr. Suzuki: My family ran a small clothes-manufacturing business, so even as a child I helped my parents. To make clothes, you cut the fabric according to a pattern. The way you draw the pattern determines how much of the fabric will be wasted. To minimize waste, you have to think creatively. My first job outside the family business was at a rubber-making factory, a manual labor job. Being involved in manufacturing in both of those jobs made me want to become a person who makes things, rather than a white-collar office worker. I still have that tendency today.
WSJ: Who gave you the best business advice?
Mr. Suzuki: It was from the late Yasuyoshi Tokuma [the former president of Tokuma Shoten Publishing]. He told me, "money is just paper." Money is money because people think it is, but it's nothing but a piece of paper.
WSJ: What advice would you give someone starting out in your field today?
Mr. Suzuki: To those who are trying to make animation movies, I would tell them to brush up their skills. You need skills before everything else.
WSJ: What was the toughest decision you've had to make as a manager?
Mr. Suzuki: It was the decision to make "Princess Mononoke." Investors and distributors were against the idea. First of all, they thought historical dramas wouldn't sell. The second reason was timing. There was a Hollywood blockbuster scheduled for the same year. I think it was "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" . The third reason was that the budget was too big. It was a tough decision but turned out to be rewarding. I think having people who are against your plan is a positive thing because it creates tension that forces you to try harder to improve your plan. I've never yielded to opposition. I always struggle and push it through.
WSJ: What is the biggest mistake you've ever made?
Mr. Suzuki: Agreeing to become president. I really didn't want to assume that role, so I looked for someone else to take that position. But people I approached said the idea of working above me and Hayao Miyazaki [Japan's most famous animator and director of many Studio Ghibli films] is too intimidating. So in the end, I had to do it. What I don't like about being president is that one tends to become more conservative and miserly. When you are working under someone, you can do whatever you want and let the boss worry about the consequences. Even though I'm president, my role as a movie producer is my priority. I think that's because our company is very small and there isn't much need for management. In our office people rarely refer to me as president. Hayao Miyazaki calls me president only when we are in trouble.
WSJ: Managing a group of independent-minded creators sounds difficult. Is that so?
Mr. Suzuki: The most important thing is to give them an attractive, convincing project. Nobody loves to work for their bosses, but if there is a project that they think is worth their effort, they will work hard. I explain to all of them what the project is about so that they can share the vision. The ideas for such projects often emerge in casual, everyday situations, rather than at formal meetings. "Howl's Moving Castle," for example, was first conceived in a men's restroom. Hayao Miyazaki was there and he asked me what we should do for the next movie. That doesn't necessarily mean the ideas are random and spontaneous. Rather, we are always thinking about these things and always ready to talk about them. I don't think formal meetings are effective, because people may start thinking that meetings are special occasions for thinking hard and the rest of the time they don't have to think as hard. It takes much more effort to be prepared at all times.
WSJ: Why do you think Japanese animation is so popular and successful around the world?
Mr. Suzuki: Let me answer that with a metaphor I borrow from Japanese social critic Shuichi Kato. When building a house, traditional Japanese builders start with the tiniest detail and gradually expand from there. Western builders are the opposite. They start with the picture of a whole and add details to it. When Westerners look at old Japanese buildings, they often wonder how the builders drew the blueprint for such a complex shape. But the secret is that there never was a blueprint. It is this fundamental difference in approach that makes Japanese buildings fascinating to their eyes. The same thing can be said about animation. The way we create large images for movies is similar to that traditional architectural method. I think that explains the appeal Japanese animation can have, particularly in the western world.
Miyazaki talks about the Studio Ghibli Museum and "Tales of Earthsea"
By Yasuhisa Harada
Hayao Miyazaki, Japan's leading animation writer and director, recently created three short films--Yadosagashi (House Hunting), Mizugumo Monmon (Mon Mon the Water Spider), and Hoshi o Katta Hi (The Day I Bought a Star). They were recently screened at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, western Tokyo, "allowing children to enjoy them without being influenced by commercialism," the director told The Yomiuri Shimbun. Miyazaki made the comments in a rare interview for the domestic press in which the internationally acclaimed anime master gave his thoughts about these latest short films and other topics. The following are excerpts from the interview:
YS - You said you set about making the films right after you concluded production of Hauru no Ugoku Shiro (Howl's Moving Castle), which hit screens in 2004. You split your staff into three groups, each of which was led by one director-animator, giving them generous leeway in making the films.
MIYAZAKI - In the film Yadosagashi, the onomatopoeic sounds such as "zah" for pounding rain and "zawa-zawa" for a breeze in the forest were represented by the words themselves on the screen. All the sound effects and incidental "music" were performed vocally by [TV personality] Tamori and [pianist, singer and composer] Akiko Yano. We can't do this sort of thing in a typical film for the cinema.
Filmmaking these days is so restricted by conventions and rules. The sound effects, incidental music and dialogue are all done separately, and mixed and digitally processed later...For this reason, I wanted to give the work a live feel by requesting the two performers [Tamori and Yano] to produce oral sound effects, for example, the "zah" sound...recording the sounds in one take. I was really surprised by the talent shown by the two performers.
YS - I hear you used 30,000 cels to make Mizugumo Monmon (Mon Mon the Water Spider).
MIYAZAKI - To depict bubbles and the rippling of water takes a lot of cels, and the amount used is reflected in the cost. Making short films is definitely not commercial. But Studio Ghibli has a museum (Ghibli Museum, Mitaka). There, we don't need to worry about the commercial aspect of a film. You can't expect to have a more enjoyable job than that.
Nowadays, we live in an era of mass production and mass consumption, and films are no exception. You switch on [a video player] and you can watch screen images as often as you like. But, I believe, children's encounters with ideal visual images should not be like that. Our latest films are only available at the museum and I will be very happy if I am able to provide children with a different type of encounter with the visual arts.
Studio Ghibli, my animation company, is now amid something of a baby boom as two of our animators became fathers during the production of the shorts. I sent each of the new-born children greeting cards saying, "Your father was working on these films when you were still inside your mother. He did a great job." That was a really happy experience for me.
YS - You have received a number of prizes, including the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival in 2002 and an Oscar for best animated feature film in 2003 for Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away), which first came out in 2001. Hauru no Ugoku Shiro also was awarded the Osella prize for outstanding technical contribution at the Venice International Film Festival.
MIYAZAKI - Prizes do not mean anything to me. I think it is more important to make a child aware of the existence of a weird creature like a water spider that breathes through its backside.
In Yadosagashi, the leading character, a girl, encounters a lot of bugs when she spends a night at an empty house. The insects stop approaching her after she draws a line between herself and them.
That kind of thing would never happen in real life. But children like to play with these kinds of rules that stop you from crossing some kind of boundary. I think it is important to hold on to that kind of sensitivity. It also is important to have the feeling that everything in the world has a life. That is why the girl observes civilities [toward bugs, trees and shrines].
If I were told I could make a film on any theme I liked, I would like to do the legendary story of the people who escaped the fire during the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. These people took refuge on the Sumidagawa river aboard small boats tied up in the Fukagawa area of Tokyo. It is said that the people worked together to cool down the wooden boats, which were crackling in the intense heat, by showering them with water. I would love to re-create these scenes in an animation.
I also dream of making an animation about Edo at the time of Ota Dokan (1432-1486) [the warlord who built Edo Castle].
Actually, there's one unreleased screenplay I've already completed. It's the story of transportation at the end of Meiji era (1868-1912) on the Shinkashigawa river [that runs from what is now Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, into the Sumidagawa river]. I've had our staff animators visit local museums and read books to research the techniques of boatmen at the time and how they sculled boats.
I wanted to make a movie with this scenario so reference libraries could use it as educational material. But it's too long--30 minutes long--so I had to give up on the idea. I'm still ready to produce it if there's someone willing to fund the rest of the project.
YS - Studio Ghibli is producing a new animated film, Gedo Senki (Tales from Earthsea) [adapted from the fantasy novel Earthsea series by U.S. author, Ursula K. Le Guin]. The movie will open in July and is directed by your son, Goro Miyazaki. What are your thoughts?
MIYAZAKI - I won't say anything [about the movie], lend a hand or even look it over. I'm not involved in any way. I'm keeping myself to myself in my studio as whenever we see each other we quickly start to feel tension.
The relationship between a parent and a child isn't easy or simple. And I myself have my own standards to evaluate other people as professionals--whoever they may be.
But I'd never say, "Give up!" even if I didn't like something he was doing. I've never said anything like that to him.
YS - You turned 65 last week (Jan. 5). You say it's still not the time to talk about your next project.
MIYAZAKI - I haven't talked with anyone about it yet. Once I start talking, the idea will start to go flat. It's curious how the brain works. As long as it has some capacity, it keeps coming up with ideas. When it stops generating ideas, it's all over.
Creation is always a series of regrets, but Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi was an exception. I felt really good when I was creating it. I'd always wanted to visualize a train running on the surface of the sea, and I think we came up with the scene that perfectly matches that image.
I'd also wanted to create an image of shooting stars falling in a blaze of light right from the time when I was wondering if I should become a manga artist or an animator. I achieved this visualization in Hauru. I have other images I'd like to visualize, too, but I'm not sure if I really can do so. I don't have much time left.
These shorts, though, are among the things I've wanted to do. The celebrities aside, at the end of each of the films I credited all our staff members in random order in one shot. I don't like recent movies that roll the credits on and on and on. Doing the same thing for a short could even be considered insulting to the audience. It was fun to do it this other way.
This time round it struck me that Studio Ghibli had the world's best studio in terms of potential. You can say that in terms of cinematography, computer graphics, sound recording, personal connections and sincerity toward the work...in every aspect really. Nowhere else can make shorts like these. But having said that, we're just a group of average people with poor skills. Check out Ghibli Museum.
The first Gedo Senki interview with producer Toshio Suzuki
Suzuki: Otsuka Yasuo who was a mentor of Miyazaki Hayao saw the Gedo Senki storyboard, and said "it's wonderful as a movie". And he asked me "Who did it?". I answered "Goro". He very surprised, and asked "why he hasn't directed until now? The child of a frog is a frog!" Anno Hideaki saw this storyboard too. He admired it and asked "why he didn't direct earlier? This is perfectly Miyazaki anime!".
Suzuki: He (Miyazaki Hayao) hadn't seen this storyboard. He got angry about Goro, the project director, and said "Suzuki-san is crazy. He (Goro) can't direct. He can't draw a picture. He understands nothing!". Then, I showed Miyazaki the poster which Goro drew of Arren and a dragon facing each other. Miyazaki became silent. It (the poster) is drawn from a side-on camera angle which Miyazaki does not draw. It goes to show the power in a single picture. Then, I said clearly "I'm going on with this". He was struck dumb for a long time.
Q: What do you plan to do about the director's credit? S: I'm troubled. I thought of a strange plan: "Father - Miyazaki Hayao". (laughs)
The rest of the interview, especially the episode when Miyazaki(Hayao) and Suzuki visit Le Guin's house is very interesting. On page 1, Suzuki answers about why he chose Gedo Senki and why he chose Goro.
Anyway, the writer ends the article in this way: "In Porco Rosso, when the president of airplane manufacture company (who looks like Suzuki) is asked for repairs by Porco (who looks like Miyazaki), he introduces a young female designer Fio to him. When Porco refuses her, she asks him "Is the important thing experience? or inspiration?". Porco answers "It's inspiration"".
- Japanese proverb or saying meaning 'Like father, like son'.
- That is, with Miyazaki senior providing significant support and assistance, how should he be listed in the credits? Suzuki makes a joke in reply.
Toshio Suzuki Q&A in Australia
June 24, 2005
Transcribed by Chris Kuan
On June 24 2005, Toshio Suzuki was interviewed via an interpreter by Philip Brophy in front of a small room of about 100 people in Sydney, Australia as part of his publicity duties for Howl's Moving Castle at the Sydney Film Festival.
Due to my lack of shorthand skills, the following is culled from my scribbled notes during the 2-hour interview and subsequent audience question-and-answer session. I have tried to smooth the writing to make it understandable, but may have lost (or worse, mangled) nuances that were already filtered through the translator...
PB: Japanese animation is mostly known through TV and OAV series. Why did Studio Ghibli focus on making feature films?
TS: OAV and TV series do not have the time or budget to produce high-quality work. When we first made Nausicaa, we realized there was no other way to do what we wanted except make films.
PB: Was it difficult to raise the money for a feature film in Japan?
TS: The beginning is always important. Tokuma Shoten invested, but nobody was really sure of the cost. I guessed 3 times the normal.
PB: Were there troubles?
TS: Actually, it turned out much less than that.
PB: Has it changed, or do you have to go back to the start every time for money?
TS: Once Nausicaa was successful, I thought maybe I could ask for double that budget for Laputa
PB: Why does Ghibli make films with such a European look? Miyazaki seems to fuse those locations with folklore. How did this develop?
TS: There's a simple reason; at the beginning of anime in Japan, the technique was to realize things that could not be done in live-action. Therefore the settings were science fiction, or non-Japanese locations - for example, World Masterpiece Theatre. The first was TEZUKA Osamu, with Mighty Atom...  which was typical science fiction. Miyazaki and others became popular for their work on such titles as Heidi. Back then, it was difficult for the Japanese industry to have a Japanese main character and set the work within Japan.
In fact, Ghibli's first films Nausicaa and Laputa followed the sci-fi/foreign paradigm. When we proposed the double-bill of Totoro and Hotaru no Haka, *everyone* was opposed to it, because "nobody wants to see animation set in Japan". The main investor even said "why not make something like Nausicaa, with no set place?" We made a brief outline of the films; Totoro was set in Japan soon after the war; the main characters were children and a "spirit". Hotaru no Haka was totally about children. The investors were older people, and didn't want to be taken back to the poor times just after the war, or the war itself. And here we were proposing stories about "ghosts and graves"!
PB: Almost everyone I know is reduced to tears upon watching Hotaru no Haka Did it have the same effect in Japan?
TS: Yes - tears. Actually, Hotaru no Haka is based on a novel. As an 18-year-old university student, I read it and thought that one day I would like to make a movie from it.
PB: Is it true that Ghibli once performed location scouting on the Great Ocean Road ?
TS: Unfortunately, no. This is my 2nd time in Australia. We came to Cairns - if I recall correctly, back in 1991 after making Porco Rosso, during the bubble economy. The company trip went to Cairns - it was beautiful!
PB: Many Japanese couples honeymoon in Cairns...
TS: There were about 100 people...
PB: I read that Ghibli staff travel to locations to gather material for the backgrounds - is this depth of research why Ghibli films are so evocative?
TS: I will tell you a true story... Miya-san and I used to travel at the completion of a film; for fun, not research. We went to Ireland, England, Italy, Wales... Miyazaki's memory returns when production starts; he'll say "Let's use that place..." Only then will staff go location hunting. Miyazaki's favourite place was Ireland. The Isle of Aran was poor, sparsely-inhabited, basic stonework... Miyazaki liked it. We stayed for 3 days in a bed-and-breakfast place. One evening, we walked to a bar (it took 1 hour!) and as we returned, we saw the landscape under a "white night". Miyazaki stopped and stood up; the crows took off. It was such a beautiful scene that I did something rare: I took a photo. Miyazaki did something more rare; he got angry at me. "I'm trying to remember the scene; don't disturb me!"
A year later, when we were making Majo no Takkyubin, Miyazaki showed me a drawing, saying - "do you remember this?" I was shocked to see the same scene! Miyazaki asked, "Didn't you take a photo? Can I see it? I forgot parts..." So Miyazaki does not often work from photos; he sees, and recalls. For example, he remembers the various elements of a building - the roof, the windows. Sometimes he even asks about the interior layout, so he's always looking for details. When he draws, naturally he can't remember everything, so he fills in the details from his imagination - in this way, the work becomes original. I have forgotten the question (^_^)
PB: How did Miyazaki come up with the design for Howl's castle? From which country does it come?
TS: No lies today! That drawing was originally not meant for the film. I'll tell you a secret... it was intended to fill an empty space at the Studio Ghibli Museum - totally unrelated to the film. When Miyazaki asked me "What design should I use for the castle", I said "how about *that* one?" Miyazaki was happy, as there was now no need to find a new design. The problem became: what about its legs? The original book didn't give much detail. Miyazaki said that if it moves, it need legs. Firstly he though about samurai armour of the 12th-14th centuries, or maybe European armour of that time. Eventually, they became the legs of a... chicken. The next question was: how many - 6 or 4? I suggested 4 (because it would be less work to draw). Miyazaki agreed.
PB: Speaking of the Museum, not everybody might be familiar with it. I read that Miyazaki was very involved and that it took up a lot of his time.
TS: As you know, he is a creator, but he is also interested in the management of the Studio. 80 of the 180 staff are animators, and many are getting older, having been with the Studio for 2 decades. Miyazaki was worried what would happen to this aging workforce. He had an idea: a shop. Then the shop staff could also be animators - it will be a good thing! He always mixes up the original idea with something else... Anyway, we did want to have a shop, so we went location hunting. Someone proposed that it would be possible to lease part of the site of Inokashira Park . However, it was too big for just a shop. I'm not sure what happened, but it turned into a Museum. Se we seriously thought: what is this Museum to be? We asked around the world - a museum should be quiet, with little noise, and also dark, with little direct sunlight. So we made the opposite! This is one of the first museums in Japan aimed at children.
PB: Japanese museums in general are not as formal as in the West, but the Ghibli Museum is like Miyazaki's fantasy world.
TS: You've been?!
PB: Miyazaki told me 12 years ago that he in not interested in making movies for those outside Japan.
TS: Perhaps he was misinterpreted. He is only aware of his Japanese audience, as he knows little about foreign audiences. But he does believe that what appeals to the Japanese can also appeal to foreigners.
PB: What happened to Takahata's animation school?
TS: We tried this twice, where junior staff would be attend. Takahata taught about directing, and the other was led by Miyazaki. It didn't work, because a talented genius filmmaker is not necessarily a good teacher. Actually, it was really terrible.
PB: Do Studio Ghibli work on 1 film at a time, or more?
TS: Usually just 1. When planning a film, we consider what is happening in the world, in Japan, in Tokyo, in the lives of the staff. All these considerations are connected. This is a characteristic of Ghibli movies. As most of you have not seen the film, I will give a brief overview: it is about a young lady of 18 who turns into an old lady of 90. The reason we did this was that Japan is in a long recession. So we have 2 things: older people who fear for their jobs, and younger people who cannot imagine a worthwhile future. These young ones feel and act old. This film is a message to Japan - although I don't know about the rest of the world.
PB: It's good to see a continuing focus on Japan, rather than portraying things as you think we would like to see them in the West. The cartoon market in the West is pretty much limited to children, and their parents. In Japan, it seems wider - children, families, hentai (perverts), etc. What is your view of the market in Japan?
TS: It is different in Japan, Europe, Asia and the USA, with the USA most different of all. In Europe, they imported titles such as Heidi and Marco, so they were familiar with the Japanese style of Takahata and Miyazaki. Studio Ghibli was therefore an extension of the known. Miyazaki's great reception in France has been helped by Heidi and Marco. In the USA, there was no such basis. Therefore it is difficult, and takes time, to gain recognition. Asia has also seem some Miyazaki animation before. I don't really know how he is perceived in Australia?
PB: "Eh, not bad" 
PB: Studio Ghibli are seen as the benchmark for film animation - their attention to detail, etc. What is your view on the state of the industry in Japan?
TS: Honestly, I don't watch much anime. I think there are not many good ones... do I sound like a snob? Sometimes I will take a look at one or two, but they are not so good, so... it's unfortunate that by the end of January, 78 episodes of animation were shown in Japan; last year there were 192 OAV titles, of which half were really series. I think there are about 9000 animators in Japan - how did all this anime get made? The answer is that only about 10% were made wholly in Japan. This outsourcing is not necessarily a good situation. If it continues, Japan will lose animators and I worry for the future.
PB: Are there any anime schools in Japan, as opposed to the many manga schools?
TS: There were many, but becoming fewer.
TS: The subject is becoming darker and darker... There are fewer youths today who want to be in the industry. There are 2 reasons - that the number of titles leads to lower budgets and lower pay; and more seriously, while they may want to *watch* anime, they don't want to *make* it.
PB: This leads to the final question: Studio Ghibli works have a great hand-drawn quality to them, and I don't mean that in some hippy way. Some people prefer computer graphics. What is your feeling on CG?
TS: Miya-san cannot use a computer. Of course he has no e-mail - not just because he doesn't have it, but because he can't! Therefore he always returns to hand-drawing. In reality, anime films cannot be made without computers. For 2 reasons: in the past, drawings were hand-painted onto cels. These cels are no longer being manufactured. Secondly, with the increase in digital paint and ink tools, the old skills are being lost. Therefore there is no choice. Actually, computers can allow challenging new modes of expression. If you only show Miyazaki the results, he might get very excited and say, "let's use more". The legs of Howl's castle were originally CG. But when I saw the rushes, I thought, let's put more hand-drawn art in. my opinion is that as most people move into CG, Studio Ghibli will become unique and therefore we want to continue. We went to the USA and met Pete Docter, the dub supervisor for Howl, who said "I want to try 2D"!
Audience Q&A Time then commenced.
Q: A 2-part question: How have you inspired others such as Pixar, and how do you perceive yourselves?
TS: Other studios, such as Pixar, Disney, etc we regard as friends. Pixar is the leader in CG. Ghibli gets a lot of assistance from them. John Lasseter also assisted with the English dubs since Spirited Away, and also gave us some technical support. In return, when we visited him, we gave him the head of the Catbus from the Catbus Room at the Ghibli Museum 
Q: What about Miyazaki's non-work life? How did he get to be so imaginative?
TS: I told you earlier about how he "preserves" a building; but his observation is not limited to them. he observes almost everything from the time he wakes until the time he sleeps. For instance, when going out to eat, he observes people, and might see something unusual, and will say "what's so unusual about that man... I've got it! There are 3 type of eaters; those who bring the food to the mouth, those who bring the mouth to the food, and those who meet in the middle. But this man... *he* is different"  This makes Miyazaki happy to see; and it might appear in a subsequent film. He can also imitate the gaits of various staff. For instance, a person with a bad back will move their legs, but not the back.
To observe and imitate is most important. He reads books, observes, etc. He often says "Don't rush for a drawing reference book - it should be inside your head". His drawings are not totally original - he uses pieces from his memory. His head is big for a Japanese person... 28 years after I first met him, I meet and talk with him almost very day; I'm getting a bit tired. One day I wondered why we are still together; it's because we don't revisit the past. This morning, at the press conference, someone mentioned Ghibli's 20th anniversary. We were not really aware of it. The topic is always *now*, or tomorrow. We discuss world events, down to anime shows. When Miyazaki sees some news that person A is in love with person B, he rushes to tell me and is disappointed if I already heard.
Q: How do you choose voice actors?
TS: Miyazaki does not watch TV or films, so he doesn't know many actors. When we have meetings with the casting director, Miyazaki's suggestions for actors are usually dead! Especially for older characters like Old-Sophie. So I usually come up with a list. We all listen to the tapes together, and Miyazaki makes the final decision. They are not always professional voice-actors.
Q: Miyazaki has said that the only wants to "entertain and delight" his audiences. But his works have become more... environmental. What does he really want to tell his audiences?
TS: In talks to younger staff, he has said that a film must do 3 things: be interesting, contain only 1 or 2 of the director's themes, and make money!
Q: What do you think of animes increasing popularity in the West?
TS: Comparing Japanese and Western films is a matter of timing and space. For instance, the hero of the baseball TV anime Kyojin no Hoshi was a pitcher. One entire half-hour episode took place within the duration of a single pitch. As he was about to pitch, his memories came flooding back... In another scene, he was having dinner in a small 4-and-a-half tatami-mat room with his father and older sister. As the father and son began to argue, the room expanded to 10 times its size... and returned to normal once the fight ended. Similar effects, such as slow-motion, are frequent in Japanese live-action movies. It is less common in the West, notably in films such as The Matrix, which also had interesting set designs that were not proportional. The camera work of drawings also differs between Japan and the West. In manga, the centre of the panel has a normal lens, while around it, the field of view becomes wide-angle.
Q: How many projects do you work on at once, and what's next?
TS: We only do 1 film at a time, which gives problems. After Howl finished, there was not much work for a year. Our new project is confirmed and will begin in the  summer, but I cannot tell you what it is.
Q: Why does Miyazaki have so many recurring characters (for instance the Old Lady is Ma Dola from Laputa and also Yubaba and Zeniba from Sen)?
TS: Probably because he is not so talented and inventive! When he has to work on a female character, he concentrates mostly on the hair. it is difficult to come up with so many characters... Miyazaki's face is square. When he did the design for the father in Totoro, he presented the staff with two alternatives: the one that was eventually used, and a square face. Everybody preferred the first one! He looked a little sad at that.
Q: In what way are you Yubaba?
TS: (much laughter) Miyazaki is very treacherous! He says that I am like that bath-house manager in attitude (not in appearance). He, on the other hand, is like the multi-armed Kamaji...
Q: KUROSAWA Akira used Japanese folklore and history for many of his films; would you do the same?
TS: Kurosawa's history of Japan is not as accurate as we might think. He was a very talented filmmaker, so perhaps we were deceived into thinking it was true. This is not a totally bad thing... Miyazaki made Mononoke Hime in competition to The Seven Samurai. This is a new, different perspective on a period of Japanese history. It is up to you, the audience, to judge the success.
TS: (after a long, deep silence) Actually, I was the producer for 2 of those 3 films, but I have not seen Steamboy. Oshii is a friend, so I accepted the producer's role for his film. Actually, I think Howl was more interesting. But I cannot comment on Steamboy.
- at this point, PB cross-translates for the room Astro Boy and points to his T-Shirt (^_^)
- a seaside drive on the Southern coast of Australia, noted for its stark rock formations and sheer cliffs
- owned by the Tokyo Government
- this joke had to be translated for Suzuki
- It would be about as large as a couple of young children!
- Suzuki demonstrates an amusing contortion
- Northern Hemisphere
- OTOMO Katsuhiro's
- OSHII Mamoru's
Entertainment Weekly Interview with Miyazaki
By Steve Daly
His last movie, Spirited Away, became Japan's all-time box office champ and won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. But at 64, writer-director Hayao Miyazaki remains a cult figure in America, cherished mainly by critics and anime buffs. That's okay with him, as we learned in a translator-assisted chat timed to coincide with Disney's release of his latest, the fanciful Howl's Moving Castle.
EW - Some of your more kid-friendly movies, like Kiki's Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro, have been video hits here, but others - like Princess Mononoke and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind - are so adult and so steeped in Asian culture, they're puzzling to Americans.
MIYAZAKI - I can't believe companies distribute my movies in America. They're baffling in Japan! I'm well aware there are spots in Howl's Moving Castle where I'm going to lose some of the audience. Why do you land in a different place when you open the door? Well, it's magic. I don't provide unnecessary explanations. If you want that, you're not going to like my movie. That's just the way it is.
EW - You've said you don't like the prevalence of virtual experience in kids' lives.
MIYAZAKI - When I think about the way the computer has taken over and eliminated a certain experience of life, that makes me sad. When we were [animating Calcifer, a fire demon], some staff said they had never seen wood burning. I said, Go watch! It has disappeared from their daily lives. Japanese baths used to be made by burning firewood. Now you press a button. I don't think you can become an animator if you don't have any experience.
EW - 2-D animation seems to be dead in America, at least in features. What happened?
MIYAZAKI - We're hitting a similar wall in Japan. . .I think 2-D animation disappeared from Disney because they made so many uninteresting films. They became very conservative in the way they created them. It's too bad. I thought 2-D and 3-D could coexist happily.
EW - Is CGI going to destroy 2-D in the end?
MIYAZAKI - I'm actually not all that worried. I wouldn't give up on it completely. Once in a while there are strange, rich people who like to invest in odd things. You're going to have people in corners of garages [making cartoons] to please themselves. And I'm more interested in the people who hang out in corners of garages than I am in big business.
Newsweek Interview with Miyazaki
Meeting Hayao Miyazaki, Japan's greatest living director, is nothing like watching a Miyazaki film. The man dresses entirely in gray, chain-smokes and has a bleak, fatalistic sense of humor. The films, meanwhile�"My Neighbor Totoro," "Princess Mononoke," his masterpiece "Spirited Away"�are enchanting, radiantly colorful fever dreams. The 64-year-old director is a legend among American animators, and back home he's the equivalent of Steven Spielberg. Miyazaki rarely speaks publicly, but as his latest miracle, "Howl's Moving Castle," arrived in U.S. theaters last week, he made an exception and sat down with NEWSWEEK's Devin Gordon.
GORDON - Why this change of heart?
MIYAZAKI - I figured, "Oh, what the hell." [Laughs] And I feel sorry about making my producer do all the interviews.
GORDON - Are you hoping your films will enjoy the same success here that they do in Japan?
MIYAZAKI - I think only about my Japanese audience when I make a film. Of course, I'm delighted that people from other countries also enjoy my films. But I try not to think of this as an international business. [Laughs] Somewhere my producer is probably saying the exact opposite.
GORDON - Were you surprised "Spirited" won an Oscar?
MIYAZAKI - Actually, your country had just started the war against Iraq, and I had a great deal of rage about that. So I felt some hesitation about the award. In fact, I had just started to make "Howl's Moving Castle," so the film is profoundly affected by the war in Iraq.
GORDON - It's also the rare children's film that addresses the subject of aging. Your protagonist is a young girl who's turned by a witch into a 90-year-old woman.
MIYAZAKI - I made this film so that I could show it to a young girl of 60. [Laughs] What's wonderful about the story is that the happy ending isn't that the spell is broken and the girl is young again. It's that she forgets her age.
GORDON - The film doesn't follow Western storytelling conventions.
MIYAZAKI - A lot of people say they don't understand the film, and what that means is just that they have a set definition of how a story is supposed to be told. When the story betrays their anticipations, then they complain. Which I find ridiculous. My father, in his old age, only watched TV programs where he could figure out the story in the first three minutes. He'd say, "I can understand this. I can follow it." But I think it's a waste of time to try to change people.
GORDON - In an interview, "Ghost in the Shell" director Mamoru Oshii claimed that, deep down, you dream of "destroying Japan" and making movies with lots of bloodshed.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs] It's not that I want to destroy Japan. It's that I predict that it will be destroyed. Oshii and I are friends, so we always dis each other.
GORDON - OK, but what makes him suspect that you have such feelings about Japan?
MIYAZAKI - Maybe it's because I say things like "Oh, I wish the big earthquake would just hurry up and get here." [Laughs] My thoughts are very pessimistic, yes, but my general state of being is very positive.
Second Nausicaa.net Interview with Cindy and Don Hewitt
Many thanks to Cindy, Don, and producer/director Rick Dempsey for their time and answers and to the multitude of people who submitted questions.
- General Overview
- Spirited Away
- Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind
- Porco Rosso
- The Cat Returns
- Howl's Moving Castle
- My Neighbor Totoro
- Whisper of the Heart
- Pom Poko
- Other Releases
Q: Can you go through the process of how you get the original script, what you do with it, and how you get the script approved by Ghibli. How much contact do you have with the folks at Ghibli when you're working on a script?
How long does it take for you to do a script, from the time you are handed the literal translation and tape (or DVD) to the time you turn in your script? And how long does it generally take to make the dub from the first session with the first voice actor to the final voice actor being finished?
A: It starts with us receiving a direct translation of the script (I think it's always done by Jim Hubbert) and a video tape with subtitles. First we watch the subtitled film and note what we don't understand, as far as plot or character development goes. Then we read over Jim Hubbert's translation (which differs from the subtitles) and look for answers. We discuss what we'd like to clarify or underscore, then we start writing dialogue. We count the number of syllables available for each line, and then we write three, four, sometimes ten different options with the correct syllable count for every single line. By this point, we usually have wicked headaches, get really crabby, and start wandering around our home muttering lines in Japanese (after Totoro, we yelled "Mah-tay!" at each other nonstop.) This process usually takes about 2-3 weeks. Then we will email our script to Disney and Studio Ghibli.
A team of people at Studio Ghibli go over the script, then they send a list of revisions back to us. We incorporate the revisions, often offering various options for the lines (due to lip sync or flow.) Then we will submit the new script to Studio Ghibli. Sometimes this step is repeated several times. But on Howl's Moving Castle, Steve Alpert flew in from Studio Ghibli, and we spent 3 days at Disney reviewing the film and our script, line by line. It was a very thorough process.
Once we have an approved script, the voice recording begins. It generally takes about 3 weeks for the recording process, but that time often gets extended to accommodate actors' schedules. Billy Crystal, for example, was performing a one-man show on Broadway, so part of the team had to fly to New York to record Billy. Logistically, it was a pain, but the performance we got from Billy was definitely worth it! Back to Contents Spirited Away
Q: Why were the extra lines for Chihiro and her dad added to the very end of the English dub?
A: Adapting a film to another language is a fluid thing. Words are representations of emotions set in a cultural context. Sometimes simply translating word-for-word does not express the emotional experience. We try to capture the experience of the movie as a whole, not just the specific words.
Many of the reviews which we read prior to writing the script mentioned how abrupt the ending felt. Chihiro's emotional journey did not seem complete. So we wrote a short ending to the scene and submitted it to John Lasseter and Studio Ghibli. The extra lines were unanimously approved.
Q: This is another question that has been debated frequently among the fans. In the Japanese version, when Chihiro first sees Haku in dragon form fly off, she doesn't say anything. In fact it appears that she doesn't yet realize that the dragon is Haku's other form. Yet in the English dub she says "That's Haku" even though nothing has happened yet to tell her that Haku has a dragon form. It's as if she just intuitively and magically recognizes him. (And since this is a fantasy, that's entirely possible.) So the question is what exactly was the reasoning behind putting in that line? Was it just to help make the audience understand that Haku could change forms (something the Japanese audience intuitively might suspect, but the American audience wouldn't)?
A: (Answer from 1st interview) "Haku," means white in Japanese and is the name of a mahjong tile with a white dragon on it. Very few people in America play mahjong, so very few Americans would be able to make the link between the character Haku and a white dragon. Therefore, we added a line of dialogue to help the non-mahjong-playing Americans follow the plot. #Back to Contents
Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind
Q: In Nausicaa the name of the forest has been variously translated as "Sea of Corruption" and "Sea of Decay," but in the English dub the name is "Toxic Jungle." Was this the official name you received from Ghibli or was it chosen by you to match lip flaps?
A: We discussed this extensively with Studio Ghibli, and we all decided that the name "Toxic Jungle" was most accurate.
Q: Also, in the manga her glider is referred to as "mehve" but the word isn't used in the English script. Was this left out simply to avoid introducing more jargon into the script, or was there more involved in the decision-making process?
A: The direct translation we received did not use "mehve."
Q: Why was the name for the giant insects changed from "ohmu" to "ohm"? That one seemed rather arbitrary. And who had the final say on deciding how names and places were officially pronounced in English?
A: We preferred "ohmu," but Studio Ghibli preferred "ohm." Also, they are very specific about how they want each name pronounced.
Q: Did you ever see the original (and edited) English version of Nausicaa, Warriors of the Wind? If so, did you consider it an example of how not to do a dub?
A: We've never seen it. #Back to Contents
Q: In the Japanese version (and still in the subtitles in the US version) Curtis says he's from Alabama. But in the dubbed version he says he's from Texas. Why was it changed? Was it a matter of number of lip flaps or did Cary Elwes feel he could do a better Texas accent than a southern accent?
A: We went with "Texas" for lip flaps.
Q: There was an earlier English dub of Porco done for the in-flight version and later released on the Japanese DVD version of Porco. Did you folks ever look at that or did you start with a fresh translation?
A: Yes, we saw this one. But they took a very different approach to the film than we did. Theirs seems to be a bit cartoony and aimed at kids, whereas we felt the story should be much more real, like Casablanca. #Back to Contents
The Cat Returns
Q: The one question we got most often is something you had nothing to do with, but you might be able to answer it anyway. The both sets of subtitles on The Cat Returns were just the dubbing script rather than the usual dub script and literal translation. Since there was a literal translation subtitle script on the Japanese DVD release of Cat, the fans have been very puzzled about why that wasn't used in the US release. Was this a deliberate decision on the part of Disney or was it just a mistake that was overlooked in the disc's production?
A: Sorry, don't know anything about that one.
Q: The King of the Cats keeps referring to Haru as "Babe." Since that wasn't in the original Japanese script was that something you folks added or was that something that Tim Curry added?
A: We added it. Often, characters' voices feel bland in direct translations, because their quirks and idiosyncrasies are dropped. We try to find a voice for each character. The Cat King's posture, attitude, and actions implied to us that he was the type of groovy dude who might call everyone "Babe" and say "Ciao," so we added that to his dialogue. #Back to Contents
Howl's Moving Castle
Q: In doing the script for Howl's Moving Castle, did you just use Miyazaki's script or did you also use Diana Wynne Jones' book as a backup reference?
A: First, we watched the film several times. Then Cindy took the first pass at the script, while Don read the novel. Cindy purposely didn't read the novel, so she wouldn't start accidentally blending in elements from the book which Miyazaki hadn't put in his film. If Cindy didn't understand an aspect of the film, she would ask Don if the book could provide an answer. But we always made sure to keep the book and the film distinct, since the film does vary from the book significantly.
Q: In the same vein, did you ever have any contact with Ms. Jones about the script or her ideas for how she thought the English-language voices should sound?
A: No, but hopefully we'll get to meet her in the future.
Q: I am so glad they cast Christian Bale, a Welshman, for the role of Howl. I really feel there that they cast someone to fit the role instead of trying to make the role fit the person. Was Christian always the intention? I liked him a lot in Pocahontas as Thomas. He's a really good VA.
A: Ned Lott at Disney came up with all the casting suggestions. And Christian is great (and incredibly sexy! - Okay that was Cindy's comment) as Howl.
Q: When Spirited Away was first released in fall 2003, it never got to more than 150 screens at a time in North America (compared to a typical wide release US film that will be on 2000 to 3000 screens). There was a report in a Japanese newspaper saying that Disney was planning to go with a bigger release for Howl of around 800 screens. Do you know and can you tell us how wide a release Howl will get in June?
A: Actually, Disney went to over 700 screens after Spirited Away won the Oscar, but that was 2 weeks before the video release. The final decision regarding the number of screens has not been made. But I can tell you that Howl's tested very well on its test screening. Even the widest release would still probably be well below 2000 screens.
Q: Please don't read the following as hostile! - I think you and Disney have done a fantastic job in making Hayao Miyazaki's films more accessible in the West and I for one am extremely grateful. You made it very clear in your previous fascinating interview that you're aiming your work on the English dubs at an American audience. Which is quite understandable, except that it can read and sound very uncomfortable for English-speaking audiences elsewhere. I'm curious to know, has this issue ever been considered by Disney? Selfishly, I wish there was a British English script and dub for these films.
While this may seem parochial, don't forget it's normal practice for US networks to redub any British children's programmes they buy. Perhaps we should benefit from similar considerations, especially since most of these films are intended for younger audiences. This point is going to gain some sharpness when Disney releases Howl's Moving Castle in Britain since it is based a British book. I'm afraid some of us are going to be wincing at hearing the US accents/vernacular/words etc. (not to mention the spellings ^_^ )
A: Howl's may be very annoying to the British since there are three actors from the UK (Jean Simmons, Christian Bale, and Emily Mortimer) and they are not using their accents. Sophie and her sister Lettie (played by American Jena Malone) all speak with a mild "Mid-Atlantic" accent, which is neither American nor British - it's somewhere in between.
Films are released by territories. Studio Ghibli's deal with Disney is for the USA (and Canada.) Unfortunately, we have no control over what is released in the UK and other English-speaking non-American countries. It is our understanding that the company that has released some of the Studio Ghibli films in the UK purchased the rights to the American dubs.
Q: Tell us about how Pete Docter and Rick Dempsey went about doing the directing on Howl? Was their style different or similar to the style of the other dub directors? Any good "behind the scenes" stories about the dub?
A: Pete and Rick are two of the best directors we've had the privilege to work with. They both are very positive and very specific - actors are always praising them for knowing exactly what they want.
Sorry, don't really have any good stories other than the fact that everyone was extremely nice and a joy to work with. Pete Docter does eat too much sugar, though - often in the form of marshmallow chick peeps.
Q: What was it like getting screen legends like Jean Simmons and Lauren Bacall to play characters in Howl? How did you get them in the first place? What were their reactions to the film?
A: Both Ms. Simmons and Ms. Bacall were amazing. They both loved the film and seemed to really enjoy playing their roles. Once again it was Ned Lott who suggested and secured them. (And the fact that Spirited Away won an Oscar always helps when trying to convince an actor to consider a project...) #Back to Contents
My Neighbor Totoro
Q: The new dub of Totoro was originally supposed to be released last August (along with Nausicaa and Porco), but then they were delayed and Totoro was replaced with The Cat Returns. The only official explanation from Disney was that there were "technical problems" with Totoro that caused them to push its release back further. Can you expand on that any?
A: Unfortunately, I can not go into specifics, but I can say that the "technical" problems were actually more "legal" in nature and our allowable release dates were restricted. Aren't lawyers fun!
Q: Legal problems? Is there anything more you can say to explain this?
Rick Dempsey: It's a matter of expiration and rights terms between Disney and Fox. We have to leave it at that...
Q: Was there anything particularly tough about the redubbing of Totoro?
A: No, it was actually quite easy. We were worried because it has such big roles for two young girls. But Dakota Fanning and her little sister Elle Fanning turned out to be such amazingly talented young actresses that it was a blast. Eerily, the way Dakota and Elle relate to each other is so similar to Satsuki and Mei, that you would think Miyazaki had known the girls and based the characters on them.
Q: Some of the fans really liked the original 1990 dub of Totoro that was on the Fox version. Was there a reason Disney couldn't use that dub, or did they just want to do it themselves?
A: We liked that dub, too.
Rick Dempsey: Disney doesn't have the rights to release the Fox version, so once we obtained the opportunity to release the film under the Disney Banner, we were obligated to recreate the English version. Selfishly, I do think that the latest version is an excellent dub. #Back to Contents
Whisper of the Heart
Q: The dub for this was completed some time ago, but it still hasn't been released. Can you tell us what the hold up for it is? There has been a lot of speculation among the fans that there was a problem in getting the rights to the song "Country Roads," but that's just pure speculation. Unfortunately, since Disney has never said anything, this speculation is now accepted as fact by a lot of fans. Can you help settle this debate?
A: Actually the recording was halted back in 2003, and the film is still not complete. Just this week we began to record again, and we should have the film completed soon. I believe the film will be released next spring with My Neighbor Totoro and Howl's.
Q: Why did they suspend the dubbing of Whisper?
Rick Dempsey: Another legal hurdle regarding music rights. Without going into specifics, we had to iron a few things out in regards to the song "Country Roads," and it took longer then we anticipated. Studio Ghibli also wanted to change the release order of the films after we had already started Whispers - they pushed Whispers back. So between the legal/music issues and a deadline that was pushed back, we stopped production and moved onto the other films. We are now back in the studio completing it for a release in Spring '06.
Q: Since one of the key plot points of Whisper is Shizuku's work to write a translation of "Country Roads" in Japanese, how did you handle that in the English dub? Did you leave the translation in Japanese in the soundtrack or did you have her new lyrics translated back to English and sung in English? (Several fans asked this question and told us that the scene of her singing with Seiji and his grandfather and friends is their favorite scene in the movie and they're very worried about how it will be handled in the English dub.)
A: Instead of having Shizuku translate "Country Roads" into Japanese (which wouldn't make much sense in an English dub) we had Shizuku come up with her own lyrics for the tune. Her first attempt is a little rough. Later, as she's growing as a writer, she writes another version which is better, because she writes it from the heart. Hopefully these scenes will play much the way they did in the original. #Back to Contents
Q: It's uniformly agreed that the one Ghibli film with the most Japanese cultural references that will confuse a Western viewer is Pom Poko. Are there any plans to include an explanation of all these references either as an extra on the DVD itself or as an insert with the DVD?
A: Actually that's a great idea, but I think the DVD is complete. I'm not sure what extras will be on it.
Q: Tanuki are not raccoons, but a native Japanese species that are similar to raccoons. In the dub are they called "raccoons" or did you stick with "tanuki"? Given the large amount of Japanese folklore about tanuki that most Western audiences don't know, how did you go about trying to explain their powers and their significance in Japanese culture?
A: We went with "raccoon." (Once again that was what was on the direct translation we received.) There's a long section of training the young ones that did a great job of explaining the raccoon powers, so it wasn't necessary to add any explanation.
Q: Since Pom Poko involves jokes about the tanuki's testicles, how is that being handled in the English dub and will that affect how Disney markets it?
A: Actually, their initial reaction was that they were not going to release it. So we looked up "scrotum" in the dictionary. (It's the scrotum, not the testicles that the raccoons are stretching.) The definition is, "the external pouch that contains the testes." So we suggested using the word "pouch," and both Disney and Studio Ghibli agreed to it.
Q: Can you tell us who the cast is for Pom Poko?
- Jonathan Taylor Thomas as SHOKICHI
- J.K. Simmons as SEIZAEMON
- Clancy Brown as GONTA
- Maurice LaMarche as NARRATOR
- Andre Stojka as OSHO
But the big news is Don was a co-director on this one! #Back to Contents
Q: Can you tell us what the release schedule is for the rest of the Ghibli films on DVD (Totoro, Pom Poko, Whisper of the Heart, Only Yesterday, My Neighbors the Yamadas)?
A: I just saw this on your website: Pom Poko and Yamadas will be released on Aug 16th. Only Yesterday is currently not scheduled to be dubbed or released.
Q: Can you tell us the cast list for Yamadas?
A: Yamadas is the only film we did not work on. But I can tell you that Jim Belushi and Molly Shannon are Mr & Mrs Yamada.
Q: Is the made-for-TV Ghibli film I Can Hear the Sea (a.k.a. Ocean Waves) also licensed by Disney for North American release? It's never been clear in any of the announcements from either Japan or the US if it was included or not. If so, is there any word on when it will be released and who the cast will be?
A: They aren't part of any future releases that I know of. But Studio Ghibli is considering dubbing the short The Ghiblies 2.
Q: Is there any chance that Disney will ever license and release the Studio Ghibli Museum short films (Mei and the Kittenbus, Koro's Big Day Out, and The Whale Hunt) in North America?
A: My understanding is these films were made for the museum and there are no plans for them to leave the museum. #Back to Contents
Q: How much involvement did John Lasseter have in the films you worked on after Spirited Away?
A: John has been extremely busy since Spirited Away, due to the fact that he has his own feature coming out (Cars.) He did, however, get very involved in Howl's.
Q: How did you folks get involved with doing the scripts for the Ghibli films in the first place?
A: We were hired by Pixar to work on a project. We met John, and he recommended us for Spirited Away.
Q: Were you already aware of Miyazaki and the Studio Ghibli films when you first got the job for Spirited Away?
A: No. Isn't that weird?
Q: Japanese films tend to have longer silences and pauses than American films and some of the fans are annoyed when the English dubs add some lines in those pauses. Of course some of the lines are necessary to explain something that's obvious to the Japanese audience but not to the American audience. So how do you and the directors decide when it's necessary to add a line or when to let an actor ad-lib a line?
A: Rarely does an actor adlib. (John Ratzenberger adlibbed a line about No Face's esophagus in Spirited Away. That's the only line I can think of that was adlibbed and kept in the movie.) We add in extra lines when there is something culturally accepted or understood by Japanese audiences which we believe will not be accepted or understood by American audiences. These points are always judgment calls, and we spend countless hours discussing these decisions with Studio Ghibli.
Q: Of all the Ghibli films you've worked on, which one was the hardest to do? In other words, which was the hardest to make it make sense and work out in English?
A: Pom Poko, hands down. Those darn raccoons sing 22 songs, which we had to make rhyme in English; and they always have the TV on, so we had to come up with dialogue for the newscasters in the background as well as the raccoons speaking in the foreground. The script for Pom Poko was over 150 pages, whereas the other scripts are usually 100 pages or less.
Q: What do you like best about doing the Ghibli scripts?
A: The storytelling is so great, working on each film is like taking an advanced screenwriting class.
Q: What in particular did you like about each one of the films?
A: My favorite characters are often the ones that don't speak, like the soot balls and the Totoros. I'm constantly in awe of how much Miyazaki can communicate without words.
Q: Now that you've done most of them, do you have a favorite?
A: Cindy's favorite is Porco Rosso. Don would have to say as a writer Porco was also his favorite but it was a blast to direct Pom Poko.
Q: In the "Making of" videos they show you two in the dubbing studio. Are you there for all the dubbing sessions or just for the main characters? Also, how much say (if any) do you have in suggesting how the voice actors read the lines?
A: We're there for every recording session. The directors have been very collaborative and always allow us to give our opinion.
Q: Do the actors listen to the Japanese dialog first or do they tend to ignore it so they can have "fresh" take on the lines?
A: Some actors like to see the scene in Japanese first. It helps to get the timing and pacing. But some don't. Each actor has their own method.
Q: How much money has Disney made on the release of the Ghibli films?
Rick Dempsey: The partnership between Disney and Studio Ghibli has proven to be a very good and rewarding relationship.
Q: Except for the closing song in Mononoke and the opening and closing songs for Kiki (which you weren't involved with) all the songs in the Ghibli films have been left in the original Japanese (which most of the fans appreciate). But why don't they put a translation of the song in the subtitles?
A: We never receive a translation of the opening or closing songs. Since we haven't really been involved with the opening and closing songs we can't say why there are no subtitles.
Rick Dempsey: However, we did have an English singer cover the opening and closing vocals in My Neighbor Totoro. We used a singer named Sonya Isaacs at John Lasseter's recommendation. . . and she sounds great!
Q: In all your dealings with Studio Ghibli, have you ever gotten any indication that they would ever do a project geared towards the US audience instead of the Japanese audience?
A: That's an interesting idea, but we've never heard of any such intentions.
Q: Was there ever a scene or a line that you did and you said, "I wish I could make that better"? Was there ever a scene or a line you did that made you glow with pride?
A: There was one line in Spirited Away that stumped us for quite awhile. The direct translation was:
ZENIBA My sister and I would be better off together, but we don't get along. She's not very refined, is she? Sorceress twins are a recipe for trouble.
The concepts in the various lines of dialogue didn't flow together (the way Americans like 'em), and we banged our heads against the walls for a long time, trying to find a way to tie them together. Finally, we came up with, "We're identical twins, yet we're exact opposites," which (we felt) tied the concepts together.
Q: In Japan (since all the dubbing is done after the animation unlike the traditional US method of recording before doing the animation) some studios will gather some or all of the voice actors together to do the dubbing in a group (rather than the US method of bringing in one actor at a time). Do you feel that this makes a difference in the quality of the dub, and do you think this method would work in the English dubs?
A: Generally the only time we bring in a group of actors is to do what's called "loop group." About twelve actors do all the crowd noise and minor characters with only one or two lines.
All of the lead characters record separately. Once we have the first actor recorded, we have the ability to play the recorded lines for the next actors so they have a chance to "respond" to the first actor. Most actors find this extremely helpful.
Also recording engineers and dialog mixers almost always prefer that the actors be recorded separately. This allows the most control and assures the highest quality sound.
Q: Were there any moments in doing all the scripts where you were puzzled by something and when you found the answer you just wanted to slap your head because it was so obvious?
A: We're still not sure what happened to Gonta's group of rebels at the end of Pom Poko. They get in a fight with the Police Special Forces, they all die, then they turn into a bouncing head, smash a few cars, and then get hit by a truck and die again? Or we're they not really dead after the Police Special Forces altercation? Anyone?
Q: What are the easiest and hardest things about dubbing?
A: The easiest thing is working with our team at Disney: Rick Dempsey, Ned Lott, and Petra Bach are spectacular human beings and we look forward to working with them each and every day. No joke.
Q: Apart from these interviews, how much exposure have you had with Miyazaki fans?
A: At first, we had very little exposure to Miyazaki fans. But for the last few years we've been giving DVDs for every holiday and birthday (shopping has never been so easy!), and now all our friends and relatives are rabid Miyazaki fans.
Miyazaki talks with Moebious
Translated from French to English by Achille Autran
Disclaimer © 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. 
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.
- I kept it literal here, I have yet to understand what Moebius meant here besides the almost-tautology.
Miyazaki talks about Howl's Moving Castle
Translated from Chinese to English by Doraneko
Interviewer - Everyone knows that you have already announced your retirement as a director for many times. Even for "Howl's Moving Castle", it is said that you initially decided to work only as an executive producer. What made you to change your mind?
Miyazaki - Although I have thought about leaving the world of animation for many times, whenever I see a piece of work that I really like, I would naturally want it to express it in my own ideas. When I hand it to the others, I always think about how this and that should be done. At last, I feel that it will be better if I take up the work myself. In order to bring out the original spirit of the work, I can only return.
Interviewer - As far as I know, all your previous works were dubbed by professionals. Why did you come up with the idea of using a young actor, Takuya Kimura?
Miyazaki - This was suggested by Producer Toshio Shizuki. He said that Howl is the most handsome character ever in all our animated works. Therefore a handsome man that can represent Japan is the most suitable to be the voice-actor. He recommended Takuya Kimura to me, and tried to test if I knew this person or not.
You know, he thought that I was a strange old man that had been locking himself in the mountains and had never watched television. Therefore I should had never heard of Kimura. But when I told him that I did know who Kimura was, he was in a shock.
(This old man of over 70 starts to laugh, with a kind of self-satisfaction like a small child)
Interviewer - In all your works, we can feel an intensive sense of humanitarianism. Even in "Howl's Moving Castle", there is a strong anti-war sentiment.
Miyazaki - I did not deliberately try to deliver any educational ideologies or messages to the audience. If they really exist in my works, they are only revealing themselves naturally. Many people think that I am telling a very deep truth. Actually what I like is simplicity. The reason that we made "Howl's Moving Castle" is that there are too many unhappy matters in the world, such as wars and economic crises. We hope that, through the movie, people can keep up their courage and see the hope. The future world is still nice and beautiful. It is worthy for us to survive and explore it.
Interviewer - How do you think about the animated works of Disney and Dreamworks?
Miyazaki - Personally I really like the earlier works of Disney. Although we generally call all the American animated movies as "American animation", they in fact have many substantial differences in their ways of presentation.
Dreamworks is definitely "anti-traditional". Compared with Disney, it pays greater attentions on illustrating the characters and the plots. There is a wide use of the stylish 3D animation, which gives a rich modern breath. If we regard Disney's animated movies as classical ballet dances, the productions of Dreamworks are more to the side of the modern pop music.
Interviewer - Then how about the animations of other countries in Asia?
Miyazaki - I really like the animations of mainland China and Taiwan. For instance, "Siu Sin" [Note: the official English translation is "A Chinese Ghost Story"] fully expresses the fine aesthetic sense of the Chinese tradition. I like works which have national breaths like this one. A pity that there are too few of them. Also, the movie workers in Korea are those with the highest sense of professionalism. Their careful and sincere manner is worth our respect. They even follow what is written in the textbook just for placing a piece of fallen leaf. They have their own unique understandings of animation, which are individual and profound. I think for the animators of China, Japan and Korea, even if they only reveal an extremely small part of their traditional art, the whole world will be shocked. National and traditional works are the most charming of all.
Nausicaa.net Interview with Cindy and Don Hewitt
Many thanks to Cindy and Don for their time and answers and to the multitude of people who submitted questions.
- General Overview
- Voice Actors
- Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind
- Whisper of the Heart
- Spirited Away
- My Neighbor Totoro
- Howl's Moving Castle
Q: Of the completed or in-progress films ("Porco Rosso", "Whisper of the Heart", "Nausicaa") what is their status of in terms of projected release date/method?
A: According to the Disney marketing department, the release dates for Porco, Whisper, and Nausicaa are still being discussed.
Q: Disney has almost released all of the Studio Ghibli catalog in the US. "My Neighbor Totoro", "Only Yesterday", "My Neighbors the Yamadas", and "Ocean Waves" remain unknown. Is there any word on when (or if) these will be released by Disney in the US?
A: Disney will release new dubs of "My Neighbor Totoro," "Only Yesterday," and "My Neighbors the Yamadas," but not "Ocean Waves." The release dates for these films have yet to be determined.
Q: For 'Spirited Away's English dub, Disney recruited animation director Kirk Wise. Tony Bancroft, co-director on 'Mulan,' did English Language direction for 'Porco Rosso.' Are there any other Disney animation directors lined up?
A: For Whisper and Nausicaa, Rick Dempsey--head of Disney Character Voices--has taken the helm. He's been a voice director for 15 years and is phenomenal at it. (His fashion sense, however, leaves something to be desired...) At this time, no other Disney animation directors have been lined up.
Q: Has John Lasseter also contributed his services to the upcoming Studio Ghibli titles?
A: John Lasseter has had and will continue to have creative input in all the upcoming releases. Back to Contents Voice Actors
Q: What is the process for assembling a cast? Are you involved from the start or are you presented with a finalized list?
A: Disney is open to our suggestions, but Ned Lott, (Senior Manager of Disney Character Voices) does most of the work. He presents to Rick Dempsey (head of Disney Character Voices) a list of recommendations and available actors for each character, taking into account all of Studio Ghibli's requests. Then, Ned, Rick, and the two of us listen to auditions and view film references for the various actors. The four of us discuss which actors best match the characters. Once the list has been narrowed down, Ned and Rick submit the principal actor suggestions to Studio Ghibli for final approval, and run it by John Lasseter for his input.
Q: Do you ever adapt dialogue with specific actors in mind?
A: No, not at all. Our number one rule with dialogue is to keep it true to the characters. Also, we try to stay true to the period in which the film is set. "Porco Rosso," for example, is set in 1929, so we did our best to avoid any contemporary sounding words or phrases.
Q: Are there any actors who you would love to have do a Studio Ghibli dub?
A: Cindy wants Colin Farrell to be in everything. The rest of us, however, just want whichever actor is the best match for the character.
Q: Conversely, has anyone requested to take part in a film?
A: A good deal of famous actors (including Oscar winners) have asked to take part in Miyazaki's films. But again, we only consider an actor if he or she is a match for the character.
Q: Since the first Disney/Ghibli release, the studio has secured some top-notch voice talent (Kirsten Dunst, Mark Hamill, Billy Crudup, etc.) for the Ghibli titles. However, does the studio still consider non-famous voice actors for the roles?
A: Yes, Disney uses non-famous voice actors all the time. ADR is very technically demanding, however, so experience with looping is key. Also, we do our best to keep the characters from sounding "cartoony." Actors who have spent the majority of their careers doing live-action work in movies or in the theatre, are often best at keeping their performances sounding real. #Back to Contents
Q: How do you deal with references in the original Japanese dialog that may not be familiar to non-Japanese viewers?
A: Because Miyazaki does such a fantastic job of writing about issues which are universal, we've had to deal with this issue much less often than we originally thought. Also, the majority of the Miyazaki films that we've worked on are set in environments other than Japan: "Spirited Away" is set in a fantasy world (a bath house for the gods), "Porco Rosso" is set in the Adriatic Islands in 1929, and "Nausicaa" is set in a post apocalyptic future. Only "Whisper of the Heart" is set in modern-day Japan. In Whisper, we had to clarify how important it is in Japan to do well on high school entrance exams, since these exams don't exist in the United States. There were some other smaller issues. In Spirited Away, for example, Kamaji performs a ritual on Chihiro (similar to what we'd call a cootie shot) to "cleanse" her after she steps on the black slug that pops out of Haku's mouth. We did our best to slip in some dialogue which explained what Kamaji was doing. We later found out that this Japanese "cootie shot" is an old-fashioned thing, and many young Japanese viewers didn't know what Kamaji was doing either!
Q: Of all the Miyazaki movies you're worked on, what was the one scene or bit of dialog that was the hardest to understand, hardest to rework into sensible English dialog?
A: The hardest moments are when characters talk for long stretches. Both Yubaba (Spirited Away) and Fio (Porco Rosso) have some massive monologues, which made us want to tear our hair out. With both of these characters, their Japanese dialogue took a lot longer to say than the English translation. It's quite a brain-teaser to fill characters' mouths without changing the content of their speeches, while at the same time not being redundant and boring.
Q: What has been you favorite part of all the movies? Which part would you like to point to and say "we're really proud of how that worked out in English"?
A: We were thrilled by how well the audience responded to the humor in "Porco Rosso" at the Austin, Texas screening. Also, it's a rush to have A-list talent read dialogue you've written. They can make even throw-away lines like, "Have a nice day," sound fantastic.
Q: How much did you know about Japanese animation and Japanese culture before you began work on "Spirited Away"?
A: Don had spent a month in Japan and had visited a Japanese bath house while he was there. Cindy had eaten sushi a few times. That's about it.
Q: When doing the script they give you the literal translation and a video or DVD of the film in Japanese. Do they give you any other sort of background material? Would having that sort of material or information help you in doing the script, or just be beside the point?
A: Since American audiences need to be able to understand the film without knowing anything about Miyazaki or Japanese culture, it's generally not necessary for us to have supplementary material. Our process is this: when we first watch a subtitled version of the film, we note anything that we find confusing. Then we watch the film and read the script a number of times to look for answers within the material. If we're stumped, we contact Steve Alpert at Studio Ghibli and ask him what Miyazaki's intentions were. Our goal is to make the experience of watching the English dub as true as possible to the experience which Miyazaki intended. If we consulted sources other than his film and script, we might blind ourselves to what American audiences won't understand or we might accidentally add information into the story which Miyazaki never intended.
Q: Is it difficult to keep concentration on a film that you see so much?
A: No. Miyazaki's films are so well-crafted, studying them is exhilarating--like taking an advanced course in screenwriting. Also, we're used to spending a year or more writing and rewriting our own scripts, so focusing on a Miyazaki film for a few weeks is a piece of cake. #Back to Contents
Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind
Q: What is the cast list?
A: The cast list includes:
- Nausicaa: Alison Lohman
- Lord Yupa: Patrick Stewart
- Kushana: Uma Thurman
- Asbel: Shia LaBeouf
- Kurotowa: Chris Sarandon
- Mayor of Pejite: Mark Hamill
Q: Was the extended storyline of the "Nausicaa" manga used in anyway to enhance the "Nausicaa" movie translation or story depth?
A: We looked at the manga for clarification on a few issues, but the storyline in the manga is significantly different from the film's storyline. So we ended up relying on Studio Ghibli for depth and clarification instead. #Back to Contents
Whisper of the Heart
Q: What is the cast list?
A: The cast list includes:
- Shizuku: Brittany Snow
- Seiji: David Gallagher
- Shiho: Courtney Thorne-Smith
- Nishi: Harold Gould
- The Baron: Cary Elwes
Q: The English adaptation of "Spirited Away" has some extra dialogue which was not present in the original Japanese dialogue (end of the film, Chihiro making the connection between Haku's human and dragon form.) Why, and to what purpose, is this so, and can we expect to see more of such extra dialogue in future adaptations of Ghibli movies?
A: Adapting a film to another language is a fluid thing. Words are representations of emotions set in a cultural context. Sometimes simply translating word for word does not express the emotional experience. We try to capture the experience of the movie as a whole not just the specific words.
"Haku," for example, is the name of a mahjong tile with a white dragon on it. Very few people in America play mahjong, so very few Americans would be able to make the link between the character Haku and a white dragon. Therefore, we added a few lines of dialogue to help the non-mahjong-playing Americans follow the plot.
Q: John Lasseter was the executive producer of 'Spirited Away.' What did his duties entail? Did he ever stop by to critique some of the script work?
A: John was very hands-on when it came to adapting the script. First, we'd show a draft of the script to director Kirk Wise, producer Don Ernst, and Disney execs Leo Chu and Pam Coats. After meeting with them, we did some revisions, and then we faxed the new version of the script to John at Pixar. John read the script and faxed us his notes. Then all of us had a live videoconference with John (since we were in Burbank and Pixar is in Northern California.) Once we were all in agreement, a final copy of the script was sent to Studio Ghibli, where it was enthusiastically approved. John also participated in many other aspects of the dub (casting, etc.) that we were not integrally involved with. #Back to Contents
My Neighbor Totoro
Q: Are you also working on an upcoming release of "My Neighbor Totoro"? Do you know if Disney intends to use the existing dub of the film, or re-dub it as they did with other Ghibli movies?
A: We are presently working on a new version of "My Neighbor Totoro." #Back to Contents
Howl's Moving Castle
Q: "Howl's Moving Castle" is currently in production for a July 2004 release in Japan. Is there any word about whether Disney will be releasing an English language version of it in the US after that?
A: Disney would like to release it in the US. They are currently negotiating for the rights. #Back to Contents
Q: What was your reaction when you found out your adaptation had won an Oscar?
A: We were on cloud nine! We weren't sure "Spirited Away" had a chance, since Oscars often seem to go to whichever studio spends the most on its marketing campaign, and "Spirited Away" was up against some BIG releases. We feel extremely lucky that we were able to be a part of bringing such a great film to the US.
Q: Word is that you are currently working with PIXAR animation studios on an upcoming project. Along with the Studio Ghibli dubs, is there anything else we can look forward from you two in the near future?
A: We were hired by Pixar to write a treatment for a feature-length film, but that's all we can say about it-Pixar has sworn us to secrecy. We sold a script to Miramax called "This is Not a Toy," which is about a toy that comes to life and runs for president. We're hoping that will get made soon.
Q: I was wondering if anything odd or funny that is worth mentioning occurred during the English adaptations of the Studio Ghibli movies you worked on?
A: The oddest thing about working on all these adaptations is how much fun it has been. All of the directors and execs we've worked with at Disney, Pixar, and Studio Ghibli have been extremely talented, intelligent, and a joy to work with.
Q: Also, how long did it approximately take to finish each of the English adaptations?
A: We were given three weeks to write the script for "Spirited Away" and about two weeks each for Porco, Whisper, and Nausicaa.
Q: Recently, the United States animation market has been quick to decide that traditional animation is not profitable, and has dropped the pencils in favor of computer workstations. What is your opinion on traditional animation?
A: We love hand-drawn animation. We found both "Spirited Away" and "Porco Rosso" to be particularly awe-inspiring when seen on the big screen.
But the most important element is story. If the story is good, audiences won't care whether the movie is hand-drawn, computer-animated, claymation, or done with hand-held Barbie dolls.
Q: Who has been the most interesting, fun, and well, good looking US director you have worked with on one of the English dub projects?
From, Tony Bancroft
A: Well, besides John Lasseter, Kirk Wise and Rick Dempsey, ah... yeah of course, it has to be Tony Bancroft.
Nausicaa.net Interview with Carl Horn (Viz Comics)
Mr. Horn is one of the editors working on the English translations of three "Spirited Away" books at Viz Comics and has previously written about Studio Ghibli for the Studio Ghibli Retrospective at the Pacific Film Archive and for the book "Japan Edge".
Q1) Are the Viz "Spirited Away" books printed in Japan?
They are printed in Hong Kong, at the local subsidiary of two Japanese printers. For the SPIRITED AWAY 5-volume anime comic novels, at Toppan. For THE ART OF SPIRITED AWAY and the SPIRITED AWAY PICTURE BOOK, at DNP. This is the same DNP plant which printed our English-language version of the Yoshiyuki Sadamoto art book, DER MOND. Back to Index
Q2) Will there be an attempt in the books to provide via footnotes, sidebars, etc. the cultural background that a Japanese reader would have but that the average non-Japanese reader might be missing?
Our major addition in this area is the creation of a sound-FX glossary for the back of the five-volume anime comic novels. It tries to make the original Japanese meaningful and interesting to the reader, by giving both the literal reading of the katakana as well as giving an "equivalent" sound FX in English-for example: KATSUN KOTSUN [tok tok]. We try to make it exactly accurate; if a certain sound is repeated five times in the course of a FX, we will also give it five times in the translation. We also demonstrate some of the different and not necessarily consistent conventions in writing these FX.
The sound FX glossary was my personal idea, based on my experience doing one for the NEON GENESIS EVANGELION Special Collector's Edition manga, an edition that, like the five-volume SPIRITED AWAY set, is printed right-to-left, and unretouched. I am happy to say that Tokuma Shoten was pleased with the idea of this glossary.
I personally feel that a knowledge of Japanese culture is not at all necessary to enjoy SPIRITED AWAY, especially since the film takes place almost entirely not in an everyday Japanese social context, but in an otherworldly setting. The first few minutes of the film that are set in "normal" Japan involve moving to a new house, an experience everyone can relate to. You'll notice that even the family car (an Audi) has left-handed drive, just like in America!
Indeed, much of the plot of the film involves Chihiro/Sen learning the ways and customs of this strange new place, so that the audience learns with her. The basic setting of SPIRITED AWAY is a public bathhouse, something rare in the United States (indeed it is increasingly rare in Japanese cities). But the idea of a place where people go on vacation and pay for special baths and meals is very close to the Western idea of a luxury spa resort; I think of the "Abura-ya Bath House" of the movie as a "spa of the spirits," and I think the concept will be clear to English-speaking audiences.
An interesting point is that many Japanese are not familiar with the folklore that inspired Mr. Miyazaki's designs for the film; the fact that modern-day Japanese are cut off from these "roots" is one of the things that inspired Mr. Miyazaki to make the film in the first place, as he so states in THE ART OF SPIRITED AWAY.
It is important to bear in mind that the spirits of the film are described in THE ART OF SPIRITED AWAY as Mr. Miyazaki's original fantasy creations, based on certain inspirations from Japanese folklore. It was his desire that young Japanese look upon such motifs from the native Japanese past to fire their own imaginations. But SPIRITED AWAY is no more meant to be taken as an anthropology textbook than PRINCESS MONONOKE is meant to be a dissertation in history (for example, the muskets that appear in MONONOKE did not yet exist in Japan during the period in which the film is set).
This may also indicate that while Mr. Miyazaki wants to make use of the richness of the Japanese cultural tradition, it is not as if in his actual films he insists on anything that could be called "cultural purity." In the fantasy world of SPIRITED AWAY there are many items large and small not native to Japan but introduced through Western contact, such as gauged steam boilers, cigarettes, pull-cord table lamps, leather-bound books, screw-thread adjustable wrenches, stuffed armchairs, and of course, a train. Back to Index
Q3) Will the work on the books be based on translations of the material done by Viz, by the people working on the dub of the movie, by the studio, or by someone else?
We are working from two independent translations, one provided by Disney, and credited to the team of Cindy Davis Hewitt and Donald H. Hewitt, and one done by Viz, in which the translator is Yuji Oniki, a person of great experience in the manga field who also teaches Japanese literature at the University of California at Berkeley.
We haven't actually seen the finished English dub of SPIRITED AWAY, but it is my assumption that the Disney script is the basic dubbing script, based on such things as syllable counts. For example, when Chihiro first sees the pigs where her parents were sitting, she doesn't believe at first that these are really her parents. She runs out into the darkened street to look for them, and yells "Otoosan! Okaasan!" meaning, "Dad!" "Mom!"
But that's six syllables in Japanese and only two in English, and I see that in Disney's script, the line is given as the five-syllable "Mom! Dad! Where are you?" Chihiro is too distant in the shot to make out her actual mouth movements well, but adding "Where are you?"-which is what she means by calling out for them in the first place-helps to match the timing of the line.
Because the Disney script will be used in the film American audiences will see, our independent Viz translator is using it as a default. However, there are several things which will come from our translation alone: the Disney script sometimes does not include characters talking in the background of a scene.
In one example, an entire scene is actually missing: When Lin takes Chihiro up from the boilerroom in the elevator, they stop on one floor and transfer to another elevator. While they walk from one to the other, they pass a group of frog-men who are discussing the catering. If you have the Japanese SPIRITED AWAY anime comic books, this is the scene in Vol. 2, pages 64-65 (they will be pages 62-63 in the Viz version, as our page plan is slightly different).
But note that this dialogue isn't in the original Japanese script either! If you have the Japanese ART OF SPIRITED AWAY, you'll see the lines are missing: they should be on page 205, between Chihiro's line (the last line in column 2), and Lin's line (the first line in column 3). The scene itself is described, but not specifically what the frog men are saying-eleven whole lines that ended up in the actual movie but are not in Ghibli's script. I can only conclude that Disney's working faithfully from the Ghibli script led them to inadvertently repeat the omission in their basic dub script.
But in your post-production into English, you watch the anime, too, of course, and notice deviations from "the plan on paper." I'm quite certain those "missing" lines will in fact be in the actual Disney version of SPIRITED AWAY, just as they were in the actual Japanese version, even if they were absent from the original Japanese script.
If you talk to people who translate anime for U.S. companies, they'll tell you that what's in the actual finished anime and what's in the official Japanese script are rarely 100% the same thing. This is for various reasons, one possible one being that the scene was added after the script stage of the production-in the storyboarding stage, for example. And sometimes miscellaneous background voices are left up to the discretion of the voice-recording director; the sort of thing that is called "wallah" in the U.S. industry.
Again, I mention all this not to provoke worry that anything will be missing from the Disney version; I have no reason to believe that would be the case. I just want to illustrate that with anything as long and complicated as a feature film, even the "official script" may not be the whole story, and people who work in the industry on both sides of the Pacific certainly understand this. That's why you check things over, as we have.
And you won't miss out on it in the Viz books, either, because our independent translation of the film is based on the anime comic books themselves (and not the script in THE ART OF SPIRITED AWAY) in which all the actual scenes in the finished film appear (and therefore all the actual dialogue). The translation of sound FX is also based on Viz's own work. Back to Index
Q4) How involved are the original authors of the material with the translations?
In the case of our books, we send complete proofs of all pages to Tokuma Shoten (who is, as you know, the parent company of Studio Ghibli) for their approval before we go ahead with the printing.
We have had minor questions for them (for example, the meaning of a technical term used in anime production) and they have had minor requests of us (for example, asking us to phrase Mr. Miyazaki's credits one way on the title page and a slightly different way on the credits page). But otherwise, our work with them has been very smooth, which I attribute to the high professional standards of our translator, graphic designer, and liaison personnel, as well as that of Tokuma's editors. Back to Index
Q5) In the Japanese version of "Art of Spirited Away" they print the entire dialog from the movie in the back of the book. Will that be done in the US version and, if so, will it be a direct translation from the Japanese script or will they be using the final English script that was used for the dubbing?
We are using Disney's script for the back of our version of ART OF SPIRITED AWAY, which as noted in Q3, appears to be a translation based on the original Japanese script printed there. As noted in Q3, though, neither the Japanese script in ART OF nor the Disney script includes 100% of the dialogue from the finished film. Back to Index
Q6) Will the books only be distributed through comic book stores or will they also be available in major retail chains (Borders, Barnes and Noble, etc.)?
They will also be available in the retail chains; we distribute through Publishers' Group West, who distributes to all the major book stores. Back to Index
Q7) To the extent that you're free to discuss these questions, why did Disney decide to release these books through Viz rather than use their own in-house publisher (Hyperion) as they did with "Art of Princess Mononoke"? Does this indicate that Disney realizes the anime fan market that Viz reaches and feels it will do better going through Viz, or do they feel that only the niche market of anime fans will be interested in these, so it's not worth having their own in-house publisher do it?
It is again the case that it was through Tokuma Shoten directly that Viz received permission to publish English editions of these three "Spirited Away" books. We were able to demonstrate with our recent DER MOND project that we were capable of producing a full-color anime art book in English of very high print quality.
But of course Viz had previously worked with Tokuma on our publication of Mr. Miyazaki's NAUSICAA manga. I think that many Miyazaki fans would agree with me that the NAUSICAA manga story is itself an achievement of equal importance to any of his animated films; Mr. Miyazaki himself once called it his "life's work." We therefore feel we have important prior experience with and sensitivity towards the creator of SPIRITED AWAY, and are very honored to have the opportunity to once again adapt into English one of Mr. Miyazaki's works. Back to Index
Q8) From your dealings with Disney, can you tell how much "push" are they putting behind the film?
Again, because we are working directly with the original Japanese company, we do not know what Disney's plans are for promoting the English-dubbed version of the film.
Naturally, for both for the sake of the film itself and for our book publications, we would hope for as much push as possible. Currently SPIRITED AWAY is listed on Touchstone Pictures' site as being released through that particular subsidiary of Disney. This is different from PRINCESS MONONOKE, which as you are aware was released through Disney's Miramax/Dimension, and may also suggest a different strategy and different staff working on the release. Back to Index
Q9) I'm very excited by the translations of the "Spirited Away" film comics. Are there any plans to translate the other Miyazaki and Ghibli film comics? What about Miyazaki's other manga such as "The Age of Flying Boat", "Tigers Covered with Mud", or the one about airplane food?
We do not currently have plans to translate other Ghibli books or Miyazaki manga, but it is definitely something of interest to us. Viz actually did translate "The Age Of The Flying Boat" way back in 1993. It ran in three parts, in Animerica Vol. 1, issues #5-7. We would like to be able to reprint this one day at the appropriate time.
I personally would love to do an English version of "Dining In The Air," as that sort of thing is right up my alley. I have always loved in-flight meals. Ever since I was a kid, they reminded me of the trays they served the astronauts in 2001: A SPACE ODDYSEY. Back to Index
Bonus query: Any plans to reprint "Nausicaa" in the larger Japanese A4 format?
Yes, we would like to do an English version of that A4 hardcover, slipcased two-volume set of NAUSICAÄ that was published in 1996 after the completion of the series. If NAUSICAÄ were to be released on home video here, and fans showed an interest in such a deluxe (and expensive) edition, we would give it strong consideration. Back to Index
If I may add a final note, let me say that I am sure the readers of Nausicaa.net can understand what an honor it is to work on the SPIRITED AWAY books. I first saw NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF WIND in the summer of 1984, when I was 13. That year I also saw the Miyazaki-directed episodes of FAMOUS DETECTIVE HOLMES and LUPIN III. Since then I've seen each of Mr. Miyazaki's films as they've come out, and now that I'm 31, I consider myself to have grown up with his movies, as much as his Japanese fans have. I also am trying to do my best not only for Mr. Miyazaki and his film, but for the sake of Tokuma Shoten, which, in the person of Mr. Hideo Ogata, was extremely kind to me when I first went to Japan at 16, and was just starting out as a writer on anime. Back to Index
Miyazaki talks about Spirited Away and his influences.
Translated by Madevi Dailly
Chihiro is a little girl traveling to a world of gods. Her mission? To find her parents turned into pigs as a punishment for gluttony. Chihiro is also the most popular virtual character in Japan : 17 million viewers. In time for the release of the film on January the 16th, we meet with Hayao Miyazaki, Chihiro's creator, who also directed Princess Mononoke. This director of animated films is adored like a film star, and his visionary world is already housed in a museum.
Q: As a child, did you already dream of making films?
A: I wasn't the type of child to rebel against the law that stated that you had to work hard to succeed. I was stuck in that mold, but I wanted to draw. My father was passionate about cinema. He often took me to the movies, from an early age. I remember Ozu's films, Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thief. Andrzej Wajda's Ashes and Diamonds, Bresson's Journal d'un cure de campagne. I remember these far better than westerns or action films.
Q: No memories of Disney?
A: They amused me but they didn't make me feel anything. I much preferred La Bergere et le Ramoneur (the Shepherdess and the chimney sweep), a 1953 film, redone by the Frenchman Paul Grimault in 1980 as Le Roi et l'Oiseau, or the 1947 film The Little Hunchbacked horse by the Russian Ivan Ivanov. Right after the war, these films marked a new generation of future animators. Animation films are films in their own right. Actually, the use of animation techniques in traditional filming is growing. I run away from reality. Animation is my only mode of expression.
Q: Have you ever put yourself in your spectators' shoes?
A: You're seated in the dark, you're trying not to leave the room. If you think the film is bad, you're allowed to say so. This is how critics are constructed. I can not decide how my film is going to be interpreted. I remember one spectator, at the end of a screening, who confided in me his feeling of "still being starved after having devoured a copious meal". I try not to let myself be impressed by Spirited Away. If some films do very well commercially, others are ignored by spectators in spite of their quality. I've experienced this.
Q: Any examples?
A: In 1968, there was this film, Taiyo no oji: Horusu no daiboken (Prince of the Sun: The Great Adventure of Horus ). I wasn't even 20 yet and I had worked on it in a sort of passion, convinced that it would transform the way people saw life. Sales were catastrophic. Then, in 1973, there was Panda! Go Panda! For me, it was a key moment : the first time I confronted my two children to the world of cinema. The youngest was three years old, the oldest five. I was thrilled to see that they could be so absorbed by a film. Takahata Isao was its producer and I was in charge of the team. It was the first "film for children".
Q: Have you always been drawn to this genre?
A: When my children were old enough to go to the movies, there was nothing we wanted to see. Neither as parents nor as film lovers; that is why I started. This film had no educative pretense. Panda! Go Panda! is just written to describe every day life, that sweetness that reminds us that life can be beautiful and luminous. They watched it without moving. I was so happy that my intuition was validated by my two children! But the film wasn't successful this time either.
Q: After the success of Spirited Away, can you still have projects in mind?
A: I am preparing a new film. Its release is due in summer 2004. Just last night, I was chairing a debate with youngsters to know what kind of film they were looking for. What can we tell children that will still be valid in 2004? Which type of films will they still want to see? Can we imagine these films? I think we must create films that will make people happy.
Miyazaki talks about Mononoke-hime.
An Interview with Hayao Miyazaki Mononoke-hime Theater Program, July 1997
Translated to English by Ryoko Toyama Edited by Deborah Goldsmith
Spoiler Warning!! This interview contains spoilers. If you have not seen the film, you may want to avoid reading this interview.
- Please tell us about the hero, Ashitaka.
Miyazaki (M): Ashitaka is not a cheerful, worry-free boy. He is a melancholy boy who has a fate. I feel that I am that way myself, but until now, I have not made a film with such a character. Ashitaka was cursed for a very absurd reason. Sure, Ashitaka did something he should not have done - killing Tatari Gami. But there was enough reason to do so from the humans' viewpoint. Nevertheless, he received a deadly curse. I think that is similar to the lives of people today. I think this is a very absurd thing that is part of life itself.
- How about Yakkul?
M: I made Yakkul because I somehow felt it would be easier to draw an imaginary animal. The other reason is that if I had a boy riding a horse with a Japanese sword and a topknot (a typical hairstyle of Japanese in period dramas), he would be a samurai. Then he would associated with the image of a samurai which existing period dramas have built. But I didn't want that. I wanted to have a boy, not a samurai boy, in the movie.
Ashitaka is at a loss as he comes into the outside world, that is, town, from his village. At this point, he is hiding his face to show that he is a non-person. Actually, at the moment he cut his topknot off, he was no longer human. Cutting one's topknot in a village has that meaning. So, it looks like Ashitaka leaves (the village) of his own will, but actually, the village forces him to leave, I think. Ashitaka, as such a boy, cannot negotiate well when he goes to the market. The Northeast area, where Ashitaka's village was, used to produce gold. So Ashitaka just offered a gold grain instead of money, not knowing the value of it.
- Judging from her attire, Eboshi looks like a Shirabyoushi (prostitutes who danced in men's attire).
M: I also have that image (about her). I think that she got there after going through considerable hardships. So from Eboshi's standpoint, she must feel that Ashitaka's karma is nothing.
- So she did go through a lot of hardships.
M: Yes. I thought up a story that she was a wife of a Wako boss (Japanese pirates/smugglers who raided the Chinese and Korean coastlines), or something like that. And what Eboshi is trying to do is to build a paradise as she thinks of it. Hence, she is a person of the 20th century. She has a clear ideal and can take action. Well, I just think so (laughs).
- And if she was interfered with...
M: She wouldn't hesitate to kill, sacrifice, or even sacrifice herself. I think that she is that kind of person. And that somehow jives with the big experiments humans conducted during the 20th century, or what socialism did.
- How about the war between the Samurai and Tatara Ba?
M: Such things were rather common. Tatara Ba eroded the valleys and mountains with water to wash out iron sands. Water is conducted through a gutter, and hits a cliff. Then, the muddy water is conducted through (another) gutter to allow the iron sands to precipitate out gradually. The process pollutes the water, and washes mud downstream. So the villages and the river downstream get buried in mud. It was a disaster for those who grew rice.
Therefore, the farmers downstream and the Tatara people were often in conflict. When the local Samurai attacked Tatara Ba, they were not doing something bad; they were doing something rightful. In that time, Samurai and farmers weren't clearly separated (i.e., some Samurai were also farmers). So it's natural to have a conflict when Tatara Ba's presence became bigger.
However, since these Samurai said they are (Samurai of) "Asano Kubo" ("Kubo" is a title for a noble high-ranking Samurai, such as a Shogun), they are (men of) noble Samurai such as Kanrei. So they treated Ashitaka honorably, as a Samurai, when he hurried to Tatara Ba. If they feel that Ashitaka is coming to meet them in single combat, they say "Come on!". When they see a great (combat) technique, they appreciate it and think, "I saw a good thing." I wanted them to be men like that.
I don't consider the Samurai as bad and the Tatara people as good. So, in the scene where the porters were eating, I tried to put several unlikable guys. Kouroku doesn't say a word to the Ishibiya guy, although they were both wounded. Even a guy as good-natured as Kouroku could not be free from the social restrictions of the era. The Ishibiya people are functioning as mercenaries, but at Tatara Ba, they are not treated as people with feelings or personalities.
- I thought the strength and toughness of the women at Tatara Ba are traits we find today.
M: It's not that I wanted to make it modern. It's just that depicting Tatara Ba under the rule of men would be boring. And if I made the boss of Tatara Ba a man, he would be a manager, not a revolutionary. If it's a woman, she becomes a revolutionary, even if she is doing the same thing.
So I didn't make them women who have to be protected by men, or women in their families. I intentionally cut them off (from such things). I think that actually there were children at Tatara Ba, but it would make things complicated if I put children there, so I didn't. Eventually, many children will be born there, but I wanted to portray Tatara Ba as not yet in such a stage.
And not all the Tatara men are good guys. I wanted to make crowds that included disagreeable guys. "This is a disagreeable guy, so let's kill him" - I didn't make the end (to the story) like that.
Kouroku is not a special guy. It's the first time that I made a movie in which an ordinary guy didn't do anything heroic, right to the end.
I made the character of Jiko Bou without knowing what kind of role he would play. He could be a spy of the Muromachi government (the Samurai regime which was ruling Japan at that time), a henchman of some religious group, or a Ninja, or he could actually be a very good guy. In the end, he became a character who has all of those elements.
- I thought that he was all of what you have just said.
M: And still, he isn't a bad guy. I wanted him to be that kind of person.
- In that sense, this movie does not have what you could call a bad guy.
M: No. When you talk about plants, or an ecological system or forest, things are very easy if you decide that bad people ruined it. But that's not what humans have been doing. It's not bad people who are destroying forests.
- Humans have their own reasons to do it.
M: Yes. Hard-working people have been doing it. During the Edo era, many beautiful forests were raised, but that was because trees were planted to finance a Han (feudal domain). So if someone cut even one branch off, they cut his arm or head off. That's how they protected and raised the forest. And since the farmers around the forests were really poor, they hoped that they somehow could cut the trees in the domain.
If we had only talked about this situation from the human's side, there would have been no forest. Because of such terrible power, the forests were born. Then, there is actually a dilemma between the issue of humanism and growing a forest. It is exactly the problem of the environmental destruction we are facing on a global scale. This is the complexity in the relationship between humans and nature. And since this is a big theme of this film, I didn't want it to be a story about a bad guy.
I think that the Japanese did kill Shishi Gami around the time of the Muromachi era. And then, we stopped being in awe of forests. Well, I don't know if it was really during the Muromachi era or not, as there would certainly be regional differences, but at least from ancient times up to a certain time in the medieval period, there was a boundary beyond which humans should not enter. Within this boundary was our territory, so we ruled it as the human's world with our rules, but beyond this road, we couldn't do anything even if a crime has been committed, since it was no longer the human's world - there was such asyl (a sanctuary which is free from the common world. It is a free and peaceful domain), or a sanctum. It is written in books by Kin-ya Abe or Yosihiko Amino (both are historians). I think that there were such things. As we gradually lost the awareness of such holy things, humans somehow lost their respect for nature. This film deals with such a process in its entirety.
- We lost our awe (of such things)
M: Yes. After all, this film is just reenacting what humans have done historically. After Shishi Gami's head was returned, nature regenerated. But it has become a tame, non-frightening forest of the kind that we are accustomed to seeing. The Japanese have been remaking the Japanese landscape in this way.
- So, San's last word was...
M: It is a thorn that stuck in Ashitaka without being resolved. Ashitaka is the kind of person who is willing to live with the thorn. So, I think that Ashitaka is a person of the 21st century, who decided to live with the thorn, San. He does not say "well, I can't do anything about it."
If Ashitaka says "I'll become a deep ecologist", things are easier, but it doesn't work like that. In our daily lives, things that humans can do to protect nature are limited. And Ashitaka also has a distrust of the humans' acts to survive in the ecosystem as a thorn. And at the same time, he can not turn a blind eye to people dying from starvation. Ashitaka has no choice but to suffer and live, while being torn between such conflicts. That's the only path human beings can take from now on.
- In that sense, Ashitaka is not a typical hero.
M: Rather, the biggest characteristic of Ashitaka is that no one has expectations of him. If Ashitaka is totally swayed by the way (the people of) Tatara Ba think, he could stay there, but otherwise, he has no place to stay. During his journey, he saves people who were caught in the middle of battles, but he isn't thanked. Ashitaka almost always fights when people are not watching. It's a lonely war.
When he went to notify the porters that Tatara Ba was under siege, since the porters didn't know how he fought, they didn't even say a word of thanks (laughs). They just thought that Ashitaka came to tell them. San seems not to hate Ashitaka, but she left souvenirs to tell him "go now". Moro also says "leave the mountain". Ashitaka has no place to stay.
- How about going back to the Emishi's village?
M: He can't go back. Even if he could go back, what would be there? There might be some time lag, but eventually, the world of what Eboshi has been doing at Tatara Ba will come rushing in. So if Ashitaka says "I will go home" since his curse was cured, that will be no solution. And it will be a big problem if he brings San back.
- Kaya, who saw Ashitaka off, loved Ashitaka, didn't she?
M: Yes of course. She calls him "Anisama (older brother)", but it just means that he is an older boy in her clan.
- So they are not real brother and sister.
M: If they were, that wouldn't be interesting at all. There used to be a lot of marriage among blood relations in Japan. I thought of Kaya as a girl who is determined to do so (marry Ashitaka). But Ashitaka chose San. It's not strange at all to live with San, who lives with such a brutal fate. That's life.
- I would like to ask you about Shishi Gami (the Great Spirit of the Forest), who is key to this film.
M: In this film, Shishi Gami is not a gentle creature who gives blessings. I depicted it as a low-ranked god. There are legends of giants, such as Didarabocchi or Daidarabou, but we don't know why they exist. So, I just decided, "it's nature's night, given form," and then, I was able to convince myself (laughs). I just thought, the creature is gathering and giving out lives during the night. So that's why I gave it different shapes during the day and the night. I just dreamed up that it is such a creature (laughs). So, it wanders from forest to forest during the night.
- And Eboshi tries to kill Shishi Gami. What is the gun she is using?
M: It's called a "Kasou" (Ka=Fire, Sou=Spear), or "Fire Spear". In reality, it had a longer rod, and it often exploded and injured the shooter. It was often made from copper, and was used in the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century. It had been brought to Japan before matchlock guns were. The Tanegashima, the gun that was brought to Japan by the Portuguese, was not really made in Portugal. It was a gun used in Java.
Even before that, more primitive guns and cannons were used in China. There is a historical document that says they might have been used in the War of Onin (1467-1477). But they weren't powerful enough to decide the fate of the war.
However, for the power balance between humans and animals, that was decidedly changed when humans started using gun powder. Really, though, the biggest reason why mountain animals decreased so much is agriculture. It's human arrogance to say that the country scenery is beautiful. A farm basically takes away the chance to grow from other plants. It's more like barren land. The productivity of wasteland is higher than that of farmland. It's the same for other creatures. It's because of the time (we live in today) is such that I have to even think such things.
- How did Eboshi feel about killing Shishi Gami?
M: Eboshi thinks that she doesn't have to do it now. She thinks that if they continue to make iron and diminish the forest gradually, it would weaken Shishi Gami, and then, she can just take it. It's not like she respects Shishi Gami, but she has to fight against Samurai, and she knows that killing Shishi Gami right now would cause many unnecessary casualties. She thinks that trees can be replenished. She thinks that if necessary, they just have to replant the trees.
- Jiko Bou has the letter from the Emperor for the Shishi Gami hunt. What was it?
M: It was believed that when you do something dangerous, you can avoid misfortune if you have a pardon from the Emperor. The Emperor was not just the political power, but was also the highest religious figure. And Jiko Bou made a contract with a certain mysterious organization of monks. He also works as a member of the organization.
- And the organization believes that the head of Shishi Gami has the power of eternal youth.
M: They think that it has some power. Humans are like that. They think that a strange thing has power, and if it's a rare thing, they want to have it. So Jiko says "it's human nature to want everything between the heaven and the earth." Jiko does not deny human karma. He says, "Speaking of curses, this world is a curse itself." Still, he loves to eat, and shows interest when he meets a mysterious boy.
- About the idea of forests and trees cursing the humans who destroyed them.
M: It's interesting, isn't it? There are many stories about trees giving curses (Tatari) in the Western part of Japan. Such folklore, or something that goes back to our distant memories, remains strongly in Japanese culture. People on Yakushima Island didn't cut the trees. They thought that cutting trees would bring about a curse. Trees are beings that make us feel that way. I learned it when I went to Yakushima. When they decided to cut and sell trees because they were too poor to eat, there was a monk who recommended cutting the trees. It was not the case that they started cutting tress because a certain person happened to be on the island and said so, but rather to do with the changes in the society itself.
M: In the past, humans hesitated when they took lives, even non-human lives. But society had changed, and they no longer felt that way. As humans grew stronger, I think that we became quite arrogant, losing the sorrow of "we have no other choice." I think that in the essence of human civilization, we have the desire to become rich without limit, by taking the lives of other creatures.
The place where pure water is running in the depth of the forest in the deep mountains, where no human has ever set foot - Japanese had long held such a place in their heart. There lived big snakes you don't see in a village, or something scary - we believed so until a certain time. I still have a feeling that there is such a holy place with no humans in the deep mountains, the source where many things are born. I think that Japanese gardens definitely try to create a holy, pure world. Purity was the most important thing for Japanese.
We have lost it. I'm not interested in Japan as a state. But I feel that we have lost our core as the people who live in this island nation. I think that it was the most important root for the people who have been living on this island.
And it leads to the idea that the world is not just for humans, but for all life, and humans are allowed to live in a corner of the world.
It's not like we can coexist with nature as long as we live humbly, and we destroy it because we become greedy. When we recognize that even living humbly destroys nature, we don't know what to do. And I think that unless we put ourselves in the place where we don't know what to do and start from there, we cannot think about environmental issues or issues concerning nature.
- The other guy whom Ashitaka carried back to Tatara Ba with Kouroku was one of the Ishibiya people.
- When Ashitaka woke up in the cave, he found wrapped food left by San at his bedside.
Miyazaki and Kurosawa Fireside Chat (Part 1)
Translated by Yuto Shinagawa
Translator Notes: From the tone of the conversation and their language, I got the impression that Kurosawa is the mentor (interviewee) and Miyazaki is the student (interviewer), and for good reason, too. Kurosawa is a good 30 years older than Miyazaki, with just as many more years of film-making experience, dating back into the 1930s. This disparity is subtly manifested by the use of Keigo (polite language) on Miyazaki's part, and with a more casual vocabulary on Kurosawa's. Likewise, Miyazaki seemed a little tense all throughout this chat. Though, I don't blame him; Heck I'd be nervous sitting across either of these guys.
MIYAZAKI - As a film-maker, I suppose the hardest thing for me to deal with are questions regarding my own work. It's as if they expect me to have been involved in every aspect of the movie.
KUROSAWA - Like when they ask you to say something to the audience on stage. . .you really don't have anything to say, right?
MIYAZAKI - Right, and it's especially irritating when someone asks something like, "What's the theme of the movie" [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - Yeah, those are really inconvenient.
KUROSAWA - I agree, I really don't know how to respond to questions like "how do you feel about this work of yours" or something.
MIYAZAKI - That's when you're supposed to take on an air of confidence: "This is my work; how 'bout it!". . .is what you're supposed to say. But me, I'm more like "Uh oh, I am in deep trouble!" And I start to feel the pressure pile on top of me like a mountain. The truth of the matter is, I'd rather just be hiding under some rock until all the excitement dies down [Laughs]. But that's really when you're supposed to be speaking out about your own work isn't it? Is that how you feel? [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - The thing is, you've already seen the movie countless times to make all the edits, so. . .you really don't feel like watching it anymore.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs] I know exactly what you mean.
KUROSAWA - Right?
[Moves onto discussion about Kurosawa's most recent movie, Maadadayo (1993)]
KUROSAWA - So what are your thoughts on Maadadayo?
MIYAZAKI - The tiny room [~7.5 sq ft] that the couple lives in. . .that was really wonderful. And the scene when the guests come to visit. . .the mannerism of the Misses as she served the tea - placing it on the shelf first, and then offering it to the guests. . .I was already impressed by that point. [Laughs]. Those sensible mannerisms are something that people like me completely lack in. She'll step out of view for a second, and we don't quite see what's there. . . but the fact that her presence is so subtle and un-awkward, even in such a small room is. . . .when exactly did the Japanese loose that kind of touch? [Laughs].
KUROSAWA - I agree; Kagawa-kun did such a splendid job this time. It's funny because she's not mentioned much in the book. . . [Note, it is common for more respected individuals to refer to younger ones with a -kun suffix regardless of their sex]
MIYAZAKI - Oh, is that so? So it was all your. . .
KUROSAWA - No it's not that as much as it is me relying on her talent. . .for example, remember how they offer to build the professor a new house, which he adamantly refuses to accept; and then later, he says something like. . . "you know, a pond would be nice." Well. . .she doesn't want to leave Mr. Hyakken there, nor stay there herself. So you might've noticed that she glances over and breathes a little sigh of relief before stepping outside [I apologize; I don't know what he's referring to here]. That's how good her acting is. Her reaction was extremely well done. I was really impressed by that.
MIYAZAKI - Oh I thought you were just depicting a man's dream. [Laughs].
KUROSAWA - No no. . .I just left everything up to Kagawa-kun. In fact, I wasn't even paying attention to her during the filming. . .complete confidence. I kept a careful watch on the other actors. . .but not Kagawa-kun. I told her afterwards and her response was "oh golly, no!" or something like that.
MIYAZAKI - . . .[Laughs].
KUROSAWA - That's how it is.
[Shows above clip from Maadadayo]
MIYAZAKI - Uhm, you know, I'm really envious of the people in the live action business - the osake at the end of the day must taste really really good.
KUROSAWA - Oh absolutely. Especially if we're filming on location, we'll just start drinking right there at the end of the day.
MIYAZAKI - Well in the animation business. . .the osake at the end of the day isn't that good. [Laughs]. Doesn't relieve any of the stress. [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - Dinner time is a lot of fun too. We usually have a big staff, so we can't necessarily accommodate everyone at the same hotel. But with the ones that do stay with us - the main cast and staff - it's always a pleasure socializing with them during dinnertime. I always tell people that it's then that I truly fulfill my role as director.
MIYAZAKI - See that's what we're so jealous about. For us, it's only when we finish. . . and when we're about to start [on a film] that we get to drink and celebrate. That's it. Everything during the actual production. . . is like rowing a boat [Laughs and pretends to row boat].
KUROSAWA - Right, right. Tezuka-kun was saying the same thing wasn't he?
MIYAZAKI - Yes, it's actually bad to relieve all the stress. You really need to maintain a certain level of anxiety.
KUROSAWA - We try to have fun while we work. . .while we film, and it shows on their face when they perform. So I always tell my staff, "don't be in a bad mood, because your facial expressions will show it. Let's have some fun." We try to have some good laughs.
MIYAZAKI - [I think this is what he said]. I guess it's not good for me to be drawing when I'm having to fight back yawns and complain about stiff shoulders. [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - Well you really don't have a choice with animation.
MIYAZAKI - I noticed that when we're working on an uplifting film with a lot of smiles, the animators tend to be smiling when they draw -- because it's important to make the facial expressions yourself. And at the same time, if we're making a serious movie, people tend to have serious expressions when they draw.
KUROSAWA - [Laughs]
MIYAZAKI - When you walk into the studio, there's this staleness to the atmosphere, almost as if there's some big dark entity somewhere. . . and as we make more and more films over the years, it intensifies until people start saying things like "that corner over there is haunted," or "you'll get nightmares if you sleep right here" or those kinds of rumors [Laughs]
MIYAZAKI - Our job is about being shackled to our desk. . .the consequence being we keep getting fatter and don't get any healthier. [Laughs]
MIYAZAKI - The last scene in 'Yume' by the river. . .you really found the perfect spot for it!
KUROSAWA - Yeah, we did a lot of searching. One thing about that scene is that in order to be able to film the moss on the bottom of the river, we couldn't let the sky reflect off the top surface of the water. We had to use these huge cranes to drape blackout curtains over the set.
MIYAZAKI - Ah. . .
KUROSAWA - The same goes when we have greenscape against a blue sky - the blueness ends up dominating and it completely messes up the colors.
MIYAZAKI - I'll be honest. Seeing that one scene really made me wish I had gone into the live action business. In reality, I wouldn't be worth anything once I'm on the set, but still. . .About the waterwheels in that scene.
KUROSAWA - Only about. . .three of those waterwheels were actually water-driven. The rest were just turned by the people hiding inside.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs] People? I thought they were motors.
KUROSAWA - We'd be finished filming for the day and uh. . ."Wait a minute, is that guy still turning?"
MIYAZAKI - [Big Laugh] Poor guy! [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - [Laughs] And he's still there, cranking that thing with everything he's got! And here we are, getting ready to pack up and leave.
MIYAZAKI - Making a movie that depicts even the immediate past. . . it seems like it would end up costing an unbelievable amount of money.
KUROSAWA - Right, it costs a huge amount of money!
MIYAZAKI - That sloping street in Maadadayo. . . when I heard you constructed that on the set, the only thing I could say was, "that's extreme!"
KUROSAWA - That. . . might've been the most expensive thing. . . that sloping street. We had to haul in all the dirt with an insane number of trucks.
[Shows clip of soldiers marching down the sloping street in Maadadayo]
KUROSAWA - And afterwards, we had to flatten in out again. I told them to leave it as is, but they apparently needed to use the set for something else so. . . I know it's exorbitant, but whether or not there's a hill there makes all the difference in the world.
MIYAZAKI - A huge difference, right.
KUROSAWA - But the biggest hassle is having to wait for the dirt and gravel to settle, so it looks all natural. It's not enough to just drive over it with a roller; it has to be walked on by human foot. So as people trample over it over the course of a few days. . . actually more like a half a month, and as they go about their daily work on top of it. . . the gravel eventually settles. Wooden fences too. . . rain drops bounce off the surface at first but eventually. . . you know. Newly constructed sets just don't cut it; you have to give it some time.
MIYAZAKI - I see. . . it makes me impatient just thinking about it. [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - The burning castle in Ran (1985) was actually constructed within view of here. . . right over there. Its construction had to be authentic in that we couldn't set a fake mock-up on fire. . . it would just be too obvious. That castle kept burning for at least half a day after we filmed it.
MIYAZAKI - What a waste. . . [Laughs]
[Shows clip of burning Castle in Ran]
[Shows on screen Kurosawa's various image board drawings, which gradually fade into their respective scenes in the movie]
[Miyazaki flips through a book of image board drawings]
MIYAZAKI - It must be a lot of work!
KUROSAWA - Well, not as much as you'd think.
MIYAZAKI - Really?
KUROSAWA - They're just quick sketches; I don't put too much effort into them.
MIYAZAKI - It seems as if you already had an actor/actress in mind when you sketched these. [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - When I first start drawing, they don't resemble the actual actors/actresses, but I start having some fun by making them caricatures.
KUROSAWA - You'll see that I have a lot of drawings for scenes with rain. It's because that segment was all filmed without any cuts. And so making all these drawings really helped me work out the camera angles of each scene. So not only do they help you convey your thought-picture to the rest of the staff, it makes you aware of the tiny details within each scene -- what do they buildings in the background look like, what are they wearing, and so forth. It teaches you a lot of things.
MIYAZAKI - Like this drawing right here. I'd be thinking "that building over there is gonna cost a lot to build!" [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - Well, you just have to accept the fact that movies cost a lot to make.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughing] It's just that I tend to be cheap like that.
KUROSAWA - If we were to have to make, say, burnt rubble, the ground itself has to be black with all the ash. And it's such an impossible task to have to do so, that we decided to make the set on the side of Mount Fuji itself. So in terms of having to cover everything with ash, it really made things easier. But to create the burnt rubble, people were just scattering some charred wood on the ground. But you see, that's not good enough. I asked them, "what did the house look like originally? It doesn't make sense for the foundation to have burned away too." So I made them draw up blueprints from the ground up. "There must have been pillars here. There was a shed here right? And a kitchen here, so let's put in some piping for the faucet. Is this a brick house? What does a brick house look like when it crumbles?" And as you work out these details, the set becomes noticeably more realistic, and your job becomes more interesting. The audience won't necessarily pick up on those details, but they'll definitely feel the difference.
KUROSAWA - Often times, you'll see dust devils amid the rubble. Well, we asked ourselves how we could make one, and as it turns out, there's a special field for those kinds of special effects -- we used a series of fans to pull it off. Those kinds of thing really make your job interesting.
[More scenes from the movie accompanied by storyboards]
MIYAZAKI - Up until a certain era, Japanese architecture. . .cityscape had a certain ambience. This is my opinion but. . .that image seems to have disappeared. [I couldn't quite catch what he said next]
KUROSAWA - In Seven Samurai -- you can't hear it now because the sound is all deteriorated, but -- we really had a hell of a time with the sounds of the Sengoku-era [1467-1567]
MIYAZAKI - I can imagine. . .absolutely.
KUROSAWA - I'm sure there were blacksmiths.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - And peddlers too, but not like the ones from the Edo-era [who'd holler at passerbys]. Maybe they'd mumble in a low voice: "Abura. . .abura. . ." ["Oil. . .oil. . ."].
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - We had one instance: "Wow, this clip right here sounds really Sengoku-era-ish. I like it; let's use it. . . where'd you get it?" "Uh, I just [Laughs] dragged around a steel pipe."
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs] Ambient sounds. . .those are the hardest.
KUROSAWA - With optical sound recording, which is what we had for Seven Samurai, you can see the modulation of the screams each time someone is killed -- it has a distinct shape. Unfortunately a recorded scream just isn't effective enough, so I drew in the modulation myself, by hand. And the end result is a scream that doesn't even sound like it came from a human, really. . .
MIYAZAKI - [Laughing] You were really having fun weren't you!
KUROSAWA - So every night, I'd give these clips to the sound editor next door and he'd be like. . ."what in the world is this sound?!" "I'm drawing the modulation you see." "What?"
MIYAZAKI - [Laughing]
KUROSAWA - And all those sounds are in the movie. . .any time someone gets killed by a sword.
KUROSAWA - It's really peculiar. Machine gun fire looks like a square, a triangle and a circle all connected together - "rat tat tat tat." You can almost tell what kind of sound it is by looking at the modulation.
MIYAZAKI - If we're working on a movie with a foreign setting, and I come across a scene of a bustling city. . .I am at a complete loss. [Shows clip from Kiki's Delivery Service where Kiki triggers a big traffic jam in the streets of Koriko]. I'll ask the person in charge of sound effects to do some research on antique cars, but it's hopeless. I'll bring in a recording thinking "this'll do," but no, it's a dead giveaway that it's Tokyo. These days, it's almost impossible to even record bird chirps without it being contaminated by the sound of cars in the background. You have to go to some deserted island; but there, the wind is too loud.
KUROSAWA - We have a very talented staff member that does our sound effects - Minawa-kun. He'll pay attention to the slightest details. Even if it's the sound of rain, you'll hear it change as the scene changes. People like him are the true "En no shita no chikaramochi." [The strongman underneath the stage; people that do deserving work but receive little credit]. If you respect those small details, then the audience will definitely feel the difference.
[Shows clip from Maadadayo]
[End of Part 1]
Miyazaki and Kurosawa Fireside Chat (Part 2)
Translated by Yuto Shinagawa
Translator Notes: From their conversation, particularly in the second half, it's evident that these two people have a tremendous amount of knowledge in everything including world history, literature, politics, art, theology, mythology, and on and on and on. The pattern is evident: one will bring up a new topic, and the other will expound on it with plenty of insights.
Also, keep in mind that this interview took place before Mr. Miyazaki started working on Mononoke Hime ;-)
KUROSAWA - One of the settings for our movie -- the "Oichini [ah one two]" drug salesman scene -- if you recall, is a rectangular room. What we'd do is use three cameras, all on one side of the room to film everything from start to finish. . . after which we'd move the them to another side of the room, switch out the lenses, and film the scene over. We'd do this three times. . .from all four directions. So in the end, there'd be 36 cuts that we had to look through during editing. . .just for one scene.
MIYAZAKI - That's what boggles my mind. How do you pick which cuts to use?
KUROSAWA - Pretty much on a first come first serve basis for me.
MIYAZAKI - Is that so?
KUROSAWA - You just skim through them really quick. . ."toss. . .keep. . .toss," so that all you have to do in the end is just string together what's left. That's all there is to it.
MIYAZAKI - Well yes, but. . .[Laughs]
KUROSAWA - So we might have one segment that seems like it's going to be a big hassle. . .perhaps take days to film. . .but ends up taking only half a day -- from morning to 3 o'clock later that day. The same goes with editing -- we'd be expecting a big mess, when in fact, we'd be finished by 3 o'clock the same day, only to have everyone go, "what?!"
[Shows clip from Maadadayo]
KUROSAWA - Battle scenes too. When the cavalry makes a charge or something. . .we film it three times with three different cameras, each time with different lenses. So in the end, we'll have 9 cuts, and all you have to do is string together the good ones. It's not that hard. Aside from that. . .when someone falls off a horse. . .gets shot and falls of a horse. . . we'll do a special take afterwards for those types of scenes. And all you have to do is throw that clip in at the right moment, and that's it. [Pause] And. . .if you run out of cuts, just flip the film over. . .
[Takes a while to get it; Big Laugh]
KUROSAWA - Yeah, just flip it over and now the guy is running from that side to this side. Hey, you'll never notice the difference.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughing] Even if they're carrying their swords on the wrong side? [Usually, the left so they can draw it with their right hand]
KUROSAWA - No you won't notice. . .because. . .it's only when the guy falls off the horse. It's really absurd if you're paying close attention. . .with the sword on the wrong side and all. You should notice it, but. . .well. . .[Pause] you just don't.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - You know how Mifune's fight scenes are really intense. Well one time, we were editing one of those scenes and had to stop the reel because someone came in to ask a question. And that's when I happened to look down at the film and notice that. . . he's not visible on the film itself.
MIYAZAKI - Huh. . .
KUROSAWA - He's nothing but a blur on each of those frames. . .and you can't really see his face either. Only when you play back the film do you actually see Mifune in combat. That's how fast he's moving. That's why those fight scenes are so intense. Also, when you spend a lot of time editing those scenes, you get the impression that it's going to be very lengthy, but no. . .it's really really short. I'd say the film itself is about 20 feet. . .no more than 20 feet. Even then, I feel as though I've seen plenty, and that's because I'm so nervously focused onto the screen.
MIYAZAKI - [Say's something about the audience's perception, but I'm not sure what he meant]
KUROSAWA - Right, right.
[Shows clip from Tsubaki Sanjuro (1962)]
MIYAZAKI - Do you make these [storyboard] drawings after you finish writing the script?
KUROSAWA - Most of them, yes. . .but there are a few that I draw while I'm still writing the script. I'll sometimes come across old sketches on the back of an envelope or something.
MIYAZAKI - [Looking at the drawings] Really good.
KUROSAWA - Huh?
MIYAZAKI - You're really good
KUROSAWA - Huh?
MIYAZAKI - You are really good [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - Nawww, I really don't think. . .
MIYAZAKI - You don't think so? I. . .
KUROSAWA - Well the funny thing is. . . I was supposed to be an artist when I was young. My dream was Paris -- to open my own art shop. Mr. Umehara would always walk up and compliment my drawings whenever I'd be painting outside. It was with his and Mr. Cardin's support that I eventually got the chance to put some of my drawings on display at an art exhibition overseas. And to my surprise, I was later invited to give a talk at the Louvre Museum. "But sir, I'm not an artist!" was my response. So oddly enough. . .my dreams did come true.
MIYAZAKI - It sure did!
KUROSAWA - "Your style is really interesting," is what Mr. Umehara used to always say, and we wondered why. Well, after much discussion, we figured out it's because they [the paintings] aren't intended to be very high quality paintings when I draw them. They're just meant to give my staff a feeling for the scene, and nothing more, so they tend to be a little reckless in style. There might be some that are draw sensibly. It depends; I'll draw with whatever I have on me at that moment.
MIYAZAKI - [Flipping through more drawings] From the sound of your stories, the live-action business sounds like a lot of fun.
KUROSAWA - Huh?
MIYAZAKI - Live-action sounds like a lot of fun. [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - It sure is. For example, if there's going to be a film shoot the next day, I want to get out there as early as possible. Though, my assistants probably don't like it when I come in early because they'd rather not have to deal with me. For them, a good day is one where I take my time coming into work. So a lot of the time, you'll find me waiting impatiently at home.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - Everyone has a lot of fun, really. I always tell my people, "no matter how grueling things may be at first, you'll eventually start to enjoy it if you just keep at it. Once you reach that state, you'll be putting in a lot of effort without evening knowing it." And it's true. I might say "ok, that's good enough," but their response will be "just a second. . .one more thing" They're that immersed in their work. Conversely, if you let things slide thinking "well, this won't be in view of the camera," then there's no end to how lazy you can get. You either give it your all, or don't even bother.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - And sometimes, ridiculous things happen because of it. If you recall Hachi-gatsu no Rapusodi [Rhapsody in August, 1991], there's a field across the house. Well, long before any filming takes place, the first thing we do is ask the local farmers to plant the appropriate crops in each of the fields. You know, "pumpkin fields here. . ." and so forth. All this so that by the time we come back, all the crops will be fully grown. You just can't plant these things at the last moment and expect them to look natural. Well one time, I look down on what was supposed to be a pumpkin patch and "wait a minute, these are gourds!"
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs] Mixed up the seeds did they?
KUROSAWA - "I told you, the gourd goes here on this shelf in the kitchen. The field out there is supposed to be pumpkin!" But in the end, we figured that it would all get covered with leaves, and that you wouldn't be able to tell the difference anyway. People got the idea to claim their own gourd by writing their name on it, so they could take one home afterwards, and make them into ornaments or whatever. They all grew up to be pretty big. So yeah, we had a big laugh over that - "what kind of fool plants gourds in a field?"
MIYAZAKI - When you're recruiting your staff for a movie, do you just announce it and have people flock to you?
KUROSAWA - No. . . in my case, most of my staff members are people that I've worked with for a very long time. When I announce a new movie, it's the usual gang that rushes in to help. Otherwise, I don't think it would go so smoothly. "Man, have you lost a lot of hair." That's how long I've known some of the people. Like Takao Saito, our cameraman who I just refer to as Taka-bou (little Taka). . .he's already sixty. It's just that I've known him from when he was that little, and the name stuck through all these years.
MIYAZAKI - And the cameraman's assistant. . .Taka-bou-san gets to pick?
KUROSAWA - Yes, he makes those decisions. So everyone works their way up the ranks. In that sense, people will gather around if I holler. You know, "we're gonna start filming in however many hours so have everything ready to go by then." I'm pretty meticulous when it comes to planning and preparation, so I tend to spend more time than most. If the filming doesn't go smoothly, it's usually because you didn't spend enough time getting everything ready. You do your homework, and everything goes smoothly.
MIYAZAKI - In the old days when movie studios were in much better shape, we could afford to put up a fight against movie companies. That is, even if we went over-budget. . .even if we didn't get along at all, we could still manage to squeeze the funding out of them to make movies.
KUROSAWA - That was exactly what happened when we were working on Seven Samurai. It was taking a whole lot longer than it was supposed to. So much so that we were expecting them to cut us off at any moment. In fact, we hadn't filmed a single scene from the last battle because of it. And just as we expected, we had a few visitors come in from Toho: "We'd like to see what you have so far." "But sir, we haven't filmed the most important part of the movie." "I don't care; just show us what you have." "Sir, it's already February. If it starts snowing now, we'll be in big trouble when it comes to filming the rest of the movie. Are you sure about this?" "Yes, let's see it." So we spent an entire week editing what we had of the film so far. And we showed it to them, up towards the end, where Kikuchiyo runs up the roof where the flag is. . .you know, "ta ta ta tee ta ta ta. . .[flutter] [flutter]" right? "[Points] There they come there they come!" and then. . .blank, goes the screen.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughing]
KUROSAWA - "[With a confused and impatient look] so what happens next. . .?" "We told you, we don't have a single scene filmed for the rest of the movie." So they all gathered around. . .mumbled something and then came back to us and said "Go ahead, film whatever you need. . .please."
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - And that's when it started snowing. We all yelled, "Told you so! That's what you get!" and then proceeded to have big binge back at my place later that night.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - As luck would have it, it snowed pretty heavily that night. We had to bring in the fire department and spend an entire week melting all that snow. Melting the snow over an area that used to be rice paddies to begin with. . . the muck was unbelievable. That might be part of the reason why those scenes were so dynamic.
MIYAZAKI - Indeed! [Laughs]
[Shows clip from Seven Samurai]
KUROSAWA - You know, I really liked that bus in Totoro.
MIYAZAKI - [Gleefully] Thank you.
[Miyazaki seems to be at a loss for words here]
KUROSAWA - Those are the kinds of things that people like me in this business can't do, and that's something I'm really envious about.
MIYAZAKI - The thing is, I grew up in the city. . . in a time right after the war. . .when my only perception of Japan was that it was an impoverished and pitifully hopeless country. [Laughs]. At least that's what we were always told. It was only after I went overseas for the first time that I started appreciating Japan's natural environment. That being the case, it's funny that I keep wanting to make movies with a foreign [western/European] setting. I made Totoro because I felt the need to make a movie that takes place in Japan.
[Shows the Mei-bound Catbus scene from Tonari no Totoro (1988)]
MIYAZAKI - Lately, I've been wanting to make a Jidai-geki [period dramas]. Man is it hard! I don't even know what to do!
KUROSAWA - What I think is really interesting about the Sengoku-era [1467-1567] is that. . .it's perceived to be a time when, for example, one had to be loyal to his lord and obey similar moral and ethical codes. But in actuality, those only came into existence during the Tokugawa Shogunate [Edo-era; approximately 1603-1867] as an attempt to maintain some degree of order [and peace for the Tokugawa family]. The Sengoku-era, on the other hand, was quite the opposite -- people had a lot of freedom then.
[The word KUROSAWA - uses next is ambiguous; "shujin" can either mean man of the house (husband) or landlord; below are two plausible translations based on these two different definitions]
KUROSAWA - (first translation): "This husband of mine. . .he's no good." If that's what she thought, then she would've, you know. . . [walked out on him]. . .without so much as a second thought.
KUROSAWA - (second translation): "Our landlord. . .he's no good." If that's what they thought, then they would've, you know. . .[revolted]. . .without so much as a second thought.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - And that's the kind of environment that spawned people like Hideyoshi [1536-1598]. They're free-thinkers. "You must be loyal to your husband" -- that wasn't the case then. If he wasn't worthy, then you could just abandon him. That's what it was like. I think it would be really interesting if you could portray that.
MIYAZAKI - Hmm. . .
KUROSAWA - Shakespeare might be uniquely British, but actually. . .Japan did have people like Macbeth during that era. You'd be surprised how easily you could make a Japanese story that parallels something out of Shakespeare. Yeah, why don't you do a Japanese Shakespearean Jidai-geki? There are a lot of good stories.
MIYAZAKI - [Pause, perplexed laugh]
KUROSAWA - Yeah?
MIYAZAKI - Well, let's start with what they ate. . .what they wore.
KUROSAWA - We do have records of those. . .like menus
MIYAZAKI - What about the Muromachi-era [encompasses the Sengoku-era, also known as the Ashikaga-era; 1333-1573]
KUROSAWA - Muromachi is. . .a good period.
MIYAZAKI - It gets a little fuzzy in the Nanboku-cho [early years; 1336-1392]. That and the Taiheiki [collection of war tales]. . .everything becomes a big mess.
KUROSAWA - Yeah, it gets more difficult the further back you go. If it's the Tale of the Heike [Part of the Taiheiki], then we have good records of those.
MIYAZAKI - The utter devastation of Kyoto towards the end of the Heian-era [794-1185], as depicted in the Houjouki [Tale of the Ten-Foot Square Hut] -- earthquakes, great fires, dead bodies everywhere. . .rushing back from Fukuhara [modern day Kobe area] only to find your estate in complete ruins. . .
KUROSAWA - You mean Rashomon's time period. That's interesting too.
MIYAZAKI - Watching it as a kid, I remember it being a really scary movie! [Laughs]. For me, the movies that stay on my mind aren't the uplifting ones, but rather the ones that depict the realities of survival.
KUROSAWA - Akutagawa-san has a lot of novels [aside from Rashomon] that depict that time period. Remember that the Rashomon written by him is completely different from Yabu no Naka [from which the movie was originally adapted] -- remember the old lady upstairs who's stealing the hair from the corpse?
MIYAZAKI - Right, right.
MIYAZAKI - It seems as if movies these days don't deal with as wide of a time frame as they used to.
KUROSAWA - Yes, and that's because. . .well first of all, even if you wanted to make a movie of that era, you'd have a lot of trouble finding a good filming location.
MIYAZAKI - That's very true. Power lines everywhere! [Laughs].
KUROSAWA - Places like the Ikaruga no Miya Palace [7th century] were built in the middle of a cedar forest. Those trees were huge [Gestures] and that's why they could manage to build such a wooden structure. Nowadays, there's not a single one left! That's how much things have changed.
MIYAZAKI - [Nodding] Yes. . .yes.
KUROSAWA - For Maadadayo (1993), we had access to many of the clothes from that era [1940s]. . .like suites. But if you and I try to wear them, they won't fit at all; we've gotten bigger.
MIYAZAKI - Oh I see.
KUROSAWA - But if you look at the armor from the Battle of Okehazama , or something, they're noticeably bigger. Clothes from the Sengoku-era are big.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs] Are you saying that we got smaller during the Edo-era [1603-1867]?
KUROSAWA - [Nod] Our physique undoubtedly deteriorated during the 300 years under Tokugawa. At first, I didn't think such a drastic change was reasonable, or even possible. But when you look at the clothes from the early Showa-era [pre WWII] and compare it to those of today. . .in just 40 years, look at how much we've changed. They just don't fit!
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - So we had to find fabric that matched the original and tailor new ones based on that. It was a big hassle.
MIYAZAKI - When it comes to making a Jidai-geki, I just keep running in circles. . .and never actually come close to realizing that goal. People ask, "so what's your next project?" to which I'll respond, "Jidai-geki!" I've been saying that for the past 10 years! [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - In Seven Samurai, we were originally going to chronicle the everyday life of a particular samurai. And as you mentioned earlier. . .he'll wake up in the morning, eat something for breakfast, perhaps go to the Edo Castle. . .but what exactly would he do there, and what would he do for lunch? We don't know any of the details. There's no way we can write a script like that.
MIYAZAKI - Right. . .right.
KUROSAWA - It's actually easier to find earlier written records than it is to find those of the Edo-era. We did a lot of research, and that's when we came across an account of a village hiring samurais to become the only village spared from rebel attacks. "Hey, let's do this." And that's how it started. Of course, once we got to work on it, we just let our imagination run wild. Our producer asked, "what about the title?" and I said, "well, it's about seven samurai. . .hey, that's perfect!" "We're going with this, no matter what!"
MIYAZAKI - That's true! Movies that don't have a fitting title are no good. [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - That's very true. Although. . . we had a lot of trouble naming this one [Maadadayo].
MIYAZAKI - Oh really? [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - They were all too awkward sounding. Every day, I'd rack my brain over a title to the point where one day, I just blurted out "Maadadayo! [Not yet!]" My son said "hey, that works!" so we knew it was a keeper.
[Shows clip from Maadadayo]
Brief post-chat reflection and statement from Mr. Miyazaki during the credits:
"Whether a work is a masterpiece or. . .something more modest, I realized that they all originate at the same place -- an environment where people are constantly thinking and rethinking their own ideas. That is, we don't just lay back and wait for the ideas to come. . . contrary to what people might think. 'Regardless of what they think. . .or whether or not they like the way I do things, I'm gonna do what has to be done!' That's what's important. That's what I think he was saying. Now, you might inconvenience a lot of people along the way. . .but it's more important to live the way you're supposed to. I'll do my best. [Laughs]
Takahata talking about Grave of the Fireflies and Seita.
Translated from Japanese to English by Ryoko Toyama in July 1998
[Here are two excerpts about Takahata's view on his own movie Grave of the Fireflies.]
- [[#[Catharsis of crying; Seita the boy]|[Catharsis of crying; Seita the boy]]]
- #[Raw human relationship when social restraints are gone]
[Catharsis of tears; Seita the boy]
[An excerpt from a Takahata interview about Omihide Poroporo, in which he mentioned Grave of the Fireflies.]
Takahata: It wasn't my intention to give people the catharsis of crying. Yet, many people say "I cried so much," and some even say "I cried so much, and I don't want to see it again." I tell them, "it would be more fun if you watch it one more time." -laughs-
[The interviewer suggested that maybe people thought that the movie was just about the past and it just inspired their nostalgia.]
Takahata: That was regrettable. I intended to depict the boy in Grave as a contemporary boy, rather than a boy in that time. He doesn't bear with hardships. When the aunt threatens him by saying "OK, let's have meals separately," he is rather relieved. He thinks that it's easier to eat by themselves than to bear with the discrimination from his aunt. As a result, his life becomes harder. Such a feeling is closer to the one held by today's kids. I made the movie by thinking what would happen if a kid today was suddenly sent to that time through time machine. So, I didn't intend it to be retrospective or nostalgic, but mI didn't express it well enough...
[Animage, vol 151, January, 1991.]
[An excerpt from what Takahata wrote in the Grave of the Fireflies theater program.]
Today, the bonds among family members and the sense of community among neighbors have been weakened. Instead, we are protected by the several layers of social protection/control. We put mutual noninterference as the basis of our relationships, and try to find our own tenderness in playful but inessential consideration towards others. It doesn't have to be a war. If a big disaster hits us and the social restraints are destroyed, without an idea that makes people help each other or cooperate, it would be inevitable that people will become wolves towards others in such raw human relationships. It shadders me to think that I can be on either side. Even if one tries to escape from human relationships and tries to live alone with his sister, how many boys, or people, can keep sustaining their sisters as long as Seita did?
[Category:Grave of the Fireflies] [Category:Interview]
Miyazaki is asked "why are you obsessed with girls?"
Translated from Japanese to English by Ryoko Toyama Edited by Eric Henwood-Greer
[Here are three excerpts about Miyazaki's apparent emphasis on using female as leads in his works.]
- "Why is Nausicaa a female?"
- "Why are your protagonists always female?"
- [[#[Boys as leads versus girls as leads]|[Boys as leads versus girls as leads]]]
"Why is Nausicaa a female?"
[An excerpt from a promotional article on the movie Nausicaa.]
Question: Nausicaa, the protagonist, is a female. Is there any particular reason for that?
Miyazaki: Well, men are not in good shape these days. When a man is shooting a handgun, it's just like he is shooting because that's his job, and he has no other choice. It's no good. When a girl is shooting a handgun, it's really something. When I saw a movie Gloria, I really felt so, well, it's not a girl, but a middle-aged woman (obasan)-- She shoots a handgun as if she is throwing dishes. It's really exhilarating. (The story of) a man gaining independent always told though (some events) in which he defeats an opponent in a battle, or fights his way through a difficult situation. But in the case of woman, it's to feel, to accept, or to cradle, something like that... Nausicaa is not a protagonist who defeats an opponent, but a protagonist who understands, or accepts. She doesn't think about avenging her parent's death. She is someone who lives in a different dimension. Such (character) is a woman rather than a man. If it's a man, that's too weird. I feel that men (depend) more on words. I felt that, for the issues concerning nature, women deal with them by feeling.
[Young Magazine, February 20, 1984. Reprinted in Archives of Studio Ghibli Vol 1; published by Studio Ghibli, 1996.]
"Why are your protagonists always female?"
[An excerpt from an interview.]
Question: Why do you always choose a girl as your theme?
Miyazaki: I don't logically plan it that way. When we compare a man in action and a girl in action, I feel girls are more gallant. If a boy is walking with a long stride, I don't think anything particular, but if a girl is walking gallantly, I feel "that's cool." Maybe that's because I'm a man, and women may think it's cool when they see a young man striding. At first, I thought "this is no longer the era of men. This is no longer the era of taigimeibun." But after ten years, I grew tired of saying that. I just say "cause I like women." That has more reality.
[Kikan Iichiko, October 20, 1994. Reprinted in Shuppatsuten by Hayao Miyazaki; published by Tokuma Shoten, 1996.]
[Boys as leads versus girls as leads]
[An excerpt from a talk with Ryu Murakami, a Japanese novelist.] Key to the dialog Miya: Hayao Miyazaki RyuM: Ryu Murakami
Miya: I gave up on making a happy ending in the true sense, a long time ago. I can go no further than (the ending in which the lead character) gets over one issue for the time being. Many things will happen after this, but this character will probably manage-- I think that's as far as I can go. From the standpoint of a movie maker, it would be easier if I could make a movie in which "everybody became happy because they defeated the evil villain."
RyuM: Yes, that's easier. -laughs- A lot of issues haven't been solved, but something has ended for the time being, and probably a new thing will start. Still, this person will manage to go on somehow-- those who make us feel like that are all girls, aren't they? -laughs-
Miya: Yes. -laughs-
RyuM: And it's a bit painful, since (the depiction of such girls in Miyazaki anime?) have such reality.
Miya: Yes. When I think about making a male a lead, it gets really intricate. The problem isn't simple. I mean, if it's a story like, "everything will be fine once we defeat him," it's better to have a male as a lead. But, if we try to make an adventure story with a male lead, we have no choice other than doing Indiana Jones. With a Nazi, or someone else who is a villain in anyone's eyes.
RyuM: And set the time and situation around that.
Miya: We can't do anything other than that. It's easy to depict a boy who wants to do such a thing (be a hero in an adventure story?), but can't help but to live slovenly. He has more than enough energy, but he doesn't know how or where to use it, or even if he uses such energy, he can find his way only after a long detour-- I can make such a story. But people ask me "why do you always make a story about a girl?"...
RyuM: I myself get confused when I think, what if Nausicaa were a man. -laughs- In that scene in which Nausicaa was on the golden feelers of Ohmu, if she had been a man, it would be like "are you stupid!?" -big laughs- Well, Nausicaa is lovely, so...
Miya: Well, that's... -big laughs- But while making animation, I always feel that we are making big lies. For example, could we depict an affirmative character with a so-so looking girl? What we are doing is a show in a sense, after all.
RyuM: But if they are lovely, that's good enough, isn't it? -laughs-
Miya: It's difficult. They immediately become the subjects of rorikon gokko (play toy for Lolita Complex guys). In a sense, if we want to depict someone who is affirmative to us, we have no choice but to make them as lovely as possible. But now, there are too many people who shamelessly depict (such heroines) as if they just want (such girls) as pets, and things are escalating more and more. While we are talking about the human rights for women, why they can do this, I don't want to analyze much, but...
[Animage, vol 125, November, 1988. Reprinted in Shuppatsuten by Hayao Miyazaki; published by Tokuma Shoten, 1996.]
Miyazaki and Science Fiction
Comic Box, November 1982 Reprinted in Manga hikyou taikei vol 4
Translated from Japanese to English by Atsushi Fukumoto in September, 1991
Key to the dialog
M: Hayao Miyazaki
M: [...] I've read many so called science fiction, but I couldn't appreciate them. There are various thing, from "hard (SciFi)" to "sorcery and sword," but I couldn't enjoy... rather, I liked non-fiction more... In my young days, I was a reader of SF Magazine [...]
I: What's your favorite SF of those days?
I: How about recent one?
M: Chikyuuno nagai gogo was interesting. I enjoyed that world of plant life. Translation quality was fine, too. But, plants were interesting, though on the other hand the human characters were not so good. I like Gedo senki, though I don't know whether it's an SF or not, I like it very much. I can't remember how many times I've read it. I like Yubiwa monogatari also. Hornblower series [...] is great as a reading.
Miyazaki and Itoi discuss voice-acting for "My Neighbor Totoro".
Sunao ni Wagamama; December 1988
Translated from Japanese to English by Ryoko Toyama Edited by Eric Henwood-Greer
Introduction from the translator:
Shigesato Itoi did the voice for Dad in Totoro. He is a copy writer, not a professional actor. He has written advertising copies for Ghibli films since Totoro. ("This strange creature still lives in Japan... Maybe...")
Here is the excerpt from a talk between Miyazaki-san and Itoi-san, about why Miyazaki-san wanted Itoi-san to play Dad, and what kind of acting he wanted from Itoi-san. This could explain why Dad in the Japanese version didn't sound "fatherly" as some said.
Key to the dialog M: Hayao Miyazaki I: Shigesato Itoi
M: Aside from writing the copy for Totoro, you played the part of the father. With your voice, the movie fits to its place. It was great. I saw Studio L which was aired on NHK, for which you were the Master of Ceremonies, and I thought you had a wonderful, strange voice. I heard a lot of voices of voice actors, but they are all warm, and are too much like a father who totally understands his kids. There used to be a TV program called Father Knows Best. A father who is 30 or so can not be like that. So, we thought that we had to cast a different kind of person (than a professional voice actor). I was the one who said Itoi-san would do.
I: You were?
M: Yes. I met you once before to discuss the copy for Totoro... and I thought your voice would do well since it's strange. It's strange to say it's good since it's strange... but it is good that (your voice) has a certain carelessness. Well, it's also strange to say "carelessness." -laughs-
I: I speak in meaningless way... -laughs-
M: I myself am a father. The reality of a father isn't Father Knows Best. So, I thought it would be better that (the father) speaks in such a way. To tell you the truth, I was nervous. I'm glad that it worked out well. -laughs-
I: The (acting?) director gave me a part of the script with difficult lines. He told me to try them, but I couldn't. Well, I thought it was better not to have the part, but he said we would somehow manage. I thought what a heck, if I failed, there would be a substitute.
M: No, we didn't have any substitute.
I: You didn't? What a scary thing have I done! -laughs-
M: Since we don't have a lot of time in making a movie, we depend on the skillfulness of the voice actors. But still, it sometimes frustrates me. For example, the lack of a sense of presence. Especially, the voices for girls all sound like "aren't I cute?" I can't stand that. I've always wanted to do something about it. But in Totoro, both Mei and Satsuki had wonderful voices. They weren't unnatural.
I: The lack of presence you mentioned, rather, I thought (voice acting in) anime should be like that. It's the same with theater, but it won't be communicated unless it's excessive. For example, when I'm really dealing with my kid, my voice is more blunt. So in that sense, I was worried since what I was asked to do was a bit different from what I had thought. Rather, I can do if it's Father Knows Best, by imitating it.
M: Oh, I see. -laughs-
I: Yes, I can do that. But it won't do if I do that, right?
M: It's certainly difficult. I say "do it ordinarily," but it's not ordinal.
I: It's not true. Not at all. If we do (the voice) in the same way we usually speak, it would sound scary. When people speak, it's scary, swaggering, or teasing-- very much so, I mean, the reality has an evil feeling.
M: I know. When we ask for a more natural way of acting, we face that problem. It made me realize how much we use made-up voices when we dub animation.
I: You chose my voice, that means you want my this voice, but you might also want my made-up voice, not the ordinary voice, and I would end up acting like that anyway, so how do I balance them? I once asked the (acting?) director about that.
M: That's the problem we always have when we are dubbing. And in some case, the acting gets worse after many takes... But this time, Kitabayashi-san who played Grandma made my jaw drop. -laughs- She was really great. I was amazed.
I: She was great! Really great. I mean, maybe the script had been changed by her.
M: She made the part her own, in true sense.
I: The way she uses her voice, it's totally different. It comes from a different place. It's not just reading the script, but more like catching lines floating in the air. They are lines she caught on her own.
M: Even in a tense scene, it wasn't a tense voice, so I told her so. I was told by her, "I think it's better not to have such a voice in this scene," and I thought indeed it was. -laughs-
Miyazaki talks about Grave of the Fireflies.
Asahi Journal, August 5, 1988.
Translated from Japanese to English by Ryoko Toyama Edited by Eric Henwood-Greer
[This is from an article about books, and Miyazaki-san was reading a book called The Desert Monastery, which is about Coptic monks. Hence the reference to Coptic monks.]
Why didn't the two ghosts of the brother and sister who died from starvation meet the ghost of their mother? Did those two and the mother go to different worlds? If they had died even though they had wanted to live, and had their regrets left in this world, the two ghosts should look like they are starved, just as they were before they died. Why do they look as if there is nothing wrong with them physically?
Just as Coptic monks passed the Nile to the west after cutting off all the relationships they had in this world, those two went to another world while they were still alive. The underground shelter which the two had moved into was, as the monastery in the middle of the desert was, the grave which those two chose for themselves while they were still alive. Some pointed out the incompetence of the brother, but his will is firm. His will was, not to protect their lives, but to protect the innocence of his sister.
Their biggest tragedy is not that they lost their lives. It is that they don't have a heaven where their souls can go back to, as Coptic monks did. Or, it is that they can not become ashes and return to the earth, as their mother did. But those two remain there, just as they were in the moment of the happy michiyuki.
Is his sister like Mary (the Virgin) in the eyes of her brother? There is no longer pain in their world, which is now complete just with the bonds between the two siblings. They are floating, smiling to each other.
Grave of the Fireflies is not an antiwar movie. Nor is it a movie to appeal (to the audience) the importance of a life. I think it's a terrifying movie which depicted deaths without a place to return to.
- Taigimeibun can mean justification, justice, or a big good cause something like "for the human race" --ryo
- I think he is a bit sorry since all the attractive protagonists are girls, and that shows the poor status which today's boys are facing --Ryo
- In the beginning of this talk, they talked about Tsutomu Miyazaki, an anime Otaku (that's how media labeled him) who killed several little girls in that year.
- Sorry, I don't know the original title
- Nightfall by Asimov
- Hothouse by Brian Aldiss
- A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin
- Tale of Ring
- In Japanese literature, lovers who are not allowed to be together run off, often to die together. This journey of lovers is called michiyuki --ryo
Additional notes from the translator
In Japanese belief (I think it's more or less the same in the West), a dead becomes a ghost when one had strong feeling such as hatred or regret towards someone or something in this world when one died, and can't cross over to "the other world" (nirvana). The feeling (usually negative one) binds the ghost to this world. Therefore, ghosts usually look terrible, because they look like just when they died. (It's the same in the West. A beheaded Queen roams around the castle searching for her head-- that kind of thing.)
So, if those two became the ghosts because they had some regrets left, they should look terrible. They should look just like when they died. So, they should look like starved children (just skin and bones).
People usually become ghosts (so we believe) because they died even though they wanted to live more. And that's why they still have negative feeling, and that feeling hold them down to this world. If you accept the death, and welcome death as a relief, you wouldn't become a ghost.
So, in that sense, those two ghosts are not the ghosts. If they didn't leave any negative feeling to this world, why are they still floating around? Why couldn't they go wherever their mother went? That was the Miyazaki-san's question. And his take was that, "It was the movie which depicted deaths without a place to return to." Those two wanted to be just by themselves. They didn't even want their mother.
Miyazaki on On Your Mark
Animage, vol. 207; September, 1995
Translated from Japanese to English by Ryoko Toyama in November, 1996 Edited by Eric Henwood-Greer
Key to the dialog I: Interviewer M: Hayao Miyazaki
I: With policemen and angel, it was like a movie by Mamoru Oshii-san.
M: Oshii-san always makes much of angel being born or not, so I just went ahead and put her in the film. -laughs- But, I haven't said that she was an angel, and maybe she was a person of bird.  It doesn't matter.
I: I felt that there was enough material for one feature film in the six minutes and 40 seconds.
M: I put in a lot of cryptic things, but since it's a music film, people can interpret it as they want.
I: What was the strange building in the peaceful countryside we saw at the beginning of the film?
M: You can interpret it anyway you want, but I think that it's enough if you can feel something from the truck with the radiation warning sign in the next scene. There is so much radiation on the Earth's surface, humans can no longer live there. But, there is flora, just like there is one around Chernobyl. It became a sanctuary for nature, with the humans living in the underground city. In reality, I don't think they will be able to live like that. I think they'll live on the surface, suffering from disease.
I: This is the music film of On Your Mark.
M: I intentionally misinterpret the lyrics. It's a story (about a world) after the so-called the fin de siecle. It's the world covered with radiation and disease. In fact, I believe that such an era will come, and I made the film thinking about what it would mean to live in such a world. I think that in such an era, (people) will be very conservative about criticisms to the system, while they'll also become very anarchic. That's because they still think they have things to lose, and if they lose everything, they'll become anarchic, and will start dying like dogs. And we use drugs, professional sports, or religion as distractions from such (reality), don't we? So such (distractions) will become widespread. And I thought that it was a song which expressed what you would want to say in argots to hide them from the authority, in such an era. It's a film filled with ill-will. -laughs-
I: For example, the part of the lyrics "whenever we started running, we came down with a flu," does this "flu" mean the world contaminated with radiation or disease?
M: Seeing it from the entire history of the earth, humans' problems are just like a flu.
I: [...] The angel whom two policemen rescue can be seen as one hope in the chaotic world. Just like the lyrics, "We still won't stop because...", the scene in which they rescue the angel was repeated over and over. After several failed attempts, she flied into the blue sky, leaving the chaotic world, just like a hope. But the policemen were left behind on the ground...
M: It's not as if she was a savior, or they exchanged feelings with her through her rescue. It's just that, if you don't completely give up on the situation and you keep your hope, not letting anyone touch it, and then you have to let it go, you let it go where no one can touch it. It's just that. Maybe there was a bit of exchange in the moment of letting her go. That's fine, that's enough. ...Probably they'll go back to be the policemen. I don't know if they could go back, though. -laugh-
I: And the world they are going back is the world of a "flu."
M: After all, we have no choice but to start from there. Even in a chaotic era, there are good things, or things which excite us. Like Nausicaa said, "We are birds, who fly again and again over that morning, coughing off blood."
- Tori no hito (person of bird) is another nickname of Nausicaa --ryo
- Side Note: In the original, "ryuukou no kaze" can be interpreted in two ways. One is just a "flu," the other is "flu of fashion." And I think it was meant to have double meanings. --Ryo
Mamoru OSHII talks about Miyazaki and Takahata
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 in July, 1996 Edited by Brian Stacy
[Mamoru Oshii is the director of such movies as Angel's Egg, Urusei yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer, and Patlabor (1 & 2).]
Interviewer: Rika Ishii
Anchor, the joint project which wasn't realized
I met Miya-san (Hayao Miyazaki) for the first time in 1983, for an interview in Animage. It was right after I finished directing my first film, and he was more like a god. The first (work of) Miya-san's I saw was Conan the Future Boy. It was on the air when I joined Tatsunoko Production to be a director, so I was really blown away by it. I had a feeling that we would meet some day, but it was sooner than I expected, so I was really nervous.
My first impression was that he was a really light hearted person. But when the conversation got heated, he was really merciless, and I was told many harsh things. -laughs- So it ended with the impression like "what a SOB!"
He is unbelievably energetic. The point where I thought he and I were alike was that he is really aggressive and talks a lot. It's the same with Takahata-san, it's like the one who talks more wins. There is no idle chatting when we talk. (We?) always try to convince the other. -laughs- So it's really tiresome. I myself think the winning rate is 50%. We've been busy these days, so we can't meet more than once a year, but once we meet, we always end up like that.
Since Takahata-san works at the same place as Miya-san, I often meet him, and we talk from time to time. There was even a project which we three were going to do. I think it was after Angel's Egg (1985), it was a Ghibli project called Anchor. I think Miya-san was going to be the producer, I was going to be the director, and Takahata-san was going to produce too. We three got together and made a plot, but one night, we had a big fight and disagreement, and I quit.
On the surface, Takahata-san also likes to argue and has a passion to convince others, but he is very different inside. Miya-san has something sweet in him, and in the end, it comes down to (for him) "what's good is good, though it's not logical." In the case of Takahata-san, he is consistent. He is a person of logic. I heard that Yasuo Otsuka-san once said that Takahata-san is walking logic, and I'm logic riding a bike. -laughs-
I guess I should be able to get along with Takahata-san better (than Miya-san), but, film-wise, I sympathize more with what Miya-san makes. I feel that a part of Takahata-san is a bit cold. He is like a person who doesn't get hurt or feel failure fundamentally.
He doesn't say what he wants to say up front like Miya-san does. He looks like a warm guy, but once something happens, he totally changes. It's like he gets a totally different personality. When he denies someone, he denies everything about that person, including their personality. I think of him as a Stalinist. -laughs- Miya-san is a bit like a Trotskyist, but for me, they are both men (ojisan) of 1960s Anpo, having very intimidating tendencies. Especially, it's really something when they intimidate the young staff members. It's totally different from their everyday smiling nature. They get totally different personalities once they are in a project.
Studio Ghibli is (like) the Kremlin
In short, in the 1960s way of saying things, if the end is just, the means don't matter. I think that for them, making a movie is still a kind of extension of the union movement. Making strategy, organizing people, and purging traitors-- it's the same. There are agitation and intimidation characteristics to any popular movement. Basically, it's a thorough organizing to carry out the top's will.
I think Studio Ghibli is (like) the Kremlin. -laughs- The real one is long gone, but it's still sitting in the middle of the field in Higashi Koganei. But in a sense, there is a reason for it's existence, meaning, I think it plays a certain role by existing. Just like those steel-like athletes could not be produced other than in the communist countries, a certain kind of people can not be produced by the principals of the market economy.
There should be a type of animator who can be fostered only by Ghibli, where the level of staff is really high, from in-between to painting. So, it can be valued in the sense that it cultured (such staff members) purely, but if you ask me if it's totally right, I'd say I don't think so. I think they should be disbanded immediately. -laughs- I think it would be more meaningful if those who grew up at Ghibli would go outside.
However, there are things that only Ghibli can do, and if it disappears, the tradition would disappear. But that's a relative value, and as for an individual value, I think they should be disbanded immediately. It's the same with the question of whether it got better after the Soviet Union was disbanded, but I think for creative work, anarchy is at least better than freedom under a state power.
It's like Miya-san is the chairman, and Takahata-san is the head of the party, or the president of the Russian Republic. Producer Suzuki is definitely the chief of KGB. But the things that are made and the reality of the organization which makes them are two totally different things. People who think such cohesion is good flock there.
What do other animators think of Ghibli? As far as I know, they basically respect Ghibli. It's half love, and half hate. A general response would be: it's a tremendous place, but I don't want to go there. Because they control you too tightly (at Ghibli). For example, (they tell you) come in at 10 in the morning and go home at 10 in the evening, and you just keep on working for one or two years. At my place, no one comes in till evening, and no one knows who is doing what. And (the project) ends within 8 to 10 months cause I get bored. This is a more common way (of making animation).
I myself have been invited several times, but the biggest reason why I don't want to work at Ghibli is because the control is too tight. -laughs- And there aren't many good food places around Ghibli. I can't tolerate poor eating. Those two are not interested in eating. One instance shows all, they push their ideology, or rather, their constitution to everybody. (They say) it's best if you come into the studio in the morning and go home at night, not because they think so, but because they can't do otherwise.
Well, it's (like) the military or a (political) party, and for some, it's a good order, but for some, it's an intolerable fascism. However, it is certain that only by such mountains of tight control, such movies can be made.
A movie director always has a conflict inside of him, between the need to do what he wants to do and how far he can force others to make sacrifices. Because he can't do anything without others' help. Everyone has a different strategy, but I think all these differences come from ideological issues.
Those two aren't moralists. The lack of ethics is common among men in the 1960s. They definitely think that if there is a validity, or a "just cause" (nishiki no mihata), they are allowed to do anything. In a sense, that's the thing I most hate about them, and that's what keeps me from liking them in the end.
For me, it's better if the end and the means match, though it's almost impossible. To cope with the reality, they use intimidation and refuting. I trick (staff members), or in nicer words, I try to find common interests (with staff members). I try to accept certain things even if they are against my will, or I try to think I'll get payback for that sometime later.
Some anime magazines and manga magazines praise Ghibli as the best animation studio in Japan, or in the world, and say such things as it's the conscience of the Japanese anime industry, but that's all a lie. -laughs- Anyone who's been there even once would know that. Well, I'm not going to deny everything (about Ghibli), but if you worship them like that, it will only make people (at Ghibli) miserable. And indeed they are miserable, so I'm hoping they would stop (worshipping them). Someone should criticize them somewhere. Though to do that, you really need forcefulness and resolution.
Apart from Takahata-san, Miya-san has a somewhat shady past. Such aspects also consitutue who Takahtata-san and Miya-san are. You shouldn't make him a god. Since he is the one who has to carry that burden. I think that's one of the reasons why he struggled and struggled, and is still struggling today.
What (stories) will they tell now, in this era?
They are probably at a loss right now, more than ever. I think they are in great confusion, not knowing what to make now. Though I guess it's the same with everybody. Both Miya-san and Takahata-san are the kind of people who wouldn't make a film unless they could justify the cause (to make the film) to the world, and to themselves, after thinking through why they make this film now. Considering the situation as it is now, I think it must be harder for them.
They think they are responsible for staff members and audience. It's a very important thing for them, but that's a limitation of men of the 1960s Anpo. I don't think I have to be responsible. The thing "being responsible" itself breeds fascism, and if I'm responsible for anything, it should be just for myself.
More than anyone, he himself knows that his next movie, Mononoke Hime won't hold up (as a story) in principle. How in the world can he make a story like "they defeated the evil sheriff, and the village folks lived happily ever after" in this era? The world is filled with stories about things becoming worse after an evil sheriff got defeated, so how can he make children believe in (such a story)? The story of "defeat the dictator," like Horus: Prince of the Sun could be believed in back then, but what's the use of doing Horus now?
Until now, they kept at least one thing; not making a film unless they have an answer to the question of how they face the current era and what to say. If they start making (films) even though they know (what they are saying) is a lie, there will be terrible consequences. Since their belief system will totally crumble away.
Criticizing Takahata's and Miyazaki's works
After all, we don't have many friends in the anime industry. Since it is a craftsmen's world, there is a strong sentiment against criticizing others' work, so Miya-san, Takahata-san, or me, those who go around and badmouth loudly can not be liked. I suppose there are tons of people who talk behind others' backs, though. I myself think that since it's a fair game, we'd better say whatever we want to say. For example, for Patlabor 2 (1993), Miya-san gave me a hard time saying such things as it's unfair, or cheating. I also always talk about Miya-san's work. About Ghibli films: Nausicaa-- this is The Spaceship Yamato (Star Blazer) Miya-san style. He dressed it up a lot, but it was filled with the emotion of a Kamikaze attack. In that sense, this is a powerful film which was made out of the ideology itself, supported by heroic energy.
Laputa-- Among Ghibli films, I like this best. Since it has a good structure as a boy's adventure story. In this film, what he wants to do in making a film and the emotions he (Miya-san) holds are well-balanced. In Nausicaa, the balance was really tipped. -laughs- However, I got a chill from the scene where humans fell from the sky and Muska laughed "Humans are like garbage!" Somewhere, there is such a very cruel side like "all the humans should die."
Totoro-- Despite it's fundamental flaw of having no other choice than transplanting Trolls from Northern Europe to depict his ideal, beautiful Japanese countryside, he pulled it off with sheer force. I can understand why kids love it, since it plays to the audience as much as it can. But since I'm (also) a creator, I'm resolved not to be carried away by it.
Kiki's Delivery Service-- When the era wanted (that movie to be made), Toshio Suzuki pursuaded Miya-san to make this film (against Miya-san's will), based on his (Suzuki's) own instinct as a great producer. As a Miya-san work, I think it plays to the audience too much, and falls apart. I suspect he got depressed after that. He took a hiatus for about two years after that, you know.
Porco Rosso-- In short, it's a personal novel (shi shyousetsu). He (Miya-san as Porco?) put on such airs and spoke such flashy lines, posing as a pirate, but that's all self-excusing. I think it would have been good if the ending was such that he took off the pig's head, and Miya-san's face showed up underneath it, (saying) "I'm sorry." I think it would have been a fine film if the hero was a pig who could only say "Oink Oink," but he was very good at air battles.
I have tons of things I want to say about Takahata-san, -laughs- but Grave of the fireflies attracts my attention most. That's an immoral world, since it's a story of incest. And the image of death is lined up right behind it. In that sense, it was an erotic movie, and it gave me chills.
His (Takahata's) other works aren't my cup of tea to start with. He is very particular about descriptions, but to me, they all look quibbling. But in truth, as a director, I was most influenced not by Conan, but by Anne of Green Gables. I was astounded by how broad the range of direction can be. Because, there was no story. It's just washing dishes, or watching a carriage go by. And it's a long (scene). But, this has tremendous power. In that sense, my eyes were opened.
Though I complain a lot, I think it would be boring if those two stopped making (films). I guess I'd feel strangely empty.
I talk a lot about Miya-san and Ghibli everywhere, and although people nod when they are listening (to me), once they see (Ghibli films), they (change their opinions) to "well, but I still love them."
In terms of the persuasiveness of their films, it is true that they have just such a power, and it is also true that they have what I don't have. You can say that they have their own instinct for appealing to the general public. I think they have extraordinary energy in terms of making what they want to make, while surviving in the general consumer society with their ideological constitution of the 1960s intact. In the usual case, they should've been put into a museum a long time ago.
At one point, they almost were (put into a museum). But they made a splendid comeback, because they put up a united front. Each was able to make (a film) because the other made (a film). How they are tuned into each other is really something. Those two are not on good terms at all. If you think they are on good terms, you're totally wrong. In a sense, they are like a cat and a dog, and each has a part of the other he can't accept. Despite that, they can put up a united front without hesitation, since they are from the people's front generation. That's the world I can't get into.
Well, I've never seen such an interesting person since I started working. Miya-san is one of my friends whom I can really trust, but I don't agree with him in the end, and I shouldn't.
I can say I became shrewd, learning from their aggressiveness, and I drew many lessons from them about how not to do things. And I was also taught the realistic aspects of making a movie, such as how to speak to a client. I learned a lot (from them) about how to behave and what to tell to whom, in order to make a movie I want to make. Thanks to that, my life became easier, and I was encouraged very much.
I have nothing I want from them. It won't matter to them, but as my personal wish, I just want to see how they exit, including how they take the responsibility for what they've been doing. I have almost no expectation for them to show us something new, or some new development. It is true that they showed us great things at one point in time. Why would you want more (from them)?
In Miya-san's case, his hair became totally white, and his stomach became so weak, he can't even eat a katsudon. Since his hands no longer move (easily), I heard that he puts Elekiban on his arms. Even so, he is still working because he loves to work.
I'm sure it will be a fight if I say so, but, his mission in history has ended. Speaking from my experience in watching (his works), I think he peaked with Conan the Future Boy or Lupin III, the Castle of Cagliostro. After he moved to Ghibli, (things started) to decline. This has been the ten years in which the substance of the works declined, while the quality of them improved. But I think of him as a lucky man, since he has done everything (he wanted to do).
He always says he wants to go back to the mountain. He has such a feeling, too. Still, he comes back to the studio and makes much noise, because it's a kind of karma of a creator. When he is shouting at the studio, he can feel his existence in his heart. -laughs- So, I think he'll keep going as long as he can move around.
Actually, I really don't expect him to go quietly in a mature way. He can't have a simple retired life, living in a cottage on a mountain, writing picture books of trees and insects, and waiting for children to come by. If he became so, I think I'd feel desolated.
May 17, 1995, at Production IG in Kokubunji
- Tatsunoko Production is a studio which produced Speed Racer and G-Force. It was the very first anime studio Oshii worked for.
- The phrase "1960s Anpo" represents the opposition movement against the extension of Japan-US Security Agreement (Anpo) in 1960. There are certain personalities, tendencies, and cultures common among those who participated in this movement. Oshii, on the other hand, is the 1970s Anpo generation, which had a totally different culture from the 1960s Anpo.
- Shi shousetsu (personal novel) is a genre which is very popular in Japanese literature. It's about an author's personal life, but a bit different from autobiography. It's more introvert.
- Katsudo is a fried pork and rice bowl; a bit greasy.
- Elekiban is a small magnet patch to improve blood flow. Japanese people put this on their shoulders and necks to ease their muscle pain.
Yom Special Story: "Now, after Nausicaä has finished"
Yom, Issue June 1994
Translated from Japanese to English by Ryoko Toyama Edited by Marc Hairston, Tyler King, and Brian Stacy
Key to the dialog
M: Hayao Miyazaki
This interview consists of one long interview and several short ones, called "spots."
- Main interview: "The story won't end" --Hayao Miyazaki
- Spot 1: Porco Rosso and the civil war in Yugoslavia
- Spot 2: Anime is for children
- Spot 3: Laputa and healthy passion
- Spot 4: About Isao Takahata-san, about Ponpoko
- Spot 5: Kiki's Delivery Service
- Spot 6: Things I can't do even if I want to do
"The story won't end" --Hayao Miyazaki
The work I wasn't sure I could finish
Y: Nausicaa has ended after 13 years.
M: 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.
To tell you the truth, this was the work I kept wondering if I could finish since the time I started. I could say that I was able to write without thinking ahead because I decided that I could stop anytime. I was working like "it turned out this way," not "I want things to go this way."
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.
M: 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.
That's not a thing I can proudly say. Even after I finished the next movie, and had had some time off, it was hard for me to return to Nausicaa. In the end, I stoped writing it four times.
Y: The movie became the flag bearer for the ecology movement, which was just beginning to boom in the 1980s...
M: 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.
I mean, I didn't start Nausicaa to write a story about the ecology for the sake of environmental protection. At first, I intended to write a story which took place in a desert, but it wasn't interesting when I put it into drawings, so I changed it to the forest. Then, it became that kind of story.
In that sense too, I didn't have any big plot. The writing process was such that "it looks that way, so let's go that way." I faced a writer's block, so I wanted to have something huge, so, the sleeping God Warrior... This one too, I just wrote it into the story saying such thing as "what's gonna happen? I'm in trouble." I continued working, telling myself such lies as "it'll work out eventually. The magazine will go out of business before that..." -laughs-
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?
M: 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 the story.
A movie has to both open the story up and close it. Some may say "no, opening up is enough," but I'm a person who makes entertainment movies, so I think about the boundary I can close the story in.
I can't do more than that with the movie. The important thing is that Nausicaa made the Copernican turn when she found the meaning, the role, and the system of the sea of corruption. I had decided that that was how far the movie would go, but I had so many things I couldn't put inside that boundary, and I couldn't sort them out.
It was of course impossible since I decided to write what I couldn't do in movies into the manga to begin with.
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?
M: 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-
But when I was making the movie Nausicaa, I was insisting that I was making Nausicaa with "wishes," not "this is the way reality is." But, when I finished the movie, I found myself deeply immersed in the religious domain that I didn't want to get into very much. I thought "this wasn't good," and I was really driven into a tight corner.
So, after the movie, I told myself that I would approach the problem more seriously to continue the manga, but once I started, there were so many things I couldn't understand. From the beginning to the end, I ended up writing with a whole lot of things I couldn't understand.
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?
M: 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.
I can manage to understand the world as conflicts and contradictions among humans, but I find myself not being satisfied with that level (of explanation).
Then I have nothing I can say with confidence.
My head gets dizzy by just thinking what would you do if you are called "mama" by a God Warrior with such a destructive power. So, Nausicaa's perplexity is just my own perplexity.
Y: Near the end of the manga, the God Warrior had a role totally different from that in the movie...
M: 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.
Actually, most of the power has been made by technologies. I think a technology itself is neutral and innocent. It's same with automobiles. They are loyal and truly devoted to drivers.
We feel safe thinking machines have no heart, but actually, men give machines hearts. A loyal heart, innocent devotion, and self sacrifice are the machines' essence. It's like a dog obeying the orders of a master no matter how evil the master is. I think the thought that humans give hearts to machines is the base of Asimov's "Three Rules of Robotics." The God Warrior in Nausicaa is not that original an idea. The design, too, you can find its root in many preexisting designs. But, the moment I gave a tangible shape to "innocence," it became something I can't control. I think I gave it a shape because I have a strong yearning for innocent ones...
Y: The story changed after the God Warrior became cognizant.
M: 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.
I think there may have been people who could explain it with deeper, sharper, more proper words long before I started thinking. I painfully realized I don't have such a capability.
Y: Is that what you mean by a religious domain?
M: 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 nature...
We get confused because we get various worldly desires. But I'm afraid that I feel if we want to go beyond such desires and go somewhere pure, we might reach somewhere such as an ordinary stone or water drops. But in the moment we put these kinds of thoughts into words, everything becomes a disreputable religion. I can not possibly write (these kinds of thoughts), I haven't reached such a stage or anything. After all, I started caring more for the God Warrior than for humans.
Y: Or, we start caring more for Ohmu (than for humans). When we are reading Nausicaa, many such things happen...
I lost words
M: 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.
Things which we think are characteristics of humans, such as feelings, even they might be shared with the simplest virus in this world. Maybe it's just those things we share (with other life forms) are only evoked inside humans. It'll be impossible (to think this kind of stuff), unless I study (shugyo) with a better brain. I think I shouldn't put them into words until then.
I was falling into that kind of situation. Even though I thought that it's dangerous, I couldn't help but go that way because I had already written the God Warrior (into the story) ten years ago. I can't say "I wrote it, but I forgot about it." -laughs-
So, I was just following behind the story, rather than creating it.
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.
M: 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 answer.
My dog is sixteen years old, and he can die any day. He can hardly see. He can smell only a little, only one of his ears works a bit. But, he is still alive.
When I see his face, he doesn't look that happy, but when I try to take him out for a walk, he looks a little bit happy. I wonder what a life is. It's strange since I've lost both of my parents, yet I think about this when I see my dog, but for example, I think he is no longer the dog he was. Ripples spread through water surface, and as they spread, they gradually diminish. They are the same ripples, but they are not the same strong ripples right after they were born-- maybe I can understand that way.
There are many things said such as a life form is a carrier of selfish genes, but after all, we can't understand with (such explanations). Maybe from old times, great people thought about these kinds of things. I mean, I'm just beginning to understand that they seemed to have felt something even before such things as studies were established.
Y: You learn that there are many things you can't understand...
M: 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.
But if I go deeper than that, I face such chaotic questions as in which I have to face the darkness of the universe. And it seems that the key to these kinds of questions is held in the thoughts of the people of the past who hid themselves in mountains, rather than in our own heads.
These days, I get startled when I hear religious words which I had ignored before. I feel "oh, this has also been talked about." Behind simple words, for example, in an elementary textbook for Buddhism, there are great experiences or many such things. I can feel that, but that's just about it. I can't understand them completely on my own. I'm just at a loss.
The moment I copy the words, they start changing. But unlike such people as Shinran who wrote them down without fearing (the change of meaning through the transition from thoughts to words), I can't do this. I decided not to make Nausicaa say these things since it's inevitable that they would sound untrue. I thought I understood things more clearly, but as I wrote Nausicaa, it actually became more difficult for me to sort things out. I mean, it was like I lost words.
It was just like Nausicaa herself was out of words, and I thought I didn't want to express it with words. The moment I put "I think this is this" into words, it becomes a different thing.
Y: Shortly after Nausicaa decided "I'll keep lying," the story ends...
M: 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.
Anyway, "we are right, and we beat the enemy and the peace will come" is a lie. At least, I can definitely say that's a lie. There are good and bad things. You can do good things. But, a person who does good things is not necessarily a good person. It just means he/she "did good things." In the next moment, he/she can do bad things. That is a human. Unless we think that way, we misjudge everything, including political decisions, and oneself.
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.
M: 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.
I think it was started by a few gangs. But we couldn't stop it. It's just like when Nazism was growing in Germany, many people who were there said they were just a bunch of gangs, but they grew into an unstoppable power.
For example, when we watch news such as CNN, it seems that the Serbs are overwhelmingly evil. But if you get to the bottom of it, it's somewhat different. There is definitely a conflict between Western Europe and the Greek Orthodoxy within Christianity. So, no wonder Serbs doubt NATO. They would rather have the Russians.
Then, are Serbs right? No. Both are really stupid, and both commit many unspeakable acts. Even if there is such a thing as justice, once a war has started, any war will become corrupt. That's a war.
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?
M: 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.
A country collapses and, at the same time, people can go on living their daily lives. Such a thing can really happen. I had been wondering for a long time about what had happened, what had become of those people who were living when the Western Roman Empire fell, but with the collapse of the Soviet Union, I sort of got the answer for that.
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
M: 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.
It's not that I changed dramatically, or changed by fighting (myself) relentlessly while I was writing, but various questions inside me became overwhelming.
I think that this clear change in my way of thinking came from my writing Nausicaa, rather than the change of my position in this society.
For example, at first, I even hesitated in making Nausicaa a daughter of the Chieftain Ghil - in short, a princess. I thought some might say such things as Nausicaa is in a sort of elite class, so I thought of ways (to justify my choice). But these things became meaningless to me. It doesn't matter where she was born. I don't want to have a discussion about such things anymore. No matter which class one is born into, a stupid person is a stupid person, and a nice one is a nice one. It's not that one is right or wrong, it's just whether he/she is a nice guy, whether I want to become a friend with him/her. There are just such (a distinction of) people in this world. I stopped seeing things by class. It's a lie that one is right just because he/she is a laborer. The general public do many stupid things. I can't trust polls. With these kinds of things, I'm just going back to basics. This is not something eye-opening, it's been said many times. If I think about going back there again, I feel really dark, but I think I have to accept that. I think I have to see things on my own.
When I first saw the film of Mao Tse-tung receiving cheers from the big crowd in Tiananmen Square, I think it was the end of the 1950s, I felt his face was really inauspicious and ill favored. But since I was told that he had a big warm personality or such things, I thought maybe he happened to be ill and wasn't photogenic on that day, -laughs- I really thought so. But thinking back, I should've trusted my first feeling.
I did such things many times. I always tried to overpower my feelings with my ideals. I stopped doing so. I also look at the contemporary politicians just with my impressions.
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?
M: 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.
They are people who have loved the Sayama Hills long before they started the movement. They walked around to see plants and birds when they had free time, and kept thinking how they could do something about the place. Because they are such people, we are happy to let them use our characters. If someone like a fascist of ecology is in charge, I'd pull out.
Like that, these days, I associate with people not because they are right or wrong, but because they are nice. So, my world is getting smaller and smaller. -laughs-
"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?
M: 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 coming in.
The rice shortage was nothing. It's not like people were starving. I was rather amazed by the economic power, though.
Y: You mean, if we want to, we can buy (from outside).
M: 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 as good." 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 survive...
I'm tired of discussing the Japanese agriculture. If I may say so though I might get misunderstood.
I happened to meet a farmer who said he would keep producing organic rice without pesticide, so I decided to buy rice from him, even if the price went up in a bad crop year. With it, the agricultural problem at my home were solved. -laughs-
Of course, it wouldn't be any solution, but I don't like such sensational expressions as "Japanese agriculture has lost" as much as I don't like "Japanese movies are dead," though I can understand the anger.
I feel somehow, that's not it. It's not something you lose or win so easily. I only get irritated when I hear the agricultural cooperation being this or that while we are discussing the agricultural problems. I just want to solve it at a personal level. It's not something I can proud of. But, even so... It's different if someone is starving to death, though.
These days, I can only think that way. Environmental problems, too. Since the people in the community are cleaning up the river in my neighborhood, I join them when I have the time. I think that's just fine. But this won't solve any problems either. It just means we are picking up discarded plastic bags or something, you know.
In short, there are so many things we can't do anything about if we think about generalities. Things won't go well because there is a huge gap between the generalities and the particulars. But, a human can often be satisfied with the particulars. That's what I like best these days.
If we see generalities from the top of a mountain or from a plane, we feel it's hopeless, but if we go down, there is a nice road running about fifty meters, we feel this is a nice road, and if the weather is fine and shining, we feel we can go on. I wonder why we feel so differently depending on our viewpoints. I think that doing such things suit me better than talking about big things on a stage at a symposium or a lecture. But I will drive a car and cause pollution. If everyone has to stop, I'll stop, but even so, I'll continue to drive to the last. Raise the gas price to ¥300 per liter. -laughs- Gee, I'm shooting my mouth off as I please, aren't I?
Y: If so, there won't be so many cars.
M: 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.
I'm thinking about putting soil and grass on the roof of this building (Studio Ghibli) this year. This won't solve any problem either, but it's better to act than just being angry. I heard that the heating and cooling costs would also change by doing so. Many people would say it won't be a big solution, and it isn't, but I think if I can do it, I want to do it.
There is a photographer who is working for a project to invite children who got radiation in Chernobyl to Japan and give them treatments. After staying in Japan for a month, they become much healthier since they are getting better nutrition, too. For example, a child who had stopped growing started growing again.
But he knows that the child will go back to the previous state once he returns home a month later. And he is agonized by the thought that even though he brings ten kids or so to Japan, it'll be of no use for the rest of the several ten thousands kids. I think that's just fine-- though if I say so, I'd be misunderstood-- I think that's what humans can do.
"Is it meaningless if the child die?" No, it isn't. Maybe, what those children felt at that time is everything. But, the moment I put these kind of things into words, it will be grossly misunderstood somewhere. It's difficult. If we try to judge by results, many things become difficult. If I say "this moment is important," someone might take it as that we just have to care only about this moment. It's difficult. It's really difficult to put into words.
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?
M: 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.
After finishing a movie, being stupefied, I take a off, and then, Nausicaa is waiting. I hate this. I wander around it half a year or so, and then I start writing since I have no choice. But, as I said before, to tell the truth, I made movies partly because I wanted to escape from Nausicaa. I didn't intend to do the light stuff because I was doing the heavy stuff here, but if I hadn't been writing Nausicaa, I think I would have struggled trying to put a bit heavier stuff into the movies. That's what I think now, looking back. I didn't think that way then, and I made them because I thought that kind of movie was good.
It wasn't like I planned to write Nausicaa, so I don't think I will ever do anything like it again.
Y: What are your perspectives after you concluded Nausicaa?
M: 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.
I realized this while I was writing, but the role of Nausicaa is not one of actually being a leader, or of leading people. Like a representative, she keeps looking at things, the role is as a sort of medium.
And the structure (of the story) was such that the people who trusted Nausicaa kept moving things. So, it's not a plot in terms of how stories are usually structured. I was troubled about this, too.
So, it concluded for now, but I have many things I have to sort out such as these by the time the last volume will be published. But I decided to end it for now, leaving things I couldn't understand as they are.
Otherwise, I can't finish the work I started in my early 40s and I can't grow old. Actually, the moment I finished writing, I started feeling that I became a really old man (jijii).
But, nothing has ended. So, I don't feel relieved at all. I wish I could say I left my burden. I thought things would become easier for me, but they didn't. I thought it would be easier since I didn't have to write it anymore, but, it just meant the second most painful work was promoted to the most painful one. -laughs-
Y: Anyway, at least we can see there are still many issues.
M: Yes. And Nausicaa knows this best.
Porco Rosso and the civil war in Yugoslavia
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?
M: 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.
Certainly, I made Porco as I wanted. I couldn't do it in any other way. But I also feel kind of humiliated for changing the plan in the middle, not making it as planned from the start. You know, I was going to make a forty-five minutes movie, and it became more than twice as long. -laughs-
Anime is for children
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.
M: 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 this."
I still think anime has to be made for children. But, our situation changes, and I myself change. While saying "we should make it for children," I find myself making a film which is not for children.
When I reached the conclusion that "I make what I myself think is interesting now," it became something that is no longer for children.
I wish movies for adults were doing better. I wish such things as ticket sales or movie awards would go on without involving anime. It would be better if anime lives in a corner of the movie world, and people say "oh, there is also anime." If so, I don't have to do interviews or lectures. -laughs- If so, directors and animators, all can work pure and poor, remaining anonymous, just because we want to do the job we can satisfy ourselves. It used to center around what we made, and we could work only by our internal values such as what we learned in this work, if we made progress, or if we could foster people (other animators).
I experienced that era. Seeing from that experience, I feel although anime is in the limelight, or because of it, things are more difficult now.
I'm planning an anime for preschoolers now, but it's been very difficult.
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.
Laputa and healthy passion
Y: After Nausicaa, you made Laputa.
M: Things will be easier if a film like Laputa does well.
Y: The numbers weren't good?
M: To tell you the truth, it was about a [three???] quarter of Nausicaa. All the people who liked Laputa said they liked serious ones better.
But if people come to see a film like Laputa, we can think of various ways of making a movie. It's true. Such an adventure movie needs a healthy energy to make.
I think I myself can't do it anymore, so I want young people to do it, but there isn't an atmosphere for that. They rather like details of daily life.
I want an energetic talent who wants to make adventure stories to join our staff. I think that is what Ghibli lacks most.
About Isao Takahata-san, about Ponpoko
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...
M: Our thoughts about movie making are completely different. If we discuss a production plan, we definitely won't reach an agreement.
Same with this Ponpoko. All I said was "let's go ahead with tanuki." Although it's credited as "Producer: Hayao Miyazaki," the rest of it was Producer Suzuki talking with Takahata-san. He spent half a year and made Takahata-san feel "OK, I'll do it."
Once we went into the actual production, I was the "urge force." I don't touch the actual production of the film, I just push the staff to work. I'm like a drum beater on a galley. Dooon, Dooon, "Draw!" -laughs-
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?
M: Usually, a producer chooses a director and gives him a project, but it was reversed in Nausicaa. I mean, first, the Animage editors of Tokuma Shoten and others came to me proposing to make a movie of Nausicaa. So, "OK, let's do it."
Then, if this was a usual case, someone from Tokuma Shoten would become a producer, but they didn't even have an animation studio. And I definitely couldn't do everything. So, I asked them "please ask Takahata-san to be a producer" I heard that Takahata-san said yes after he used up an entire notebook to sort his thoughts out, but I know he didn't want to do it. -laughs-
In truth, a director can't produce other people's film. You can't possibly run out of bad words if you start criticizing other people's films. If two directors have a one on one argument, there will be bloodshed. -laughs-
Y: So, Takahata-san and you have been building a firm relationship in which you can delegate to each other.
M: 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.
So, I didn't say a word even when we were making Yanakawa Horiwari Monogatari. But when he said the film was going to be four hours long, I said "chotto kanbenshite (sorry, I can't allow it)."
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.
Kiki's Delivery Service
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.
Things I can't do even if I want to do
Y: You were the producer of Omohide Poro Poro, but the film was definitely Takahata-san's world.
M: I regard myself as a person of tsuuzoku (popular) movies and I think I'll continue to make tsuuzoku movies. But on the other hand, somewhere inside of me, I have started feeling that I don't want to make a tsuuzoku movie.
And, Takahata-san is more so. If we let him, he'll make an animation which won't earn a cent. -laughs- Such as Ainu's Yukara. He's been saying he wants to do it, but that's absolutely impossible here. -laughs- I insist that it'll be like digging a grave hole for the studio and you can't do such a thing... I myself have such a side, but I try to control it as much as possible. That's the way it is (shikatanai). It's better if we go six feet under with a few projects we wanted, but we couldn't.
I think it's impossible to do everything you want. You have to make such a movie in a different place from a movie which one or two million people pay to see and get satisfied. When I watch a movie such as Talkovsky's [sp?] Stalker, I feel "this SOB is doing as he pleases!" I think he is such a talented guy. The thing I'm most impressed about Gaudi is that he was very successful in getting sponsors, his political power rather than his works. How many people got deceived by his talent-- I think such an aspect is also a part of a talent.
I think animation is something a bit more tsuuzoku and we have to know our boundaries-- what we can do.
- 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
- Shinran is the famous monk who started a Buddhist cult in Japan
- They use Totoros as the symbol characters
- Sayama Hills is where Totoro was supposed to take place
- "The bubble burst" means the collapse of the stock and the land markets in the late 80s
- 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
- There was a huge rice shortage in Japan in 1993
- 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 ^^;;
- 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
- "Eco mark" is sort of like the "recyclable" mark in the United States. It's to tell "environmentally correct" products in Japan
- 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.
- The interview was done just before Ponpoko was released
- This "popular" is that of "popular culture"
- The folk tales and myths of Japan's northern aboriginal people, Ainu.
Animation Makari Toru (Here Comes Animation)
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
[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.
- The last TV series he directed was Sherlock Hound, in 1982. Sure enough, the villain, Professor Moriarty became a good guy in the fifth episode: "The Abduction of Mrs. Hudson." --Ryo
- This talk was given around the time Totoro was released in Japan.
- Miyazaki-san was somewhat criticized for making Clarisse in Cagliostro such a perfect princess. Some said "there is no such girl" (and I agree ;). It is said that this motivated Miyazaki-san to change his heroines into more realistic and lively ones, with some flaws which they struggle to overcome. -Ryo
- Japan has to depend on imported oil. During the war, it was increasingly difficult to import oil, and that precious oil was used for the military. Therefore, it was really a privilege for a private citizen to own a gasoline car. -Ryo
- Ohitsu is a wooden container you put cooked rice in.
Miyazaki on the ending of the Nausicaa manga.
Ikiiki mizu book: Living Water, Loving Water Asahi Original, Kurashi to kankyou; July 20, 1994. Reprinted in Shuppatsuten Published by Studio Ghibli, 1996.
Translated from Japanese to English by Ryoko Toyama Edited by D Goldsmith
[CAUTION: This interview contains a major spoiler. If you haven't read the end of the manga Nausicaa, you might not want to read it.]
What is hope? Maybe it's to suffer with those whom you care about.
The Fukai (Sea of Corruption) in Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind was a system which humans made one thousand years ago to clean up the environment. But even those who created it could not predict how the Fukai would change. No matter how many excellent ecologists work together, you can't (predict it).
For example, we can plant a camphor tree next to this office (Studio Ghibli). But we don't know what will happen to this tree. We can't predict what this tree will bring to humans: if it gives someone an opportunity to fall in love, or if it falls down and brings this building down. It's arrogant to think that we can predict. Humans can make a start, or set things up, but we can not determine what will stay there, or whether a god will stay there or not. I think this is a more appropriate way to see this world.
The things intended and the things that come about are different. So, the Fukai started as an artificially engineered ecosystem, but it changes into something different over time in this world. It suits my feelings better to think that even an artificially created forest can properly function as a forest, and becomes an ecosystem complicated beyond our imagination, than to think that it's no use to care about it, since it's not a natural forest.
The idea that Nature is gentle, and it creates the Fukai to recover the environment humans contaminated, or does something (for humans)-- that's not true. Clinging to such a naive view of the Earth is problematic. I came to think this way while I was writing Nausicaa.
I had a feeling that it would end this way, from the beginning. Some said that that's not good, since (such an ending) would betray the readers. But, it (the Fukai as a natural ecosystem) isn't right. There can't be an ecosystem with a purpose. I didn't want to go there, but I had to. And although Nausicaa knows the truth about the Fukai, it's almost impossible to explain it to people by words. If (readers can see) what she has been doing, and can feel what she is going to do from now on, that's enough. We can't talk about hope so easily.
Then, what is hope? Going through hardships with those whom you care about, maybe that's hope, too. We have no choice but to think that to live means such a thing. I ended up thinking that way.
I don't know what would happen if I planted grass and cleaned up the river. Will it lead to future? No, it wouldn't. But, if I don't do anything, nothing will happen. And at least some troubles happen to my daily life (by doing something). (I decided to) enjoy them.
But the minute we say that we don't know what would happen, that we have no choice but to let it happen, we get another problem. I can see what would happen. The phrase in the song, "Saigo no News" (The Last News) by Yousui Inoue; "Humans overflow the earth, and they fall in the end of the sea"-- that's it. Whether we think about it or not, it's laid in the consciousness of us all.
Right now, if we divide all the land area on the Earth, including deserts and the polar region, by the population, we have 170 meter square per capita. Fifty years from now, when we have 10 billion population, it will be 120 meter square. When it becomes 50 billion, there wouldn't be any other creatures than humans. Asimov, the science fiction writer, calculated that 50 billion is the limit imposed by the organic materials made by photosynthesis on the Earth.
What should we do to live? We have no choice but to have a lot of children
We have no choice but to think that humans can become 10 billion but also could become 200 million in the future, and that's human. As there were numerous examples in history, there will be countless tragedies in future. Then, what should we do to live? We have no choice but to have a lot of children. We have no choice but to think that to live means to live being troubled by your children, to live suffering from disease. So, these days, when I'm invited to a wedding, I just say, "have a lot of children." It's no use thinking about the future. I don't mean no use, but, humans are such beings. So if you ask me which is better, it's better to have children, and to be troubled by them.
If we say nothing works, of course nothing works. But you are going to die someday anyway, so if you say it's no good, everything is no good. But, humans have stopped going extinct. That's for sure.
It's been said that dinosaurs went extinct as a result of the evolution, but the story has changed recently. It wasn't Nemesis who gave them a punishment they deserved, but it was a huge meteorite which crashed on the Earth, and brought a climate like nuclear winter, that killed the dinosaurs off. Or, (another theory says) it wasn't a meteorite, but the Earth which went through an era of big crustal movement. Volcanoes erupted and 70 precent of species went extinct, renewing (the ecosystem). The Earth is not gentle. If it were not for that, the dinosaurs would have continued to thrive. They perished not because of themselves, but because of the Earth.
At the end of the twentieth century, it became the general theory. It means that humans have decided to live, even though we keep expanding without limits, and producing pollution.
- This is based on the Animism belief of a god/spirit staying in everything, natural or man-made. --Ryo
Miyazaki on Japanese animation
Course Japanese Movies 7 · The Current Situation of Japanese Movies Published by Iwanami Shoten; January 28, 1988.
Translated from Japanese to English by Ryoko Toyama
It was 1958 when Hakujaden (The Legend of White Snake), the first feature length color cartoon movie in Japan, was released. In the end of that year, I, who was a senior high school student and was supposed to be preparing for the university entrance exam, met this movie at a third-class cheap movie theater.
I have to make an embarrassing confession. I fell in love with the heroine of a cartoon movie. My soul was moved, and I stumbled back home in the snow that had just started. Comparing my pitiful situation to their (characters') earnestness, I was ashamed of myself, and cried all night. It could be my depressed psyche during the entrance exam time, underdeveloped adolescence, or cheap melodrama-- it's easy to analyze and dismiss it, but the meeting with Hakujaden left a strong impression on me, who was still immature at that time.
It made me realize what a fool I was, who was trying to be a manga writer by writing an absurd drama, which was in fashion at that time. It made me realize that despite the words of distrust I spoke, I yearned for such an earnest and pure world though it may be a cheap melodrama. I could no longer deny the fact that I really wanted to affirm the world.
Since then, it seems that I came to think seriously about what I should make. At least, I came to think that I should work with my true heart, even if that's embarrassing.
It was 1963. I was a rookie animator at the Toei Animation Studio, but the work wasn't interesting. I couldn't agree to the projects I was working on, or the projects in plan. I was yet to abandon my dream to be a manga writer, and I was lost. The inspiration Hakujaden had given me was long gone, and I could only recall its imperfections. I doubt if I would have continued to work as an animator, had I not met Snow Queen at the screening hosted by the union.
Snow Queen proved how much love could be put into a work of animation, and how much the movement of the pictures can sublimate to acting. It proved that when you draw a simple and strong emotion earnestly and purely, animation can strike people's hearts as much as the best works of other media can. I think that Hakujaden also had it despite its weakness in the story.
I was thankful for the fact that I was an animator. Someday, we might have an opportunity. I decided to settle down and continue this job.
Both Hakujaden and Snow Queen are popular movies. Although I don't like enka, I must admit that I myself am a man of popular culture. I kept going to see the works of ATG (Art Theater Guild) since Matka Joanna od aniolow, but I prefer Modern Times more than all of them combined. For a popular movie, the moment of the meeting is important. The state of mind of the audience determines the meaning of the movie, as much as the contents of the movie do. Its value as eternal art isn't a question. The audience, including myself, have only limited ability to understand, and tend to overlook important clues. If such an audience can be released from the stress or sorrow in their daily lives, can release their gloomy emotion, can find unexpected admiration, honesty, or affirmation in themselves, and can return to their daily lives with a bit more energy, that's the role of a popular movie. Even if you laugh at the sentimentalism in the movie a few minutes later, the movie has a meaning to you. My meeting with Hakujaden meant a lot, not because it affected my choice of profession, but because I met it when I was a lot more immature than now.
Hence, I think that a popular movie has to be full of true emotion, even if it's frivolous. The entrance should be low and wide so that anyone can be invited in, but the exit should be high and purified. It shouldn't be something that admits, emphasizes, or enlarges the lowness. I don't like Disney movies. The entrance and the exit are lined up at the same low height and width. I can't help but feel that it looks down on the audience.
The reason why I wrote something which might be considered as a religious confession or simple empiricism before I write about Japanese anime is because I wanted to make clear where I stand. Today, I can't talk about our business without some bitterness. Compared to several works in the 1950s which inspired me, we in the 1980s make animation as if it's an in-flight meal served on a Jumbo Jet. Mass production has changed the situation. The true emotion and feeling that should be carried through have been replaced by a bluff, neurosis, or teasing. The craft that we should put our love into has been worn down in the piecework production system. I hate the abbreviation anime because I can't help but think that the word symbolizes the desolation (of Japanese animation).
I don't feel like defending, speaking for, or analyzing Japanese anime. Anime is more suitable to be discussed together with computer games, foreign cars, or playing gourmet. When I discuss anime with my friends, it somehow turns into a discussion about our cultural situation, the desolation of the society, or our tightly controlled society. Something called the anime boom had come and gone, but about 30 TV series per week, several scores of theatrical and video anime, and subcontract works for the United States are still produced in this country today in 1987. But there is no use talking about it. If there is something we have to talk about, it's the "excessive expressionism" and the "loss of motives" in Japanese anime. These two are corrupting Japanese popular animation.
Excessive expressionism in anime
There is no limit to the techniques of animation. You can make animation without drawing a picture. If you put a camera somewhere, and continue to film a frame, meaning 1/24 second, per day with the same angle, you can make a movie of about 15 seconds after a year. If you continue doing so in Tokyo, where there are a great many changes, it should be a very valuable work. What kind of film will we get, if we keep filming a nude person one frame per month, from the time that person is a newborn?
There are countless techniques, and classy and excellent short works are still produced somewhere in the world. But we can pretty much say that our popular animation is made in the technique of cel animation.
Cel, meaning celluloid sheet, has become vinyl chloride sheet, but we still use the abbreviation today. In this technique, a picture on paper is transferred to cel (by adhering carbon via heat treatment). Then it is colored with water-based vinyl paint and filmed with the background. By the way, this technique was developed in Japan almost at the same time as in the United States.
Cel anime is a technique suitable for group work, and the images in cel anime are clear and have strong appeal. The clarity of the images at the same time means their shallowness. In other words, they are pictures with little information. You can easily tell this by looking at picture books using cels. They are appealing and easy to understand at first glance, but you soon become tired of them. A really bad drawing can become tolerable when it is made into a cel picture, and a good drawing loses its power when it is made into a cel. In short, cels make both good and bad into mediocre. This characteristic makes the mass-production (of animation) with many animators possible.
To make cel animation with a certain quality, you need a group of technicians with talent and patience. At the core of this group are animators who give movement to pictures. And how difficult it is to foster a group of good animators! Some say that animators are the same as actors, but if so, an improvised play at a year-end party would be better. The basic laws such as gravity, inertia, elasticity, fluidity, perspective, timing, etc. There are too many lessons you have to learn before you think about acting, and animators get lost in the mountains of homework. It is not too much to say that if there are 100 animators, 100 of them can not make animation acting. If a director of an animated movie demands that characters in the movie act, he will immediately fall into distrusting animators and get frustrated. Rotoscope, which is a technique to draw poses and timing from live action film, was developed in the United States and the Soviet Union because the limits of animators' imagination and ability to draw was clear from early on. However, if you just transplant live-action into drawings, even the acting of a great actor can change into something peculiarly slimy and indistinct. That's because acting is not just movement. It is made of the subtle changes of shadows and lights, texture which can not be expressed with cels, wetness and dryness, and a succession of signs which are faster than one twenty-fourth of second.
Skillful staff members demanded the model actors to act in a more simple style that expresses itself through body silhouette. They thought that the acting style developed for theaters was better suited for cel animated movies than the style developed for movies. That is why the gestures of Disney characters look like a musical, and why (the characters in) Snow Queen act like (they are in) girls' ballet. There are many disastrous failures in rotoscope. Bakshi's The Lord of Rings could not be a success when it was based on poor live-action. Also, Disney's Cinderella has proved that seeking "more realistic" movements using rotoscope itself is a double-edged sword. The search for "more reality" just expressed a common American girl, and it lost the symbolism of the story more than Snow White did.
In Japan, rotoscope didn't become popular. It isn't just because of economic reasons. I myself hate this technique. If animators are enslaved by live-action films, the excitement in the animator's work would lessen by half. Though we can also say that we didn't have an acting style after which we could model. Bunraku, kabuki, nou, or kyougen are too far apart from our works, and Japanese musicals or ballet which are just borrowed (from the West) didn't interest us. We have been animating with our passion, hunches, and feeling, based on various experiences of movies, manga, and others, as much as time and money allowed us. Gestures (of the characters) tend to be constructed by symbolizing and breaking characters' feelings down to facial parts (i.e., eyes, eyebrows, mouths, and noses) and reconstructing them. But we tried to overcome the decay of symbolization by animating through "identifying with the character" or "becoming the character."
You shouldn't look down on the simple power (of such an approach). It is far from style or sophistication, but if you can capture the true essence of what you should express, a picture with a true feeling has power. I love such power much better than the smooth movement of rotoscope.
Let's get back to Japanese anime. Japanese anime make manga into anime, use character designs of manga, absorb the vitality of manga, and are made by staff members who wanted to be manga writers. Of course, there are exceptions, but I think that this is pretty much the case in general. Before 1963, when the TV series (anime) started, there were other styles of Toei Animation Studio than manga, but the mass production of TV series and manga severed this tradition (of Toei style). Based on manga, Japanese anime started as TV series with weekly production schedules, which is overwhelmingly shorter than feature-length movies. Due to limited time and budget, the number of drawings had to be reduced as much as possible. The lack of staff brought the mass introduction of unskilled and inadequate workers. That wasn't limited to animators. It was the case for all the divisions including direction and script, and there was unprecedented padding and promotion of staff. The horrific thing is that this trend continued for 20 years.
(A TV anime) has to be ready in time for the TV broadcast at any cost. And we have to make the product by using "movement," the biggest characteristic of animation, as little as possible. The reason why such a strange (style of) animation was accepted by viewers was probably because the image language of manga, an older brother of anime, had already penetrated society.
Japanese animation started when we gave up moving. That was made possible by introducing the methods of manga (including gekiga). The technique of cel anime was suited to obvious impacts, and it was designed so that the viewers would see nothing but powerfulness, coolness, and cuteness. Instead of putting life into a character with gestures or facial expressions, (character design) was required to express all the charm of the character with just one picture.
Strangely, theorists who justified this situation appeared during these times. There were people who said that it was time for limited animation, or that a still picture was a new expression and we no longer need movement.
Not only the design and personalities of the characters, but time and space were also completely deformed. The time needed for a ball thrown by a pitcher to reach the catcher's mitt was limitlessly extended by the passion put into the ball. And animators pursued powerful movement (to express) this extended moment. Depicting a narrow ring as a huge battlefield was justified as it is equal to a battlefield for the hero. Strangely, the way of such storytelling has become closer to koudan. How these animations resemble the depiction of Heichachiro Magaki running up the stone steps of Atago mountain on horseback.
The role of the techniques to move pictures was limited to emphasizing and decorating the extended and skewed time and space. The depiction of characters' action in everyday life, which (Japanese anime) was not good at to start with, was actively eliminated as something unnecessary and out-of-date. Absurdity was strongly pursued. The criteria for judging an animator's capability was changed to (the capability to animate) battles, matches, or detailed drawing of machines, an emphasis on the power of any arm, from nuclear to laser weapon. If there were a depiction of (character's) feeling, the method of manga was easily borrowed to get it done with music, angle, or decorating one still picture, without motion. It came to be considered as a rather uninteresting sequence, a section where the animators could take a rest. Animators became more inclined to judge only on the flashiness of the movement when they considered the value of the sequence they were to animate.
For example, a hero who can only sneer, since if he smiles that would screw his face up. A heroine with huge eyes that suddenly turn into dots without any connection between these two types of eyes. Extremely deformed characters with no sense of existence pretend to be cool in a deformed colorful world by extending time as much as they want-- that has become the major characteristic of Japanese anime.
When this expressionism first appeared, it was justified by "passion" which was in fashion at that time. Indeed, when the audience got excessively involved with the piece of work, and sympathized with it more than the work expressed, this method was overwhelmingly supported (by the audience). Kyojin no Hoshi in the high-growth era was one example. However, as the passion wore out, it merely became the easiest pattern of technique. And to turn around the adverse situation, expression in anime more and more became excessively decorative. At first, two robots were combined to be a robot, then it became a three robot combination, then five, and finally the twenty-six robot combination. Character design became more and more complicated. Huge eyes had seven-colored highlights. More and more shadows were painted in different colors, and hair was painted in bright colors of every possible shade. It makes animators suffer, by increasing the workload of those who are paid by the quantity of animation they drew. The pattern has become prevalent to a frightening degree.
Maybe I, too, am exaggerating (the situation of) Japanese anime. Not all Japanese anime is run by excessive expressionism. I do not say that there was no effort made to establish their own (style) of acting under various constraints. I do not say that there was no effort made to depict time and space with a sense of existence. I do not say that there was no effort made to refuse to be a subordinate of manga. However, most of them followed this trend of expressionism, and many of the young staff have joined the anime industry because they admired this excessive expressionism.
As the formula of "anime = excessive expressionism" becomes widely accepted by society, anime hit a wall. In the same way that koudan cannot meet the needs of today's audience, anime creators lost the support of the audience. They brought it on themselves by losing their flexibility and humility towards the diversity of the world. Even so, many of them are still unaware of the strangeness of their views on anime. They are still convinced that excessive expression is what makes anime appealing.
Actually today in 1987, excessive expressionism has been forced to retreat as it loses share with the end of the anime boom. The remainder has moved to videos, but the market remains small although it (the video market) has been hyped a lot as a new medium. It has been pigeonholed as a market for anime maniacs by anime maniacs in typical reduced reproduction. Rather than feeling pity, I cannot help being reminded of the frog with a ballooned stomach in Aesop's fable. Meanwhile, there is now a strong trend in the TV anime world to return to works for children, as we regret that we have raised the age of the targeted audience too much. However, none of the conditions that created the expressionism of Japanese anime have changed. Because the conditions which leade to anime using few moving pictures haven't changed, many animators think that it is just a degradation, rather than think that they are making anime to please children.
There is a phrase, "Saturday Morning Animator," in the United States. On Saturday morning, TV is filled with animated programs so that it can babysit while parents sleep late. It is a self-mocking phrase of the animators who make such programs. After the boom has ended, it is likely to be very difficult for Japanese animators to rediscover their work as a craft that they can put their love into.
The loss of motives
In one of the episodes of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson says "you saved humankind!" Things would be much easier if we were able to think like that. Making a story would be much easier if we were able to conclude that love conquers all. Making an action movie would be much easier if we were able to conclude that justice is on our side, and all evils belong to other people.
If we could say that one should not hesitate to make any sacrifice or devotion for a noble ideal, or, if we could even believe that such an ideal exists, our work would be much easier.
On the other hand, things would also be easier if we could conclude that humans are all stupid, nothing can be believed, all causes and beliefs are dubious, and all self-sacrifices are self-serving in the end. It's very easy to find ugly and dirty things in this society.
Among all popular culture, anime was probably the one that kept its preoccupation with love and justice the longest. But maybe that was not because we had strong beliefs, but because we were just behind the times due to such facts as anime being made by groups, or anime following behind manga.
Today, creators can no longer give heroes spontaneous motives. It seems that for some reason, we have just accepted the vanity of human effort in this managed society. Our old enemy "poverty" somehow disappeared, and we can no longer find an enemy to fight against.
The only remaining motive is, as in other genre, professionalism. Characters fight because they are robot soldiers, pursue criminals because they are police, beat competitors because they want to be singers, or work hard because they are sports players. Or else, (the remaining motive) is an interest in something in skirts or pants.
Of course (we ran out of motives). Even the last resort (of motives), "the organization who wants to conquer the world," bores us after seeing such things several times a week. It would be strange if love did not look so pale after it was so commercialized by Space Battleship Yamato. Yamato started the anime boom, but it's ironic that it was actually the grave of love and justice.
It was not just because of excessive expressionism that Ashita no Joe, made way past the 1970s, was left behind the times and became a smelly corpse.
Loss of motives: Japanese animation has proven how terrible it is to keep making works without motivating characters based on their value system.
You can't hate your opponents just because you belong to the Giants and others belong to the Dragons, Carp, or Tigers. "I don't want to lose, but I can understand your position"-- there have been many such themes in TV anime series about robot space wars. They were filled with torn-apart characters, and the audience accepted it as a realistic simulation of the society into which they have to go out, but at the same time, they were fed up with it.
Professionalism is a kind of no-value view, and it somehow resolves into the "survival of the fittest." And what happens when we pursue it with the excessive expressionism I mentioned before? Everything becomes a game.
Love is a game of the mind, war is a game of killing, and sports is a game which brings money.
Japanese anime have come to be filled with games. Even the deaths of the characters became games, and creators became gods and reached a dead end. It is natural that anime has been replaced by computer games. Players can get a bit more satisfaction since games allow more participation.
American movies got fed up with the loss of motives, and they made an alliance with (Ronald) Reagan. They overused Nazis as villains, so they asked the Soviet Union and its underling guerillas to get on stage again.
If creators depict something they don't believe, that soon becomes apparent. And still, we were convinced that such things as vitality or energy were important. When I see that those "today's kids," whom people thought so highly of in the 1960s, have now become parents and are living in bewilderment as baby boomers, I realize a self-evident thing: things which are born out of situations and fashion cannot become more than that after all.
Even if the creators cannot have motivation, kids are born and growing every day. Their battles are not lessened at all. Even if they aren't encouraged by a hero of justice as kids used to be, kids today still want to get encouraged, still want to learn how to feel the world is beautiful. Otherwise, why are they so violent or self-destructive?
The loss of motives is today's situation. Distrust, resignation, or nihilism has been born out of the situation. Without realizing it, what can we make that is only based on our sensitivity? I think that the cause of the corruption of Japanese animation is the foolishness of making anime just by professionalism.
A conclusion which cannot be a conclusion
The wishes of the public cannot be changed so much. I think that their wishes are buried in the very things they call uncool or out of fashion. No matter how times change, I believe that children want such an impact as the one I received from watching Hakujaden. If this turned out to be untrue, I would quit such a job (as an animator) in a minute.If I can be so arbitrary, I say that we are running relay. We are running to pass the baton to the next runner. I think that our work as a popular culture is fundamentally different from such a terrifyingly radical thing as art or creation. Let's not deceive ourselves by using such words as "artist."
We are fed up and disgusted, but if you live in today's Japan without being disgusted, that would be strange.
I've been working on cel anime for a long time, and I feel that there are more things we cannot do than things we can do. Still, I think that seeing a wonderful animation when one is a child isn't such a bad experience. But on the other hand, I am very much aware that our business targets children's purchasing power. No matter how we may think of ourselves as conscientious, it is true that images (such as anime) stimulate only the visual and auditory sensations of children, and they deprive children of the world that they go out to find, touch, and taste. This society has bulged out to the point where the sheer volume has changed everything.
Today, many people in my business are having difficulties in making a living. But I can not justify what we have been doing enough to proclaim our distress too loudly. Our profession has been corrupted.
The ambivalence in myself is also getting worse. While turning my back on the flood of images, I am still struggling to do at least a little bit better job. For that, I even rationalize the techniques to get on in the world. While saying I hate pros, I know that at work, I myself judge people solely based on their talents. While saying I don't want to talk about it, I always talk about animation. While bellowing "to hell with Japanese anime," I worry about my friend who is out of work. Right after yelling why do we need more anime, I start talking about a new project. Although I know that we have to accept that we have to live inhumane days if we want to make humane anime in today's situation, I become a workaholic as a matter of course.
Still, for our works to make some sense, what should we do? We can't see anything if we stay in Tokyo. We can't find anything if we look for a hint in the TV or movie industry. Unless we make an effort to get a viewpoint to see far away, we will end up in a small closed world. I think that my ambivalence is the same with the bindings from which the audience wishes to be freed. We need the will to sustain. Hence, I have no choice but to go back to my starting point time after time.
- Enka is the Japanese traditional popular songs.
- Matka Joanna od aniolow (The Devil and the Nun) is a 1961 Polish movie.
- "Timing" is the ability regarding time to break a movement into one twenty-fourth of a second, and reconstruct them.
- Bunraku is traditional puppet theater; kabuki is traditional popular theater; nou is traditional theater; kyougen is traditional comedy.
- TV series continued to increase for 20 years, and at the end of the anime boom, it reached 40 series per week!!
- Koudan is Japanese traditional storytelling.
- This is a famous scene in koudan. Physically, it's rather diffucult to run up steep stairs on horseback, but koudan exaggerates things and distorts time and space. So do manga and anime-- this is Miyazaki-san's claim. --Ryo
- Kyojin no Hoshi (The Star of Giants) is an animated TV series about a professional baseball player. This is the anime which took an entire episode for a ball to reach the catcher from the pitcher. --Ryo
- Ashita no Joe was a famous manga and anime in the 1970s, about a boxer. A sequel was made in the 1980s. But at that time, the situation in Japan was completely changed from the time the manga was written, and the story did not make much sense, in terms of how characters acted. --Ryo
- Giants, Dragons, Carp and Tigers are Japanese professional baseball teams --Ryo
Miyazaki and Takahata talk about their works and Japanese animation
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 in April, 1996 Edited by Brian Stacy
Key to the dialog
I: Interviewer Masaaki Nomura
M: Hayao Miyazaki
T: Isao Takahata
The Toei Doga era, when we were aggressive
I: Takahata-san joined Toei Doga (Toei Animation Studio) in 1955, Miyazaki-san in 1963, so it's been thirty years since then. And it's been ten years since you established Studio Ghibli. I want to ask you about these years today.
M: It's not Paku-san's taste to tell such things, -laughs- though it's the same for me, too. He isn't that straightforward, either.
T: It's very difficult to tell people what oneself has been doing just as it happened, as something important.
M: It's not that we don't get sentimental from time to time, but it wasn't that big a deal.
I: You two met in 1963. Miyazaki-san joined Toei Doga at the age of twenty three, and at twenty eight years old Takahata-san was already working as a director's assistant.
T: When we started working, there wasn't much animation, though there was Disney in the United States. When I actually tried to do (animation), it was like we hadn't done this, we hadn't done that, well, I didn't think that way, but anyway, there were countless things we hadn't done. So, there were many things we had to do. My life has been a very passive one, but it was like: if there was a stone, we had to move it.
M: There were so many things we were doing without removing stones.
T: And (we tried to do things) such as "let's add this." It was a time when we could do such things.
M: I entered into this industry because I saw works in the 1950s, such as Cross-eyed Tyrant or Snow Queen. I thought maybe I could manage (to reach the level of) Hakujyaden but anyway, I thought they were far above, in terms of what they tried to do, and what they accomplished. We were, in short, at the level of "Toei kids' stuff." The gap between our level and the works we were inspired by was too big. We thought how could we climb up there, or even if we couldn't, let's remove the stones around us. So, there were many things we had to do.
I: And Horus was where you wanted to reach.
T: It was not something to reach, but just a thing we tried to do, but it became such a big fuss. -laughs- In the beginning, we thought it was worth doing, so we just jumped into it blindly. We didn't know how tough it was going to be. We just proceeded without knowing, or we could proceed (because we didn't know)...
M: The big difference between the time we were working at Toei Doga and now is that the company still existed as an organization (then). The company told us various things, such as "kids would love to see small animals," or "well, you say so, but unless you do a well known classic story, tickets won't sell." So it was easy for us to fight against the company. But these days, it's impossible to make (anime) while fighting against the company. The foundation of these companies are so weak that we can't help but understand their difficulties.
T: I don't know if we can say the same thing about the whole industry of current TV and animation. I wouldn't be surprised if some young people emerge trying to overcome something which can't be moved. I don't think that's absolutely impossible. But, when we work at Ghibli, we have to work while also considering these things. Miya-san is working with everything on his back, including the company. So, it's really difficult. It's totally different from the time when we started our career. We rebelled against what had been done, and we could work with enough enthusiasm even if that meant we were just removing stones, or placing one or two stones. On the contrary, now, Miyazaki animes are so successful, so I can kind of understand why young people feel it's so tough.
M: Well, you are forgetting about yourself. -laughs-
T: But, that's basically it. I don't mean that Toei Doga animes at that time weren't successful, but I think the meaning (of them for young people?) was different. Young people sympathize when they see Miya-san's works. So, they have to start from that point. On the contrary, as Miya-san said, we had such works as Snow Queen or Cross-eyed Tyrant towering (over us), but they were a bit far-off, so we could start without being captivated by them. However, they see the works we are making close-up, and then they have to climb up, stepping on (our works). I think that might be tough.
I: Horus: The Prince of Sun was Takahata-san's memorable debut, and Miyazaki-san volunteered to work on it. Was it easier for you to approach what was towering?
T: Those which were towering weren't close to us, and there weren't many. But we could see that we could do such things with animation, and this was the work worth doing. The rest of it was just step by step.
M: We thought a movie could do amazing things. At that time, the Japanese movie population was dramatically decreasing, but we still had many inspiring movies, and we thought we were making movies, not just animation, so we firmly believed that movies were something in which we could express something.
T: As for the young people now, I thought it would have been difficult and confusing for them since there is so much information, but actually, it isn't so. They choose only with partial judgment since they can't delay choosing till they see the whole picture. And they are accustomed not to get irritated or impatient about it. And if someone they trust says "that's good," they respond really obediently. But we were more impudent, and we didn't appreciate anyone if we didn't think they were good, no matter how famous they were or supposedly great.
M: We were indifferent toward such things, and we stuck to our opinions, saying "no, it isn't." I don't know, maybe we happened to be that way, but both Paku-san and I were very aggressive. -laughs- How about the young ones these days?
T: Well, after all, the movie industry is in the middle of a long decline, so we can't simply compare now with our young days, but we were able to denigrate whomever we wanted to really severely. Speaking of aggressive, for example, the popularity of Japanese movies wasn't so weak, so it wouldn't have tumbled even if we had said "Ozu's movie is nothing." Because the movie industry was standing on its own, we could attack a movie if we thought it wasn't good, no matter how much everyone else said it was good. We had those kinds of conversations, not only among film critics, but also among movie goers. And movies weren't something which would be broken by that. Compared to back then, the responses are gentle these days. Critics, too, many of them are "critics with love." -laughs- Many of them try to find good points (in a movie) because (those who made the movie) tried really hard. I think there is such a tendency.
The work with nakama who had the same ambition
I: There are many young people who want to be animators. What kind of approach do they take?
M: When I ask them what they want to make, I can see that they are apparently confused. There is a gap between what they want to make and what they have to make. For example, some started working (in this industry) because they had such fun watching TV anime when they were kids, and they want to do that kind of "wow, this is fun!" thing even if they don't get much praise, but they also think they have to make some difficult movie after all. -laughs- They haven't decided their stance yet. So, if they are asked formally, they say that the difficult stuff is worth making, but if I pressure them to tell the truth, they murmur "Er, can't we do worry-free adventure stories anymore in this era?" Though they don't show their true colors that easily.
T: We didn't think "we absolutely don't want to make anything but this." We were able to go on because we were willing to work on anything.
M: I said that we were aggressive, but we were able to think in such a way that it's OK if it's not fun, cause we make (movies) to depict humans, and the important thing is that the movie has a meaning. (We thought) if people won't see the movie, it's their fault. -laughs-
T: I think what we accomplished with Horus was that we were able to make realistic expression, so that in the mob scene, it wasn't just that there were a bunch of villagers, but that the villagers were together doing something. There had been no anime like that. So, at least we expressed that, and there was a theme in the expression. So, we wanted to do such a thing, and actually did it, working as a group.
M: It's still possible. I think The Wing of Honneamise is the proof of that. Those who made it were amateurs in terms of experience. In their mid twenties, they made it by themselves living and eating together, with no distinction between the work and their private lives.
T: Now, thinking back, we were lucky since we had our nakama who shared the same ambition. Now, people talk about "Miyazaki and Takahata" as a pair, but there were many nakama who tried to express (something) in animation. In the unsatisfied situation with low pay, heavy workloads, frustrations, and such things, we talked with each other. We had nakama with whom we could talk not only about the work we were doing, but also about other things, and anime was made out of those (kinds of interactions). It was that kind of era. Speaking from this experience, I think the quick path to make a movie is first, to get nakama. Right now, people are separated individually, and they are required to show their individualities, more now than in the time when we were young, but they can do it by looking for their values or the direction they want to go, by confronting each other.
M: If three talented people get together they should be able to accomplish many things, and I think young people have the talents. It's not like we had so much talent anyway.
T: The way we act hasn't changed much. When I quit Toei Doga, I didn't even think about going out alone. Yasuo Otsuka-san, who invited me, used to be my nakama at Toei Doga, and he was creating a very unique TV series called Mumin at that time. When he asked me to come, I asked Hayao Miyazaki and Youichi Odabe to go with me. This was my conclusion after I thought about how we could utilize what we had been building up. Thinking back, it might just mean that I was fortunate as a director because I was always able to work with the talented people, but when I moved there, I was thinking totally different things. It was completely out of comradeship. It wasn't about I. I just thought that we were going to make it by supporting each other. I even thought, if possible, we would endure for all our lives.
M: The feeling of "one can only do so much" was really strong.
I: There is no "if" in history, but if Takahata-san made a movie like Horus now, I feel that it would have gotten attention from inside and outside Japan, and it would have completely changed the direction of your works after that.
T: Here is an energetic young man with a huge talent, named Hayao Miyazaki. If that were to happen now, there should be many offers, but at that time, there was nothing. Absolutely nothing. -laughs-
M: There was a short review in Kinema Junpo, and that was it. So, the most important thing was whether we could do the work which would satisfy ourselves. There was no anime journalism yet, and no one sent us a letter or anything, so the important thing was whether one could have a sense of doing a somewhat better job than before. So there was no room for doubts.
T: At that time, no matter how hard one worked, only a limited number of people got their names credited. But now, even the smallest job can get credited. I think it's because of this era appreciating individuals, rather than because of anime journalism. There were the nine very important members who made the golden era of Disney anime, and now the "Nine Old Men" are famous, but at that time, no one knew about them. Right now, there is a very distinctive functional job system in the United States. There are people who write scripts, who write storyboards, who direct, and if an animator said to the director that he wants to change something, the director would say "I'm not authorized to change it." There is a very clear distinction among functions, and they have a strong sense of rights. Therefore, it is very difficult to incorporate each member's various ideas and work together to make an anime.
I: It was the opposite at Toei Doga.
T: When I joined Toei Doga, they were preparing for Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke. For example, a key animator in the project said to the director, "I think this is better," and after talking it over, they decided to incorporate that idea. It was natural for them to do such things.
M: It was an ordinary thing. In a meeting, "Can I change the e konte (story boards) a bit?" "Sure." (An animator) drew small squares on animation sheets, not e konte sheets, and since he didn't know the number of seconds (for the sequence to take), "I'll take whatever seconds it'll require."
T: Not all the people were working like that, though. I think you need a talent and a persuasive power after all. In a certain feature film, although Miya-san was just a rookie, he strongly insisted and succeeded in adding a certain sequence into the movie. -laughs-
M: Well, that's because when I asked "how about doing this?" I was told "oh, sure"... -laughs-
T: Well, that was the situation. However, if everyone just brings his/her own ideas in, there will be no consistency, so the main staff have to have tight control. If we just expand a scene freely, thinking it'll be enough if this scene looks great, there will be no consistency throughout the film. That was one of the reasons for Disney's decline. So, the director's control is also important.
M: And if you do it, you have to do it within the time frame. It's absurd if you can't finish your work on time even if you are allowed to incorporate various ideas of your own. That's your responsibility. So, you can't do it unless you are trusted. Otherwise, people will think you are just a brat talking nonsense. (People will think) you are just a big mouth.
T: But these days, that kind of thing rarely happens. There are some people who are willing to incorporate other people's willingness in that manner, if possible, but it's difficult. In many cases, directors just refuse. I'm not sure since I didn't hear this from the director's side. I guess the director's pride won't allow it.
M: But those who care about their own pride aren't good. -laughs- The worst ones say something like "obey me. I'm the director." That kind of person can't listen to other people's suggestions. He feels as if his whole self is rejected.
T: The problem is that you can't have a good ensemble.
M: For example, if the main staff are weak, and the e konte are totally useless, but the animators are talented or motivated, it's gonna be a disaster. In that case, there are two ways. Either you enjoy yourself animating what you want, or you just proceed and finish working as scheduled.
T: When they aren't motivated, the work progresses really quickly. The best way to guarantee finishing within the schedule is if the staff members never get motivated at all.
M: But if they don't get motivated, they won't work at all, so you need a certain balance.
T: But the first case could be possible. You can create a great fun movie with a lot of fun parts. Everyone can offer his/her own ideas and can change (the direction), having fun. I can understand why Disney, in a certain period, took this approach.
Should young people get embarrassed?
I: That kind of thing (i.e., incorporating other people's ideas) was possible at Toei Doga, but what was the situation like when you went outside (of Toei Doga)?
T: Before we quit Toei Doga, the era of TV animation had started, and it brought a sort of "director-centralism" in, because there was no time to do such things. Since the air date was given, we had to make it in a short time. In this situation, the power started to be concentrated in the director. Of course, I think there were people who opposed to it.
M: To make a number of anime, many people were promoted prematurely to directors, and actually, people who had never directed became directors. So, many odd things happened, but at the same time, animators were also promoted prematurely, so every Jack had his Jill. -laughs- It was really a stupid time.
T: Well, there was also a positive side to it. Everyone was able to have actual experiences in various things. Because of the promotion, at least those who wanted to be directors could direct, and those who wanted to be animators could animate. Which meant that one could know about oneself. There was a lot of this trial-and-error. Well, you get embarrassed enormously, but those who can take it as an embarrassment will make progress because of it. So there were many opportunities for that. The chances to get embarrassed were increased. It's totally opposite in present day Ghibli. Rookies have no chance to get embarrassed (by making mistakes).
M: There are many check systems among staff.
T: Regardless of whether it was a good era or not, I feel that we need to incorporate, in some form, the chaos we had in the beginning of the TV anime era.
I: But facing Miyazaki and Takahata, don't young people get intimidated, or feel pressure?
T: Well, while you are embarrassing yourself in such works as TV, you don't have the time to get intimidated. But if you are chosen by Miya-san to direct a so-called Ghibli anime, I think you feel pressure because there is this "Ghibli brand," and you think you have to make something worth that name.
M: They get pressured not because of our demands. Rather, they put pressure on themselves. In many cases, people create pressure on their own by making Ghibli a hypothetical enemy, or by appreciating Ghibli too much. So, they run away when I say "there is an interesting project. Won't you direct it?"
T: Well, after all, Hayao Miyazaki is such a formidable figure. You get intimidated if you think about what Miya-san will say about it.
M: I wanted to let my assistants do (the direction), but when I told them "do this," everyone ran away. -laughs- On the other hand, there are people who come to us and say "let me do this," but actually, that kind of person isn't good. We can trust better those who know themselves and think that directing isn't that easy. We need to meet someone who overcame that and still wants to direct in one level higher. (We have to meet) someone on whom we can stake (a project?) even if Ghibli would go bankrupt.
T: It's better if they assert themselves in some tangible way. I think we were like that. Miya-san didn't say "let me do this," but, he asserted himself really strongly (through his work). If there is someone who gets our attention like that, we may be able to stake (a project?) on him/her.
M: It's no good even if we make them want to do it. Paku-san says "tell your opinion," but if they do, he fires back at them. Three times, ten times more. They get stupefied, get dizzy, not knowing what to do.
This era might not have the difficulties which our era had, but there are other difficulties. It needs a huge violent courage for new people to come out with what they want to express. In our case, we can say that it wasn't just self-display, but it was easier for us to be assertive because of many things such as the atmosphere of the time or the situation which animation was in.
I: But, wasn't Toei Doga when you two were there the best environment in Japan at that time?
M: There was no best or worst. There was nothing to compare with. -laughs- I myself thought it was the worst place.
T: For the young people these days, we have a policy to let them go knight-errant (outside of Ghibli). Not raising them here, but letting them go outside to expose them to the roughness of the outside world. Thinking back, we experienced this kind of roughness. We did crazy works in the crazy era. If you are here, you can't do crazy works. So, people who once were here went outside. Maybe, there will be an opportunity for them to come back someday.
M: I think Ghibli is like this: Ghibli is a torso. If we have a firm torso, you can put arms, a head, or legs on it, but without a torso, you can't do good work just with arms or heads. Ghibli is basically a torso. So, if a good head comes, we can have a good project. If a good hand comes, the hand can do good work as it pleases. In Ghibli, there are honest and patient staff members who support the torso. But they are not a head.
T: In that example, we have Hayao Miyazaki as a head, and we have Ghibli as we know now. We had ten years of Ghibli in such a form. In the future, if another head comes, we can still show the very strong competence as a torso, compared to other studios. Though I heard this story of Ghibli being a torso for the first time here. -laughs-
M: I told Mamoru Oshii many times that he should work at Ghibli. We even had a concrete project once. But, every time, he declines, making excuses. He seems to fear that the animators, like a bunch of nagging relatives, will peck him all over, and give him a hard time. -laughs-
T: No, not just that. Not just about the torso. He fears even if he became a head, there would be another head attached right next to it, called Miyazaki. -laughs-
M: I won't meddle too much. -laughs- That's not fair, Paku-san, you are forgetting about yourself.
T: But after all, Miya-san is the one who makes Ghibli. So his presence is a huge one.
M: I myself am not aware of it.
T: Maybe he isn't aware of it, but it is so.
In the beginning, there was President Tokuma
I: Let's move on to the story of how Ghibli was created.
T: First, Tokuma Shoten (Tokuma Publishing Co.) had a magazine called Animage, and Miyazaki-san was writing the manga Nausicaa for it. Of course there were people who paid attention to it even back then, but it was a huge gamble to make an animation based on it. After all, compared to other manga writers, Hayao Miyazaki wasn't famous or anything. And Tokuma Shoten had no know-how, no studio, nothing. So what were we to do? We were confronted by a situation which was totally different from the one we grew up in. We had a project to do, and we had a head, Hayao Miyazaki, but nothing else. So, we had no choice other than forming a new studio.
So, after some considerations, we decided to work with a studio called Topcraft. However, I asserted that if Tokuma Shoten was seriously going to produce animation in Japan, we had to do it responsibly, with a long term view, not just doing it when we had a project, renting some studio and then disbanding it (after the project has completed). So, it was decided to form Ghibli. I persuaded Hara-san (Toru) to come, and I dumped all the operation (of Ghibli) on him, Miya-san, and Suzuki-san. Though I guess it was an unfair thing to do.
M: In the beginning, we were planning to disband (the studio) once we finished the project, and if we got another project, then we would gather staff members again, but we would at least keep the place. Usually, an organization gets stagnated after three years or three projects, so I was saying "three years, three projects." So, once we had made three projects, we changed the organization little by little. We changed it so that we could guarantee the livelihood of animators with fixed pay, based on the decision that we would keep making (anime). It was totally opposite to the direction the anime industry was heading, and it meant we had to take risks, but it was possible because we had a person like Tokuma-san who said "Go!" as he's always been saying.
T: In a sense, it's largely due to the fact that it's a publishing company. And of course President Tokuma, in particular, is a large part of it. It's the job of publishing companies to cooperate with writers, so they respect writers and stake (the future?) on them. I think they have that kind of willingness (to cooperate).
M: Tokuma Shoten had such an atmosphere that they respected writers. But, the movie industry is filled with people who find satisfaction in finding out how successfully they can manipulate the old-hands into doing what they want, and there are many people who got burned (in the movie industry), so they wouldn't let us make (what we want) so easily. Another thing is the presence of Producer Suzuki (Toshio). Although he himself doesn't come out in public, he is a baby boomer who loves to manipulate the general public, -laughs- and his contribution has been enormous. If it weren't for him, there wouldn't be a Ghibli.
T: Totoro and Grave were double billed, and we were often told, "We felt so good when we finished watching Totoro, but we were thrown into the abyss by Grave." But, we had no choice other than combining these two films. It was made possible only through Suzuki-san and others' maneuvering. After making Nausicaa and Laputa, Tokuma Shoten would've been happier if we had made more of these kinds of films, and they didn't feel that they knew what to do with something like the monsters in Tokorozawa. On the other hand, Shinchosha wanted to learn how to make animation. So, Suzuki-san and others contacted their friends at Shinchosha and promoted this project (Grave). Then, the president of Shinchosha finally decided to go ahead with it. To Shinchosha, Tokuma Shoten pretended that they were going to make Totoro, but in truth, they hadn't decided yet, I think. -laughs-
M: When Tokuma Shoten estimated (the return) of Totoro and Grave, they reached the inevitable conclusion that each one would lose ¥50 million. President Tokuma said, then, "We are going to be giving Shinchosha some trouble." He is the kind of person who says such things. -laughs- But they were prepared (to take this loss), and the president of Shinchosha, the ninety-some year old prestigious publishing company, the company, older than Tokuma Shoten, called (Tokuma) personally, and that made (Tokuma) decide "let's do it." I thought that was a miracle. In the end, they both made a profit, though.
T: To be more precise, they made a profit only later. We couldn't make money through the theater release. It took the production costs for two films, but we only earned for one.
M: It takes a long time to recover (the investment). But in that case, we have no choice but to think that we are going to recover the investment and make some plus in the end, no matter how much trouble we cause the studio at that time. After all, we are always causing trouble (for the studio). -laughs-
T: Well, we were lucky, but if I can be so bold, Ghibli is the place where a just argument wins. Up to now, I think we can show that if you do the work as good as you possibly can, in a straightforward way, you can survive.
I: Now, looking back, you may be able to think that way, but when Miyazaki-san was the director and Takahata-san was the producer, as in Nausicaa or Laputa, wasn't there a time when you couldn't follow the just argument?
T: Including Producer Suzuki, we are the kind of people who can't think in any other way. So, we were too inexperienced to think things like "this is the way it is, we can't have our way." I had never produced a film before that. I didn't even think I could. So, we had no choice but to push straight.
M: So, we don't choose a project by thinking "among the various choices we have, this one has the best chance to make money," rather, it's just that there is no other choice. -laughs- In truth, we can't do anything other than doing that. It's always been so. So, as I always say, even if I have a plan, a movie will turn out to be the movie (as it is), and I just follow behind it since I have no choice. I think that's closer to what actually happens. Something we didn't expect inevitably happens, and we end up deceiving those who are paying money. It's the same with Mimi wo Sumaseba. We gave it such weird copy as "kasakushohin (a fine small work) series" which doesn't make any sense anyway... -laughs-
And then, we decided that we would take this opportunity to do various experiments with it, so it ended up being a big fuss. For example, we used Digital Dolby in Mimi, but we learned that doing it in Japan is quite an adventure. You know, it isn't customary to spend much time and money during post production on the sound recording in Japanese movies. We didn't have that custom either, so we always drew pictures up to the time limit, and we put sounds to it in the minimum time. So, this time, the time needed for recording just skyrocketed.
T: It is so, but in other words, it just happened that way by force of circumstances. We have to pursue what we start to the end. Of course there are restrictions to the schedule and the production costs, so we can't do everything we want, but this Dolby thing also, it just happened that way. Usually, if you do something unusual, you make it a sales point, and advertise upfront that you are using many CGs (computer graphics) and digital compositions, but that's not a good thing to do. You just do it by force of circumstances, and you use trial-and-error, and it becomes something. Then, you can use it in a really effective way. You can do it in a calm state of mind, and Ghibli is the place where we are allowed to do that.
Can Ghibli survive?
T: When you face a difficulty at work, how do you cope with it? There are various difficulties such as delays in the schedule or overspending, but will you try to force things down to the minus direction? Or, this is the "force of circumstances" thing, but if the budget is the problem, will you think up a way to recover more money than you spend, or a way to have people invest more? Producer Suzuki is a person who chooses the latter way, and he always tries to solve problems in an aggressive way. This is how we've been working.
I: There is such an excellent combination (of people) as the foundation of Ghibli, but the young people who are growing right now have to make their talents break through by having their personalities collide with each other, and they get polished by that.
M: It's the same with Paku-san, but when we were young, when we were making movies without thinking who's the director or who's what, we didn't discuss so much. We strongly felt that we were in it together, so there wasn't much need for examining things one by one.
T: That's important. Having lively discussions among staff members often looks cool, but it isn't. You have to finish those kinds of things before that. You have to finish (such things) before you start (making a film).
M: Maybe it was till a certain age, but we had such experiences. If three people get together, it can be powerful. I said so before, but if you get together and start talking, it won't be powerful. You can't do that unless you have a strong core. When Paku-san said "let's do Heidi," I was like "heh? Heidi?" -laughs- I was like, "Well, if you insist, I'll do it..." So, I didn't think that I wanted to direct or anything. So, it wasn't like "let me do this;" instead, it was like "I'll do this, so you take care of that." We clearly knew what we had to do, rather than just talking.
T: We grew up that way, and we've been doing things that way. We have some staff members who have been with us since the beginning, and we have new staff members joining us one after another. I feel that it may be hard for the next generation. I mean, by making the younger generation work for our projects, we may be consuming most of what they have, and because of that, they might not be able to have what they need to construct their own (projects)...
M: Frankly, we used them up. It's like we ate them. I feel guilty about them... We've known those who are now in their thirties since the time they were eighteen or twenty, but it's like when we finish, they'll also finish.
T: No, it isn't. -laughs-
M: We are calling them nakama, but it's more vague. It's not like we've been together for a long time. We happen to be together, and happen to be looking in the same direction at one point in time. It's nakama in that sense. It's not like a relationship where we'll go along with them all the way no matter how terrible the mistakes they make.
I: So, young people have to be careful not to be eaten if they work with Miyazaki-san or Takahata-san.
M: Well, if they were eaten, that would still be fine. What would they do if they weren't eaten? They might be doing more meaningless things. -laughs- But if a really talented young staff member emerges, s/he may be someone who is really detestable. I feel it'll be someone who makes us feel "what an arrogant S.O.B!" -laughs-
T: I think about Hayao Miyazaki. I think many things such as: if he had started directing much earlier, he could have made more masterpieces. I reflect, for example, that I might have done disservice to him by making him work with me. But, in the end, I have to think positively that the experience was useful for him. -laughs-
M: Once, someone told me that if I hadn't met Takahata-san, I could have done many more works. I couldn't understand what he meant. Well, I understood much later, but I still feel that was a foolish thing to say. Because I had no complaint about being an animator. If I thought about my work at such a level as expressing myself in such a form, or self-display, or showing my personality, I think I could have only done a worse job.
Now, people think of Ghibli as the mainstream establishment. But it's been the most adventurous place. Mimi is based on a shoujo (girl's) manga. Even inside, there are some people who wonder "why (do) a shoujo manga now," and we don't know how it will work out until we open the film, but this is a very ambitious project. To realize this (project), though we didn't mean to, we ended up telling many lies such as kasakushohin. -laughs- I think we've been adventurous every time we've chosen a project.
T: So, we aren't choosing them in a way people would say "Ghibli, again?" I think we've been doing projects that seem difficult to make successfully. We are not choosing them from the choices which we think are absolutely safe to do (in terms of making money).
M: I've been saying "Don't think that Ghibli is a stable company. Don't get comfortable just because you are working for Ghibli. Don't have loyalty toward the company." If one project goes down, Ghibli would go down, too. However, it's commonsense to improve the work environment if you make money. It's not right to suck up the profit just because you are taking the risk. But it's absolutely wrong to think that if you just improve the work environment, you can make a good work. A good work can be born even in the worst work environment. So, I'm not going to confuse those. So, I don't feel like "Ghibli forever" like in the case of the Giants. I'm telling my staff members that if they are competent, they can work anywhere.
About the high cost, while it's a necessary condition to raise the quality, it limits our options, and as Paku-san said, it deprives the young people of the chance to get embarrassed. For example, we created the in-between check system, but I want to change it. (If we change it,) Then, cel painters would complain that they can't paint such stuff. Then it would strike the home of the person who drew it, and he/she would be more careful next time. If such things happen, I think there will be a lively human communication among the different functions. But it's difficult to tear the division of labor down once it got created. A system is supposed to be changed along with the people who are in it. Otherwise, its arteries get hardened.
T: We created the system as the way to smoothly carry out the tasks we had to do at that point in time.
M: We've been choosing projects very roughly. Distributors and investors lost their color every time they saw the first screening of each film. Of course, we ourselves were the ones who were worried most, but I heard that Toho had an emergency conference every time. (To talk about) Whether they should cut the number of the theaters. -laughs- Fortunately, Ghibli movies are doing well right now, but it's possible that they won't in the future. But still, we don't want to choose a project based on the prospect of whether it would do well or not.
I: What do you think about the future of Ghibli?
M: Well, it doesn't matter if it goes bankrupt tomorrow. -laughs- It's no use to think about such things.
T: Well, it does matter.
M: I shouldn't have much time left. I don't want to finish being glued to a desk like this.
I went to Yaku Island the other day, and it was the best. I want to live there for a year while I'm still able to walk around the mountains. -laughs- There should be a few clear days no matter how rainy it is, if I stay there for a year.
T: Yes, we are now in preparation for the next film, so we have no choice but to keep going.
M: Those who never said anything about green started feeling (the green is) great while they were walking the mountain. When they went location hunting, they were overwhelmed, and their hands were shaking.
T: They seem to have realized the difference between looking at beautiful green in pictures and actually going there and being surrounded by green, and I think that's good for them. We've been trying to create a realistic world or the feeling of presence with animation. But, the world in images is totally different from reality. I started feeling so. I wonder what the meaning of creating realistic images is.
M: After all, I think we are staying at the level of simple naturalism.
T: I think it'll be interesting if something new emerges and breaks it down.
M: There are countless issues. The ones who have to shoulder these issues are not us, but those who are destined to work, utilizing this place. After all, we can't say anything other than we did as we pleased. -laughs-
T: He says so, but I think he is still going to work hard. -laughs- The next Ghibli film is up to Miya-san, after all.
May 29, 1995, at Studio Ghibli
- "Paku" is Takahata's nickname.
- Le roi et l'oiseau (Cross-eyed Tyrant), by Paul Grimault, is the animation classic made in France. Snow Queen is a masterpiece animation from Russia.
- Hakujyaden (The Legend of White Snake) is the first color feature animation film in Japan made by Toei Doga.
- Yasujiro Ozu is a famous Japanese film director.
- Nakama can mean "comardes" or "partners."
- Yasuo Otsuka was the animation director of Horus, Conan, and Castle of Cagliostro.
- Youichi Odabe was the animation director of Heidi and 3000ri.
- Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke, the second feature film by Toei, is a boy Ninja story.
- Sidenote: I think this was Gulliver's Space Travel, in which Miyazaki-san added the ending totally different from the script --Ryo.
- Sidenote: Interestingly, Takahata-san couldn't finish Grave of the Fireflies on time ^^;; --Ryo
- Note: In Japanese, we say "fun like toppled toy box." I think it implies many toys are scattered around and kids can have a lot of fun, but I can't think up a good English translation for this. --Ryo
- Mamoru Oshii, the director of Uruseiyatsura 2 and Patlabor. He is considered to be one of the prominent directors in the young generation.
- A project called Anchor.
- Toru Hara was the president of then Topcraft. He became the CEO of Ghibli. Toshio Suzuki was the former chief editor of Animage. He has been the producer of Ghibli movies, and an officer of Ghibli.
- Yoshiyasu Tokuma is the president of Tokuma Shoten.
- Tokorozawa is the place where Totoro was supposed to take place, and is where Miyazai-san lives.
- Shinchosha is the publishing company who published the novel and produced the anime version of Grave.
- Sidenote: Totoro was produced by (i.e., paid by) Tokuma, and Grave was produced by Shinchosha. Tokuma couldn't afford to produce the both, but wasn't sure if Totoro alone could attract enough audience, so they decided to cooperate with Shinchosha and put Totoro and Grave together. --Ryo
- Sidenote: "Kasakushohin (a fine small work)" is a sort of copy for Mimi. I guess it was to tell the sponsors that this was going to be a down-to-earth small project, but it became such a big project as we know. --Ryo
- Tokyo Giants is a baseball team which is expected to win always. When a famous player retired, he said "Giants forever!"
- Toho is the company who distributes Ghibli movies in Japan.
- Sidenote: Miya-san went to the island for the location hunting for Mononoke Hime. The island is famous for its big trees and constant rain. --Ryo
Miyazaki and Oshii discuss Patlabor 2.
Animage, vol. 184; October, 1993
Translated from Japanese to English by Ryoko Toyama Edited by D Goldsmith
Key to the dialog
M: Hayao Miyazaki
O: Mamoru Oshii
M: First, I was impressed by the graphics side. I've decided that I would never compete with Oshii-san in this genre. You didn't spend all that time in front of the computer for nothing. To animate such images is too complicated, so I don't even want to speculate how you did it. -laughs- Did you use computer graphics (CG)?
O: Almost all of them were so. But, CG itself doesn't go well with cel anime, so it was difficult to combine CG and cel pictures together.
M: The style of drawing was like Patlabor 1 and Meikyuu Bukken (OVA). I think the film's whole image had such a strange, ominous pull. It was very much worth seeing. It was really outstanding in terms of clever storytelling, too. But, the malice of Hoba in Patlabor 1 was more consistent, and easier to understand. I can't understand Tsuge's feelings in this movie.
A: You mean, what led Tsuge to commit a crime such as a coup.
M: In the beginning, the scene in Cambodia where they went as PKO, I thought it must be Cambodia since there was a Buddha statue of Angkor Tom. In that scene, Tsuge, as a front commander, doesn't open fire, just asks headquarters for permission to fire. But that's his own fault. As a professional military officer, it's not true that you don't say "fight back" or "fire" when the lives of your subordinates are in danger. By following the orders from HQ, he got his subordinates killed. It's a matter of whether we think it's respectable because he followed orders, and I thought (you?) should let (him?) open fire. Cause it's human.
Judging from the introduction, I can interpret it (the story) as Tsuge punishing the political system and country that, without resolving all sorts of contradictions, sent him to the front lines with poor equipment and then ordered him "don't fight back." But I have a huge objection to that. After all, he opened fire in the end. Then, he should've fired from the beginning. Before anything else, such a person should regret the sin of letting his subordinates die because of his own misjudgment. After that, he should openly counterargue how stupid it is to order "don't fire" in such a situation, in the world of politics, for example, at a court martial.
O: I don't think today's Japanese Self Defense Force (SDF) has that kind of professional military mind.
M: But I heard that there was someone who said "if I were shot, I wouldn't just let myself be killed so easily," among those who went to Cambodia as civilian policemen for PKO. I can understand that better.
O: Comparing SDF and policemen, I think policemen have a far greater (grasp of) reality. Their work always requires them to work with people. An animator who did the key animation also told me "in a situation like that, of course you fire." But it's not whether you can or can not fire. That wasn't the point. Of course, I think you can fire with your own judgment as a front commander. But that's a pure militaristic situation, and the current SDF isn't made that way. I don't think they consider PKO as a militaristic matter. I depicted that as the reason why he could not fire.
M: But if you are a proper front commander, the moment you are given your command, you should imagine every possible situation, and prepare for what you would do in a given situation. I think that's the readiness of a professional soldier. And more than that, I feel that a modern man acts with realism. Everyone knows the triviality of such things as state power, the chief of staff, or the country. When you are ordered, if it's a choice between your position and the lives of your subordinates, you would say "fire." If you don't say that, you wouldn't volunteer to go to the war zone. I think you would say (fire).
However, if you fire, or don't fire, whichever is the case, it's certain that there will be a problem. The next moment, there will be an endless, fruitless argument about who was at fault, which wasn't in the movie, and no one would be interested in such a thing. And it would end up being very confusing.
O: There was another issue I put in. When we ask why he didn't fire, there is an issue of that if he could really recognize the danger to his life. That's why I used the cockpit of the combat robot, filled with monitors. (The issue is) whether you can really feel that your life is actually in danger, in a situation where you are surrounded by such secondary information.
M: If that's the issue, I feel that after he quit the military and disappeared, Tsuge would throw technology out and start a down-to-earth life, like doing organic agriculture or something. That's more realistic.
O: In terms of reality, I think you are right.
Four years after the bubble
M: But this movie doesn't just deal with the issues regarding the Japanese SDF. In the center of it, there is the issue of the city of Tokyo, as well as the issue of war and peace. During the Bubble, I myself had such a feeling of wanting to give some punishment to Tokyo, which had enlarged superficially and kept bulldozing over everything. I could understand why Hoba wanted to turn Tokyo upside down with a vengeance. But, I could not understand Tsuge at all. I think Oshii-san himself is losing interest in today's Tokyo. A person with enough organizing power to carry out a coup wouldn't become a front-line commander to begin with, if we think about it.
But, Oshii-san made (the film) knowing such things very well. That's why it's difficult to talk about. In short, it's just that Oshii-san wanted to do it. He wants to destroy the bridges, and he wants to blast the missiles. -laughs- But that's something you shouldn't do. So, there is also an Oshii-san who says "don't do such things" (in the movie). And in the end, when he was asked "so, you would die, too?" he says "well, I want to keep watching a bit longer." It just means that we are pulled into Oshii-san's inner world, so it's no use to say this or that from (the standpoint of) realism. We have no choice but to enjoy this time in the Oshii world. So, I enjoyed this movie.
In that sense, Oshii-san himself made it with a sense of fun, and I don't think it spreads an ideological influence over the audience. Unfortunately, I didn't think this was that kind of stinging thought. This movie has nothing which can match the hatred I felt in the previous movie (Patlabor 1). Those policemen are acting with sorrow from the start, because the enemy is a reflection of themselves. It was the same with Tsuge. There wasn't much of Tsuge's henchmen. Just that robot which looks like a water cleaner. -laughs- It was made by completely removing meanness, grossness, evil, sadism, or something that make you feel such things. And there was a white-haired man like me... I was watching it thinking it's awkward. -laughs-
And you like the woman who is said to be the most accomplished woman in the TMPD, who seems to be tired of her busy life, the retired old man, and those foolish young ones who Goto said were the only thing left for him, don't you, Oshii-san? You don't dislike the guy who is like Kyojin no Hoshi (The Star of Giants). I thought that (he?) should've stopped that absurd charge, though. That's stupid no matter how you think. -laughs- I watched the movie in that way.
It's been four years since Patlabor 1, which was released in the middle of the Bubble Economy, and once the bubble had burst, it became clear that Tokyo isn't such a big deal, and this is a very feeble society.
O: It shows its weakness in many aspects.
M: There was a time when Japanese society actually seemed strong and seemed to be advancing toward a certain direction to say something, but it's not advancing any more. The other day, I saw a freshman LDP congressman saying to President Kouno: "Please stop those demeaning heckling (in the Diet). It's unbearable to hear such things, and I can't let children listen to such things." And Mr. Kouno was nodding. I don't know if this changes the LDP, but it was the kind of scene which symbolizes the turning point when the era of Japan's upward moving ended and the era of downward moving started. I don't know how it will be evaluated later, though.
O: The political world changed, because they thought it didn't matter if it changed. It's not like they thought there would be some dramatic development. It could be changed, because everyone thought there wouldn't be much difference between the LDP and the coalition government.
M: But, the structure of the cozy relationships with the business world will be a shaken up a bit. Even that can make the air fresh. We don't have a lot of options. I mean, what vision can this country have? After all, they are just partial improvements. Not even an improvement, but it's just saying don't be so greedy, or something like that. Even though we want to judge the issues we have now by making them simpler, it's not that simple.
The era with no vision
O: The world has no vision, either. Not only Japan, but also America, and Europe. If there was (someone who has a vision), it's the Islamic world, though it's fanatic. It's more a blind belief than a vision, I guess. I think that's because the era itself has started being moved by what comes out from the structurally weak point, rather than by a vision. My impression is, the recapping of the era has started.
M: Rather than that we have no vision, it's that people feel they don't need a worthless vision.
O: The only thing that remains is the desire to eat a stomach-full of good food, and build a new house. And it's the same all over the world. Even in the Islamic world, even though there is fundamentalism on the surface, they come to Japan to make money, after all. Of course some come because things are desperate, but most of them come because they want to make money to build a house. In the end, only a sort of "desire naturalism" remains.
I wouldn't like it, if I were forced to deal with such a thing. But Japan has been doing the same thing, at least after the war, so I can't deny that. So, I don't like it, because it resembles myself. Because they are doing it without any hesitation.
Dads of the post-war period had been doing the same thing, toward the dream of a nuclear family. (They had) the dream to be free from the constraints of various blood relations, and to have a vision shared only by the (immediate) family. And that dream was realized, wasn't it? However, the bubble has burst, and such things have all collapsed. So, now, we are entering into the time of recapping. Which direction we are going to recap it in is more important than to build a vision now. Like Arakawa said, the only issue is how we are going to put an end to it. It's the same with the issue of "war." It's not whether we are going to have it or not, since it's already started. Until we put an end to it, there can't be a new vision.
M: I don't think there will be an end.
O: I mean, regardless of whether there will be an end or not, the only thing left is to wait and see the future for a while more. There is no other thing to do.
This movie isn't a drama in that sense, because it isn't dialectic at all. The conclusion was given from the beginning.
M: And if you arm yourself in such a way when making a film, there is nothing left for me to say. -laughs- I mean, everything was well disposed in various characters, so when I came up with some question, (one of the characters) answers it. But the conclusion where that creepy SDF investigator, Arakawa, was one of the criminals wasn't interesting.
O: That was just to end the movie...
M: That's what I thought. But I wished that he'd just kept on going. -laughs-
O: For myself, the pedantic way of reacting, like Arakawa did, is a possibility. It is possible that a person who is not involved in the situation can say the best thing at the point. In short, knowing can stand just as knowing, so you don't have to be asked what you are going to do in that situation. If you see in order to take some action, or to search for something, it's not seeing. You can't see things as they are, since you have some predisposition to do something.
In war, the winner loses
M: About the conversation between Arakawa and Goto about the false peace and war of justice, that enumeration of words, I thought that "here we go again, the Oshii tune as usual." I thought that that's what you've been saying all the time, but since they are fast-talking, we can not stop and think (while watching the movie). So, you have removed the organic agriculture, you have removed the debate at the Diet, in short, the most tiresome things in our daily life, the worldly nitty-gritty, you removed all those things, and created a computer game in the Oshii world. I saw the movie as such. Before I saw it, I had thought that Oshii-san's book of thoughts might have come out, but (after I saw it), I thought that Oshii-san was in the mental state of moving to Izu to settle down to watch Tokyo. -laughs-
O: That's fairly close. -laughs-
M: In that sense, it was interesting until I saw your hands. But the minute you set up the movie with more worldly settings so that it will have a more interesting conspiracy, such as, "it was the Clinton government's trap to inflict economic damage on Japan, or to gain a political compromise (from Japan)," it further loses reality. America is also in a fix. If they do (fight), I feel that it will be a more stupid, violent, simple, kids' brawl. Such as not buying Japanese cars anymore. But this is complicated, too. What about American cars with Japanese engines? -laughs-
O: There is a gap. Even though there is a certain structure of conflict as a political idea, in terms of actual technology, there are some parts in which Japan has already surpassed the United States. From games to automobiles, it's so in Japan, and it's so outside of Japan. Even if the politicians' thinking becomes more radical, the structures are such that it won't materialize as a reality of our life. If we can think of politics as an extension of the reality of our life, no one would start a war. Because someone jumps the gun, war happens. And once it's happened, it's not good, and there is no end to it, so we have no choice but to stop; though how we stop it is another matter. Something like opening up a prospect by expanding the territory by war, as in the old days such as the era of Imperial Japan-- there is no such thing anymore.
M: At any rate, if you have war, you won't gain anything even if you win.
O: There is no win or lose, in essence.
M: Rather, the winner loses. The military becomes overconfident and enlarges, and people acquire a strange confidence. I heard that some Vietnamese said that the confidence that they beat America corrupted Vietnam. It's a groundless confidence.
O: The United States has no vision to bind the country other than ruling the world well with its hegemony. If they stop doing so, (the country) will disintegrate. Because they don't want that, they keep doing it, that's all. It is certain that the world has hit the wall, in both economic and political sense. The reason for this is, because we've gotten the answer that everything we've been doing is no good.
M: I think that once we get that answer, we'll create various other visions. I can not say that doing so is a mistake. For these creatures called humans, there is no other choice than to keep going on by making it (vision?), trying to continue to walk towards it, while saying "this didn't work either."
To make a movie
O: Seen historically, the things we did in the twentieth century were huge. But they were failures after all.
M: They are the experiments of the nineteenth century. And all of them went bankrupt before the end of the twentieth century.
O: Speaking of war, the nature of it has changed, and every war has become a civil war.
M: Otherwise, I wouldn't have made a movie like Porco Rosso. -laughs-
O: If we think that way, "There is no point in making a movie for now. In truth, there is no value in making a movie now." I said so before.
M: That's because you speak as a thinker. I'm not. I am an entertainer, so entertaining (people) with a movie, or entertaining them by giving them a ride in my tricycle, it's the same thing to me. In fact, when I give two small kids a ride, they really get delighted. And it makes me really happy to see that. So, I still have something I want to make. A pig flies in a red plane, or you seclude yourself on a mountain with a dog, it doesn't matter. But, both Oshii-san and I would sum that (what we've done) up as "not good," that's for sure. -laughs-
A: For Oshii-san, was it a movie to recap the era?
M: I felt that thoughts from the time when Oshii-san joined the student movement in the 1970s are still swirling inside of him, and he is still making a story with the desire to somehow turn things upside down, explode them, and reveal the essence of the world. With missiles, Molotov cocktails, or anti-subversive law, it doesn't matter. So, he wants to put the SDF in the middle of the city, and wants to show that it's a military. And where is Oshii-san? He is among those tankers in tanks. So, the movie paid so much consideration towards the ordinary soldiers, -laughs- but no consideration towards the tax payers around there.
A: It had more consideration towards a dog walking around the streets.
M: To start with, there is a question of whether we'd have an unchained dog in Tokyo. -laughs- I guess it wouldn't work if a cat was meowing in that scene.
O: Though it seems to have reality on the surface, everything is a movie (fiction).
M: In short, the hatred such as Hoba's in the previous movie has been changing into something else-- that's what I felt.
I think that the only way we can discuss movies is by talking about what we are to make. A person who hasn't retired from movie making has no choice but to make a movie, if he has an issue to talk about. I feel that it's not appropriate for a movie maker to criticize a movie even though you yourself have no plan to make a movie. In that sense, I think I still have movies to make.
A: What will your next movie be?
M: I have something I want to make, but whether I can make it next or not depends on the situation. Also, I want to make a love story in a straightforward way. Regardless of whether the world loses dogma or does whatever, love remains. Though Oshii-san seems to think that love doesn't exist anymore.
O: No, I wouldn't say that. -laughs- I'm not that dry. However, originally, I didn't intend to make a movie like Patlabor 2.
A: You've said in other interviews that you made it because you couldn't wait. What couldn't you wait for?
O: I meant two things by saying I couldn't wait. One is that, simply put, I wanted to live in Izu with my dog. So, please let me make money. The other is the political issues I was talking about. I wanted to complete what I was thinking at that time, if I have to make it anyway. So, in terms of energy like hatred, certainly Hoba had more.
M: I thought so. Even the birds which you are always so particular about did nothing more than fly in front of the airship. -laughs-
O: They are tableau-like images. It's not a drama. Because there is no dialectic.
Love and sensuality
M: After all, a drama is "falling in love." I've come to think that way these days.
O: I don't know if it's love itself, but I guess it's something close to that.
M: When I had an opportunity to join a conversation between Ryorato Shiba-san and Yoshie Hotta-san, Shiba-san said, "I think that a novels are for writing about such affairs between a man and a woman. What I've been doing isn't a novel. It's a letter to myself in my youth. A letter to the twenty-year-old, who was on a tank made of thin steel plates, and was wondering why in the world I had to be on such a thing." Then Hotta-san said, "it's the same with me. Until this age, I've been writing an answer to myself who saw the stretch of burned ruins during the war."
If we start talking about whether it's a novel or not, there would be bloodshed, -laughs- but, there aren't so many interesting things in this world, are there? So, it is very important to be excited, or to be full of life. I still think that even today, it is possible to make a movie to show that and to entertain. To entertain doesn't mean to make a service scene. It's to carry (the audience) well. In that sense, this movie did very well up to the halfway point. Whether it entertained till the end is another matter, though. -laughs-
O: I think for a human to live, we need some kind of sensuality. During a certain period, that can be called love. The moment when your passion gushes out towards something other than yourself. At that time, if you are occupied with yourself, it won't be sensual. As for Shiba-san's letter to himself as a youth, while he was occupied with himself, it probably wasn't the spurting of his passion. The object (of one's passion) can be a woman, child, dog, bird, or anything. Either for novels or movies, if you create something, you need at least something like that. If not for that, it might not be entertainment. I think in my movie, there are such things remaining, but just barely.
M: I wish you would make something which makes people laugh, even if you have to stretch yourself... I think it's a pity that (you don't use it) since you have such a talent. It's OK, you don't have to say difficult things.
A: We heard that you want to make that kind of movie, that makes people laugh, as your next project.
M: But I won't lend you my tricycle. -laughs-
O: If you lend me that car, I can make that movie. Please lend it to me.
M: I know how a car is treated at a movie location.
O: I will return it in perfect condition.
M: No, it's the same thing as saying, "lend me your wife. I'll return her in perfect condition." -laughs- I can't lend it that easily.
O: Well, let's put that aside. -laughs- On different note, when I finished this movie, I came to see what I want to say a bit more clearly.
Maybe I'm repeating myself again, but I thought I had to do the story of post-war Japan, this time properly. Once and for all, we have to make a movie properly about what kind of era the post-war era in Japan, or Shouwa, was. No one has done it yet. I think it would be a terrible situation if, without doing it, 2001 comes before we know it.
Jostling of all the human race
M: But on the other hand, a lot of things are becoming clear these days. From now on, all humans have to live while jostling each other.
I went to France the other day, and it's a rich place. England cannot even be compared to it. With such abundant green. How can flying be so cheap there? Drive from the town of Annecy for a while, and there is an airport in the middle of a field. A 30 minute charter flight cost only ¥10,000. Riding a taxi in Tokyo for a while, and it costs you the same. If you take a sidetrack, even if it's a suburb of Paris, you see rich country scenery. It's so unfair. -laughs-
O: Including such richness in nature, including such richness in material things, in short, from now on, there will be jostling between those who want to protect their vested interests and those who want their own fair share. Regardless if Japan is really rich or not, others see Japan as a rich country. So that has to be protected. Right now, there is no idea that we can abandon that, is there?
M: There is an idea to share.
O: I think that sharing will fail somewhere before it's realized.
M: The other day, I saw a TV program in which Nanami Shiono-san was talking with three politicians, and it was interesting. They were talking about whether ninety-nine people should be sacrificed to save one person, saying that the era when the reality of humanism will be questioned has already arrived.
O: There is one rich person because there are ninety-nine poor people. I don't think a culture can exist in any other way. If everything is leveled and becomes like a desert, can we as human beings deal with it? We will probably take the side of protecting the culture, though we don't call it good. Can we conclude that it's ideal for humans simply if everyone can have enough to eat? Can we be satisfied and ignore everything else (if that ideal was realized)? To say such a thing, or the feeling of wanting to say that, is the problem. In reality, that wouldn't be enough.
M: It's a problem where the answer isn't black or white.
O: As we discussed before, that's the problem which was posed during the nineteenth century, and we tried to figure out what the best solution was during the twentieth century. Socialism is the most leftist thinking among them. We tested everything, from left to right, and everything failed. We accomplished nothing more than confirming that the Capitalism was the system with the least failures for now.
M: It's not that it is succeeding as a system. Since the poorest countries are all Capitalist.
O: In that sense, the problem of the market principle of Capitalism and the problem of Democracy are mixed. No one really thinks that Democracy is the best system. It's just that it's the better one. After all, Democracy is nothing more than (a system) which exists standing on the sacrifice of a majority of the people on the earth.
M: That is exactly why Nausicaa wouldn't proceed and still hasn't ended. -laughs-
O: So we know that clearly to this point, but what do we do next? We can not get a solution so easily. Probably we won't get a right answer before we die. So, I'm saying that at least we have to recap. I don't think we can start anything without doing that. It's not that we have to think together. Recapping can actually start a war, just like the civil war in former Yugoslavia. We can say that they started recapping after Tito had died.
M: Recapping is "summing up." It means that we have to conclude what we have had up until now. And we know what that conclusion would be. It's just that we've reconfirmed the fact that humans aren't that wise. It's something people have been saying, for two thousand years, four thousand years.
O: The people who understand that can see the point.
The standpoint of non-humans
M: That's why we've hit the wall. Such as the harm brought by boundless development out of desire. The biggest thing is that the belief of "Nature is infinite" in Marxism collapsed. Whenever I listen to you Oshii-san, I wonder what standpoint you have about how human creatures, who are dependent on nature or plants, exist. I know you feed birds at your terrace, or plant grapes, but there is nothing about such an issue in your movie.
O: There is. I put Seitaka-awadachisou in my movies.
M: That's just that you are using Seitaka-awadachisou as a tool to express the image that humans are stalled.
O: In that sense, you are right.
M: Like it or not, we will have to deal with the issues of plants or agriculture. Some say that we just have to produce tomatoes and other food at factories, but I don't think so. You yourself have already realized this. Otherwise, you wouldn't move to Izu. I don't think that's simply because you want to live with your dog.
O: I'll think about it well with my dog.
M: Even Sherlock Holmes spent his last days as a bee keeper.
O: I think there is such a reflection. We've been focusing too much on humans, and animation isn't the exception. Even when two persons are talking, probably a bird is flying over their heads, a fish is in a pond, and a dog is watching you when you look down. In my case, the eyes of animals are always on my mind.
M: There are many cooking programs on the television. Catch a fish, and tear it apart-- very sinful. I feel like saying "stop it!" Let's not kill, and eat the bare minimum. I'm getting to be like a monk. I guess that's because I'm getting old. I used to watch them and think it looked tasty until recently. -laughs- But we kill too many just for fun. Is it less cruel than eating a live monkey's brain? It's a difference in customs, that's all. We'd better return once more to the place where humans and earthworms are the same.
O: We know it, but I don't think we can return there.
The scenery I love
M: I feel that we will return there when we lose everything. I think that time will come when or right before the population becomes ten billion. Then, when everyone pauses, it's the same whether you are black or white, or in Bosnia or in Okushiri Island. You cry or exclaim for your family. (I heard that) a woman ran to a house whose parents were away, because a tidal wave was coming. She saw three children shivering at the entrance and they dashed to hold on her fast. That's the only thing she remembers, and they somehow managed to escape. The rest of it is probably the same anywhere.
O: I have no objection to it at all. As a recognition, it's definitely so. As I said before, the gap between the reality of our life and politicians' thinking is widening. I think it's the same thing as the question of how we can close that gap. To say you care about animals and to say you have to reexamine postwar history properly once more-- they are actually the same thing.
M: It's not just postwar history.
O: But concretely, that is it. It's the reality we've lived. There, we have people like Miyazaki-san, or Producer Suzuki of Ghibli. -laughs- It's the actual era in which we've been living, and I really want to make (a film about it) properly.
M: I cannot quite understand your adherence to Tokyo. It's like you are forcing yourself to make Tokyo a hypothetical enemy. I feel that you've lost your interest in Tokyo a long time ago. I've lost almost all interest in Tokyo.
O: I've been living in Tokyo for forty-some years. It's easy to think that this is an uninteresting city, or that you want to destroy it. The most frustrating thing I feel when I watch movies such as Akira is that they destroy Tokyo so easily. If you depict it as a city which you won't miss even if it were destroyed, as a fake thing made from only steel and concrete from the beginning, destroying it won't accomplish anything. It's far from being a real catharsis. Even in Tokyo, if you look carefully, if you dig up your memories, you can find some scenery which you are very much attracted to. It can be the evening at the train crossing, or it can be scenery of some vacant land with Seitaka-awadachisou in Tokyo Bay area. We have scenery we love inside of us. It's related to our childhood memories. If you depict (Tokyo) that way, and depict it as something you still have to destroy, I can understand that, but they (those movies) do not. I think they don't have the right issues in mind. Animation can do that. I still think that there is meaning to be found in making a movie which can do it properly.
- Japan sent policemen and SDF to Cambodia for Peace Keeping Operation. I think one policeman was shot and died --Ryo
- In 1989, when Patlabor 1 was theater released, Japan was in the middle of the Bubble Economy, in which the price of assets such as land went through the roof.
- He means Ohta. Kyojin no Hoshi is a manga (and anime) which was the very example of hot-blooded, guts-solves-all story. Ohta still lives in this era --Ryo.
- Yoehi Kouno was the president of the Liberal Democratic Party. This interview was conducted while the LDP, the Japan's ruling party for 35 years, was out of office. Many thought it might change Japan, but nothing happened. Today (February 1997), the LDP is Japan's ruling party again. --Ryo
- Miyazaki owns a red three-wheel car.
- in the winter of 1993, Oshii-san was going to leave his home town, Tokyo, to move to Izu with his family and dog.
- Both Ryorato Shiba and Yoshie Hotta are the writers whom Miyazaki-san loves and respects a great deal. --Ryo
- ¥10000 is about US$100.
- Nanami Shiono is a novelist who mainly writes about Italian history.
- Seitaka-awadachisou is a name of plant.
- Okushiri Island is the northern island which was devastated by earthquake in 1993.
Money Can't Buy Creativity
Pacific Friend, vol 18 no 9 (January 1991), page 7-8 [Pacific Friend is an American-language Japanese newspaper published by Jiji Gaho Sha, Inc.]
Posted to Anime-l/rec.arts.anime by Robert Gutierrez, June 29, 1991 Reformatted and edited by Steven Feldman, March 19, 1992
[An introduction by the interviewer:] Born in 1941. In his high school days, Hayao Miyazaki aspired to be a cartoonist, and upon graduating from college, joined an animation cartoon production company. With his 1984 production of Nausicaa in the Valley of the Wind, Miyazaki set a long-run record for an animal cartoon program, and his 1988 production of My Neighbor Totoro swept nearly all the prizes for his category that year, including the Minister of Education Prize. Miyazaki is known for his background elaborations based on minute and careful observations, as well as for his ecological style. He is a big drawing card these days.
We live in an age when it is cheaper to buy the rights to movies than to make them. Rather than suffer all the problems of making movies, it often seems more expedient to buy them from abroad. In fact, movie producers in Japan have the impression they can buy what they want as easily as if from a vending machine. People often come to me and say point-blank: "Make a film for us as you can see fit. We'll pay whatever you ask." I think Japan today is in an age unsuited to creativity.
The Japanese today have nothing to realy on in their minds. They've even alienated themselves from their own natural and spiritual environment. But does that mean that their modern sense of individualism is now strong enough to enable them to lead independent, self-initiated lives like Americans and Europeans do? I think not. The Japanese people cling together accepting each other's sad state. They don't seem to be able to grapple firsthand with the problems afflicting them. Under such circumstances, we shouldn't expect works of high artistic value to be created.
I don't blame anyone for this situation. Rather I consider it a problem I have to deal with myself... so I keep striving, convinced that even in this situation there are movies worth making. Children sense the nature of the age we're living in almost instinctively. Can we honestly expect to make persuasive movies by merely exhorting these children to entertain hope? So I think about a lot of things, but I'm not making movies just to make appeals on particular problems, say, environmental protection. The close relationship between nature and mankind, including spiritual ties, is something we should be aware of as common sense of people living in the present-day world, regardless of whether or not we make movies.
In my movies for children, I want to express before anything else the themes: "The world is profound, manifold and beautiful," and "You children are fortunate to have been born into this world... Although the world's beset with lots of seemingly intractable problems, such as population explosion and environmental disruptions, making it difficult to entertain hope, it's nevertheless a wonderful thing to live." This is more easily said than done. It's adults rather than children that are seeing their hopes dashed. So making movies also amounts to struggling with myself.
But regrettably, others making animated cartoons seem to be different. They insist, "This is the trend... This is likely to be a hit..." I can't engage myself in such an inhuman task as making animated cartoons just to produce such things. To produce a decent animated cartoon requires anywhere from a year to a year and a half, and our private lives go out the window during this period. Of course, we could make cartoons while still taking our vacations, but that would be reflected in their quality. Works of art are created by those who are prepared to go the limit. We're not interested in anything else.
This is the reason that, even though Japanese animated cartoons for television are distributed all over the world, this doesn't constitute a particular source of pride for us. It's just that no other country has wanted to make animated cartoons as "brutal" and "provocative" as those made in Japan. If we make an animated cartoon that Japanese children find really enjoyable, and that cartoon is also recognized and accepted in foreign countries, then we can say that its images have been elevated to a universal level. We were glad to hear that Korean animators, who had seen My Neighbor Totoro, were quite pleased with it. They said South Korea has its share of imaginary creatures like Totoro. In fact, they asked if we had used one of the Korean imaginary creatures as a model.
There are two other things we have to bear in mind when we make movies. First, in the case of action films, we are in control of the destiny-- even the birth and death-- of the principal characters. And if we make our arbitrary decisions in order to attract audiences, we end up becoming God. This can spell disaster for the filmmaker. Second, since there are so many things in the real world that do not go quite the way people would have them go, they want to see their heroes in movies live comfortably and free from all cares. Today, whatever "issue" one might consider, it cannot be resolved by a single person. One may ask why people don't get together and tackle problems as a group. But we know that in this day and age tackling problems as a group is often even less effective than tackling them as individuals. Under the circumstances, the urge to create a world where human efforts and physical strength are effective in solving problems is surely understandable. At least, that's how we feel when we make entertaining pieces. In the real world, it's easier to find discouraging than encouraging things. We would like to find good things.
We're only doing what comes natural to us. I really don't know why my works are so highly regarded. But, then, there's no guarantee that I will continue to enjoy acclaim. Many times I've waited for younger filmmakers of great promise to come along, and I've even tried fostering them-- but to no avail. I myself intend to continue making films. I have no idea how long I can go on, or what the next generation holds.
Foreword to Art of Kiki's Delivery Service
The English foreword to the book The Art of Kiki's Delivery Service
Disclaimer © 1989 by Tokuma Shoten Transcribed without permission for personal entertainment purpose only.
Eiko Kadono's original story, Majo no Takkyubin "Kiki's Delivery Service" (Published by Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers Inc.) is a fine work of children's literature warmly depicting the gulf that exists between independence and reliance in the hopes and spirit of contemporary Japanese girls.
At one time the main characters of stories for young people gained financial independence, which was then equal to spiritual independence, after struggling through difficulties. In today's society, however, where anyone can earn money going from one temporary job to another, there is no connection between financial independence and spiritual independence. In this era, poverty is not so much material as spiritual.
In an era when leaving the security of one's home is no longer anything special, and living among strangers means nothing more than going to a convenience store for anything you need, it might be more difficult than ever to achieve a real sense of independence since you must go through the process of discovering your own talents and expressing yourself.
The only unusual thing that the heroine, 13-year old Kiki can do is fly through the sky. Moreover in this world witches are not much more talented than normal girls. She has the duty to live for a year in an unfamiliar town and exercise her talents to make people acknowledge her as a proper witch.
This is like someone who wants to be a cartoonist coming alone to Tokyo. Today there are said to be around 300,000 young men and women who are hoping to make it as cartoonists. Being a cartoonist is not that unusual a job. It is comparatively easy to get started and to make some sort of living. But a characteristic of modern life is that once the needs of daily life are taken care of the real problem of selfrealization begins. Kiki is protected by mother's old but well-looked-after broom, she has the radio that was a gift from father, and the black cat she is so close to that it is almost like a part of herself, but Kiki's heart wavers between isolation and longing for human company. In Kiki's life we see reflected the lives of so many young Japanese girls today who are loved and supported economically by their parents, but who long for the bright lights of the city, and are about to go there and become independent. The weakness of her determination and the shallowness of her understanding are also reflected in the world of today's young people.
In the original, Kiki solves difficult problems with her naturally good heart. At the same time her circle of allies increases. In filming this we have had to make a few changes. The process of her developing her talent is surely pleasant but the spirit of our young girls living in the capital today is not so simple. The biggest problem for many young girls is the fight to break through the barrier of independence, and there are too many people who feel they have received not a single blessing. We feel, therefore, in this movie that we must give serious treatment to the problem of independence. As movies always create a more realistic feeling, Kiki will suffer stronger setbacks and loneliness than in the original.
Our first image of Kiki when we meet her is of the form of a small girl flying through the night sky over the capital. Many lights shine, but there is not a single light to warmly beckon her. She is isolated as she flies in the sky. It is usually felt that the power of flight would liberate one from the earth, but freedom is accompanied by anxiety and loneliness. Our heroine is a girl who has decided to identify herself by her ability to fly. Quite a few TV cartoons about little witches have been made before this, but the witchcraft has always merely been the means to fulfill the dreams of young girls. They have always become idols with no difficulties. The witch of Majo no Takkyubin (Kiki's Delivery Service) does not possess that convenient kind of power.
The talents of witch of this film are really little more than those possessed by any real-life girl.
We are planning a happy ending. As Kiki flies over the town she feels a strong bond between herself and the people who live below, and is happy being herself. We are hoping to make the film persuasive enough that viewers will conclude that the ending is happy, rather than merely wish it to be so.
I feel that this film will fulfill its goal of reaching out with a feeling of solidarity to our young viewers: the young girls living in today's world who do not deny the joy of youth, nor are carried away by it, torn between freedom and dependence (because we were all young men and women once, and the young members of our staff have these very problems now). At the same time I feel that the basic potential of this film as entertainment lies in this point and that it will inspire sympathy in the viewers.
-- Hayao Miyazaki
Reasons Why I Don't Make Slapstick Action Films Now
Comic Box; October 1989
Translated from Japanese to English by Atsushi Fukumoto (AF) in September, 1991 Translation tune-up by Sheng-Te Tsao (STT) in November, 1991 Edited and colloquialized by Steven Feldman in November, 1991
Since Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, Mr. Miyazaki has often been compared to live-action film directors. On the other hand, there are also many people who voiced their support for the slapstick action films he made before Nausicaa.
In a direct manner, I asked him a question on many fans' minds: "Why aren't you making slapstick action films?"
I like silly and slapstick animations that one can watch and laugh at. But just because I like them doesn't mean I can make them.
I want to see whether or not I can make a movie without any action. But films such as Totoro or Majo no Takkyubin (Kiki's Delivery Service) are made because there were demands for them. Of course, the other reason is that they were what I wanted to make.
I have some film ideas right now, including ideas that have not yet been released... and a cartoon sort of movie.
I feel that I want to make something like Buta no Sensha (Pig's Tank) or some such silly movie which will show my embarrassing side.
On board a rundown bi-plane, with only one torpedo loaded, fighting a big task force for one's pride, while knowing all the while how foolish it is-- It will become a breathlessly exciting film, the kind of movie that make you want to say "Ah! that was amazing, I want to watch it again!"
I can understand why the adolescent audience-- those who are responsible for the anime boom-- claim that my older works are more enjoyable. I am sorry that I am ignoring that audience.
But that doesn't mean that my intent has changed, just that I've gotten old. I am not yet 50, but I am enough of an old man to feel what an old man would feel. <grin>
Moreover, I wonder why there aren't young directors surfacing who want to make such entertaining, thrilling, enjoyable films.
The truth is that I am happiest when I am writing about stupid airplanes and tanks in magazines like Model Graphix. I have a burning desire to resume that serial. <grin>
But I feel that it if it stops being a hobby, I should stop doing it, even if I think I can show my abilities better in it than in a story about a 13-year-old girl going to town.
I could write the story all by myself, but animation requires an enormous amount of manpower. It has to be done by an organization, and it's difficult to make silly movies for a company. Therefore, sometimes I dream of making a silly movie with my own money, a videotape (OAV) that can't even recover the costs. I'd love to do a film that is frowned upon by the parent-teacher associations.
The ideas have been around in my head for a long time, and I have always been eager to make movies like Charge! Ironpork. I've even imagined e konte, thinking about required scenes...
Had I failed in every other way, I would have made such movies. Unfortunately, I was fortunate to have the chance to make other types of films that would "let me get more famous awards next time." <grin> Moreover, I have to draw Nausicaa, and I want to draw in Model Graphix-- thus I have reached my full capacity.
Animated films cannot be made as easily as live-action films. I can't be like John Ford, who made more than 100 films, sometimes without even participating in editing his own work.
Imagine me directing at this studio for two or three hours, then moving on to another studio to direct a scene like "there, now the pig gets on the tank," and then moving on to draw Nausicaa-- that's just not possible. I don't do things that way, and I don't want to. Animation just doesn't work that way by nature, and if we think it can work that way then we are finished.
Nowadays, we cannot avoid the question of "motivation" when we make a slapstick action film.
For example, breaking down an entire huge building is a form of motivation. Such motivation is like the reaction to suppressed impulses, or an objection that leads to destruction. I don't feel that I have to make films that are constructive. Destructive films and such are fine with me, too, because it's natural to destroy a huge thing. But, the constraints of living in a suppressed society aside, I'm hoping to single out motivations for dreams, desires, and hopes.
A film without these motivations becomes a mere fisticuff fest.
"I will survive even if everyone dies," "I must have that," or "I'll grab all the treasures"-- putting aside the question of ideologies or righteousness, all these things have their root in our desire to have the best for ourselves, like a male sea-lion. But these are happy endings typical of an action film-- made to make you feel happy to have been born and to be alive-- regardless of whether the scale is large or small.
In this age, there's no doubt that we can't go in such a crude manner on earth, right?
The root that holds a slapstick action films together-- things like "I want to be big," "I want to be rich," "I want to have a girl"-- are crumbling. We just can't naively believe in these things anymore.
In making a slapstick action film, one must employ a story structure in which there are initially various plot complications but, after a certain point, the action becomes the main thing.
Cagliostro, Doubutsu Takarajima (Animal Treasure Island), and Conan, are all like this. The most difficult part in making such a film is anticipating that point where all the audience wants to see are airplanes being shot down. If, after all that effort results in a convincing story, then the remaining action sequences will be satisfying.
Action-oriented predicaments like falling, getting hurt, using guns, fist fights, running on the wing of an airplane, diving into water-- I can do anything with scenes like these. I have a huge stock of ideas like those. But it wouldn't be entertaining if there was only action, without spending the effort introduce it to the story.
Today's OAVs are negligent in that they fail to properly introduce their action, and are therefore not very entertaining.
As an example of how they are negligent, say there is a God of Darkness and there is a God of Light, and when the light is to be covered with darkness, a Warrior of Light appears. <grin>
Are OAVs like this convincing? No. Of course not. The reason they're not is, first of all, we don't have the religion of Light and Darkness, do we? They are using it for convenience's sake. Nobody believes in it. Do you think filmmakers believe in it? No, they don't. Do they believe in the god Ahura Mazda of Zoroastrianism? No, they don't.
Another example would be, say, Star Wars. It is, after all, a story about family. A story of selfhood and self-independence, where the enemy is the father, help comes from the grandfather, the princess is the younger sister, etc.; these are all formulas from the popularized version of classic Jungian theory. They cloak the interstellar action with the story of a child who gains autonomy by fighting against his parents. Such things aren't very convincing, now.
Another convenient way to avoid real conflicts is to idealize the enemy in the form of computers or machines. You can do anything if your opponent is a machine.
I understand very well why Lupin III does not fit in this era. I was asked why I am not going to make another one, but I'm not making it because it's hard to make, but because it requires an enormous amount of labor and effort to make it in an orthodox manner.
The kind of films I really want to make are ones where I can freely create action sequences. I have all sorts of ideas which I think can yield comedies and stupid war films.
But I don't have any decisive idea on how to make the first half of the movie. There is talk about skipping that part and going straight to the action, but I must not do that.
There is an idea that I've been fermenting for a long time called Ankaa (Anchor). It would be very difficult to make, but I feel that the opportunity exists for its being made.
When I talked with Tetsuya Takada recently, we concluded that the most difficult part about making a film set in Tokyo is deciding who should be the villain.
With OAVs, it's all right if we have something that's an enemy to the whole world, such as Afghanistan, or someone who is just plain evil, like TENG Hsiao-ping.
I can see making animated action slapstick films rife with all manner of esoteric computer and military stuff as a hobby, but it must remain a hobby.
Most people would say that entertainment must be enjoyable outside the purview of critical analysis, and yet entertainment, like everything else, is contingent upon an enormous amount of interdependent theories that together create a logical system which must be adhered to if anything worthwhile is to be produced.
To make it so that a film is enjoyable without overt theorizing, the initial problems of motivation and identification-- such as sympathizing with the villain or the hero's hesitance at firing a gun-- must be solved, or the ensuing action just becomes pointless.
But the evil problems we face today are the results of our everyday lives, the sum of which is polluting earth and making Japan do stupid things.
Some OAVs and movies set their villains up as secret leaders-- blotchy old men who pull the strings of Japanese politicians-- but this is just a fantasy. In reality, Japan's government is being led by very timid and cautious people. Without funding, they will be betrayed by their own factions-- so their secretaries busy themselves with collecting as much money as possible-- while they inadvertently run down blind alleys to suicide.
This perspective is all wrong and misses the point entirely.
The thing which confounds and hurts us the most is that which we can't identify-- the root of the problem itself. This is most elusive. But trying to tackle this problem head-on doesn't exactly result in popular entertainment, does it?
So, I tried to tap into the root, but there are young people who complain that they liked the slapstick movies more.
I don't want to spend the little time I have left just for the benefit of those particular young people.
How should I use my remaining energy effectively in a way which will gratifying to me, personally-- or rather, how should I use it in a way which will gratify the people concerned?
The most important thing that Japanese animations should not do is define the fans as a certain kind of people, and to make movies only for those dilettantes. How can we make films that will gain the acceptance of those people who have never seen animation? We need to get near to that universality when making a movie, or it will fail after all.
(Interviewed at Studio Ghibli, July 12)
- The kanji for "slapstick action film" literary means "animated action films purely for entertainment." --STT
- Model Graphix is a monthly magazine for model hobbyists. Miyazaki had a manga serialized in it-- which is currently on hiatus. Each installment consisted of either a self-contained episode or movie-idea illustrations. The pig appears in some episodes of the serial. --AF
- E konte is a combination of continuity and storyboarding. Literally, it translates as "picture continuity." --AF
- I think he's referring to the desire to watch destructive film in a society that suppresses impulsive actions. --STT
- I think Miyazaki is referring to the fact that today it's very hard for people to gain autonomy, so the theme of autonomy through rebellion has little relevance. --STT
- He's referring to the part of the story that will introduce the action sequences. --STT
- Tetsuya Takeda is an actor who has directed a few movies. The talk referred to here is in the Majo no Takkyubin Guidebook. --AF
- DEN Xia-Ping, the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, this interview is probably conducted soon after the June 4 Tienanmen massacre. --STT
An Interview with Miyazaki at Studio Ghibli
Protoculture Addicts, number 19 (1992)
Posted to the Hayao Miyazaki Mailing List by Sylvain Rheault, December 15, 1993 Reformatted and edited by Steven Feldman, April 1, 1994
Transcribed with the permission of Sylvain Rheault.
[Foreward by the Sylvain Rheault, the interviewer]
This is just another interview with Hayao Miyazaki. I don't think you will find anything new about the master of animation in this post. Anyway, I really enjoyed performing it.
I sent this article from Japan to my friends in Montreal who published it in Protoculture Addicts, number 19, sep-oct 1992. There is a picture of Miyazaki-san with Porco Rosso and me. There are also many pictures of the studio, with a plan drawn from memory. But they moved since. For those interested, I have the address of the new Studio Ghibli.
There was a critic of my article in a french magazine called Tsunami. (Thanks to you guys, but you were very too flattering.)
I would like to remember that I had a hard time understanding the answers (except when they were drawn by Miyazaki). Also, I did not only concentrated on Mr. Miyazaki himself, I wanted to know how works the studio, how to produce an animated motion picture, etc.
Interview with Miyazaki
Performed at Studio Ghibli; June 6th, 1992
One might think that such an animation superstar as Mr. Miyazaki is someone who must be treated with great respect. In fact, he refused the honorific title of sensei (master) and prefered to be called only san (mister). And, surprisingly, contrary to most Japanese people, he does not carry a meishi (business card) with his title written on it. He is someone very kind and very human. He hates violence and he is particularly sensible to minority problems such as the korean and chinese people in Japan or the black people in America. He feels hurt whenever he heard about racial problems. Now, he can't stand Disneyland because of that scene of a white explorer and black luggage carriers who climbed a tree because a rhino was chasing them. "Why was the white guy at the top of the tree? Why not at the bottom?" he wondered.
Mr. Miyazaki studied economics at the university and started to work in animation at the age of 29. He is an animation producer who works for Studio Ghibli. He wrotes stories, then leads a team of people that will make them become animation. He rarely works on the books published afterward that are based on his scripts and, actually, he is not even thinking about his next movie project. He expects to retire at 60 and do anything but animation.
"Actual Japanese movies are nuts" he said, but he loves documentaries, particularly those on NHK, the Japanese public television network. These programs show different places and people of the world. He cares very little about critics (he never read them) but he feels rewarded if children like his stories. Japanese children especially love Totoro from Tonari no Totoro. By the way, he systematically rejects any offers from any companies to use his characters in advertisement.
Maybe some people noticed some strange phenomenon in Mr. Miyazaki's animations, like Canada geese appearing in the sky of Europe in Majo no Takkyubin (Kiki's Delivery Service). Mr. Miyazaki explained that he gathers things he likes and puts them together in his movies. For example, the city of Colico in Majo no Takkyubin is a rag tag combination of Scandinavian and Italian cities as well as parts of San Francisco (he refers to the funicular). What matters is the emotion. He did the same thing with Kurenai no Buta, where the mediterranean islands are actually drawn from pictures of the Sea of China. If they look good, they fit in.
Kurenai no Buta (Porco Rosso) is the project on which Mr. Miyazaki is [in June 1992] actually working on. He did the preproduction in March 1991 and the production really started in July 1991. The movie will be released next July, so the deadline is now very close. The production cost of such a movie is about ¥600 million (make the conversion by yourself). To this amount must be added another ¥600 million for the distribution of the movie and the unavoidable publicity. This animation is financed by Tokuma Shoten, Japan Airlines, Nihon Television and Studio Ghibli. If you include the 80 people working full time at Studio Ghibli, the 60 people orchestra that will perform the music, the 40 people that will give their voices to the characters and the various technicians and staff members, about 300 people are involved in this project. "When this project will be over, I will take a nice walk to the mountain" said Mr. Miyazaki.
Studio Ghibli is a branch of Tokuma Shoten, one of the big manga publishers in Japan. As said previously, 80 people are working in an office crowded with bottles of paint, copiers, and drawing desks. The most talented ones (6 or 7) will draw the backgrounds while the others will make the outlines and color the pictures. Everyone respects Mr. Miyazaki and everyone is expected to work very hard. Days may be as long as 14 hours, but according to the bottles of sake and the boxes of cookies that can be found on the tables, there are also some very good times at the studio. And to enhance the team spirit, the staff members have their own "Studio Ghibli" jackets.
The staff consists mainly of very young people, men and women, between 18 and 25 years old. Mr. Miyazaki explained that at this age, people are more flexible: "Yet, their brain did not become concrete." This is very important in animation, especially for long features such as Kurenai no Buta, because the style of the characters must remain the same until the end.
For those who dream about working at Studio Ghibli, it is possible. Some foreigners, mainly Italians, are already working there. But remember that you must be between 18 and 25 years old and very flexible.
How I met Mr. Miyazaki
by Sylvain Rheault, the interviewer
I suppose most of the people in this group have already met Mr. Miyazaki. So please do not bother to read this story if such a meeting is familiar to you.
My hobbies are comics and journalism. 3 years ago, I decided to go to Japan in order to discover its fabulous world of mangas and animation. I spent 2 years learning Japanese and making contacts. I also prepared a meishi with my name and shinbunkisha (reporter) as a title. I also started to collect information about mangas, and there were some names I heard more oftenly, like Takahashi Rumiko, Matsumoto Reiji and, of course, Miyazaki Hayao.
I met a lot of people in Japan, but I've got a lot of help from Hiroko, a professionnal animation artist I met in Montreal. She came to Montreal for the challenge of working for a foreign company and for the opportunity to learn both english and french. Hiroko gave me a very exhaustive list of the animation studios in Tokyo, along with the addresses and phone numbers, something you can't get from the phonebook. So I sent many letters to the majors studios but got very few answers (now I realize I made some mistake in the way of asking for an appointment). Anyway, I've received one letter from Mr. Tanaka at studio Ghibli, which for me was just one studio amongst the others.
When I landed in Tokyo, my Japanese was so basic that I was asking for someone on the phone with "... imasuka" instead of "... irasshaimasuka." But I was enthusiastic and bold. I phoned.
"Mr. Tanaka? You wrote back to me, I would like to visit your studio"
"Would you like to do an interview with Mr. Miyazaki?"
"What? Mr. Miyazaki? Yes. Why not. (I was thinking: Hiroko, you little devil, you should have told me about that.)"
I really wasn't expecting to meet such a celebrity so fast.
Then Mr. Tanaka explained to me how to get to the studio in Kichijouji, on the Chuuo line. As you know, there are no name for the streets in Tokyo (except for the big ones), and people usually explain how to get to a place from the nearest station. But I did not fully understand what he was saying. So I arrived very early, 3 hours before the appointment at 13:00 on June 6th, 1992. It took me two hours to find the place, using the postal address and a detailed map I newly bought. Even though I found the right block of houses, I had to turn around 3 times before finding a small sign with "Studio Ghibli."
I entered and ask for Mr. Tanaka. We talked a bit.
"I will see if Mr. Miyazaki is avalaible."
Mr. Miyazaki appeared, 6 inches shorter than me. We shaked hands.
[I must confess that I hate tape recorders. A friend and I did a lot of interviews with the underground comics authors in France, and when the time came to write down the report, we just realized that we had more than 24 hours of tapes to listen to. Disheartened, we did the report without even listening to the tapes. Since that time, I did all my interviews with notes instead of a recorder. The one who is interviewd also feel more confortable. But I regret that I didn't tape Mr. Miyazaki.]
We went to the meeting room. Everywhere in the studio were souvenirs from the previous animations. Posters, dolls, pictures.
As I told you before, my Japanese was very basic at that time. I had no difficulty asking questions to Mr. Miyazaki, because I prepared the interview, but I had a hard time understanding the answer. I should have used a recorder this time. Sometimes, Miyazaki san asked me: "Wakatta? (did you understand)" "Daitai wakarimashita. (I understand roughly)"
He was patient like a mother with me, using simple words, repeating, making a lot of drawings which I still have. He also did a little Kurenai no Buta for me.
We talked like this for two hours. He answered all my questions, and only left when I was fully satisfied.
After the interview with Mr. Miyazaki, Mr Tanaka showed me the studio. I met some of the staff, including Mizamura Katsu. She was in charge of all the backgrounds and graduated from an art school.
I took a lot of pictures and I left.
When I was heading home, in Saitama, I felt like an idiot. I had the feeling that I spoiled the opportunity. Of course, it was great and very funny, but because my Japanese was so primitive, I do not consider I acted like a professional. Moushi wake arimasen. But it kicked my ass and I decided to study Japanese very hard. I studied intensively 1 year in Japan, and my last interview, with Kawamori, was like a fluent conversation. But there was no point in making another interview with Mr. Miyazaki.
An Interview with Takahata at Corbeil-Essonnes
By Cedric Littardi AnimeLand (a French anime fanzine), issue #6 (July/August 1992) pages 27-29
Translated from French to English by Ken Elescor in October, 1993 Edited by Steven Feldman
Nausicaa was first shown in France at the 13th cinema festival [Festival of Children's Animation], at Corbeil-Essonnes (in 1992), along with Totoro, Grave of the Fireflies, Kiki, OPP, Laputa and Goshu the Cellist (Serohiki no Gooshu). Takahata-san was even there!
So, this is a translation of Takahata-san's interview. [...]
This is done without the explicit authorization of the article's author; however I think there is no problem since my friend Cao Olivier [...] is a member of the staff of the magazine AnimeLand.
Thanks to Cedric Littardi, Mr. Takahata and Mrs. Ueki, manager of the Ucore Company (which helped in bringing us the festival). And to Olivier Cao for lending me his magazine (and having helped in its translation). And to Steven for correcting my errors, and to everyone on the Nausicaa newsgroup who read my translation.
Mr. Isao Takahata was without a doubt the main personality at the Corbeil-Essonnes festival. Our meeting was quite surprising (in fact, I think I was the one who was really surprised). I met him in the second evening during the official days of the festival, at the dinner. He showed such an interest for everything which surrounds him, such a sensibility and such a curiosity that I don't know if I could call these pages an interview. As far as I'm concerned, I rather felt it as a situation of confrontation between two cultures, each one giving proof of a very deep curiosity towards the other. I don't know if, writing it down, I could give you this feeling which expresses itself in his whole behaviour and not only in his speech. For instance, he recorded some of our talks with a beautiful miniaturized Sony radio set, perhaps to study French language when he'd be back in Japan (come to that, this gave me the occasion to be quoted in ANIMAGE). Doing that, he showed the extreme relativity of our respective parts. In a way, he was inverting the parts of the interviewer and the interviewee.
Perhaps the first thing to do is to describe him to you. Physically, he looks like a standard 50-year-old -- maybe younger -- Japanese man, a little smaller than the average. He spends a lot of time smoking. (Philippe LHOSTE said: "I saw Mr. Takahata stand up to take an ashtray. I'll be able to tell it to my grandchildren!") Moreover, he has a deep voice, talks little, and thinks silently for a long time when asked a question before answering, which doesn't prevent him from asking for the question to be repeated as soon as his curiosity is awakened. Isao Takahata is the main lead of Studio Ghibli, along with his friend and colleague Hayao Miyazaki. He is the great author of Serohiki no Goshu (Goshu the Cellist), Hotaru no Haka (Grave of the Fireflies) and Omohide Poro Poro (Falling Tears of Remembrance).
I met this exceptional man at table while he was coming back from the location from whence comes the famous rose of Versailles. After a few brief presentations during which I talked with him about European paronama, we began the present discussion.
Key to the dialog
T: Isao Takahata
I: Interviewer Cedric Littardi
I: Mr. Takahata, I quite admire Japanese animation in general. It's why I'd first like to know what your favourite anime are, besides the ones you or Mr. Miyazaki produced.
T: To tell the truth, I don't really have time to watch my contemporaries' anime. My work keeps me very busy and allows me little time to do anything else. On the other hand, I'd like to know what you'd answer if you were in my place.
I: I admit this is a delicate question. If I excepted Studio Ghibli's works, I'd pick the spectacular Honneamise no Tsubasa (The Wings of Honneamise) produced by Gainax. Do you know this work?
T: Yes, I know it. I've already had an occasion to watch it.
I: And, did you enjoy it?
T: -pause- No, not really.
I: Oh?! And why?
T: I'd like to get a better understanding of why you admire this work so much.
I: It is not evident to explain. Perhaps, because it is a wonderful science-fiction work, produced in a exceptional way, with deep and expressive characters who experience a spectacular evolution. Moreover, there is this parallel world, created in a very accurate way, even in the very details. It is true that it is very different from your own works. Is that why you don't like it?
T: I'd simply say that it is a matter of personal taste.
I: Nonetheless, there should be some anime which had influenced you. Which ones induced you to do this job?
T: I have to say that I'm very happy to be in France because it is a country I really like. My career perhaps began thanks to my admiration for Paul Grimault. That's why I'm very glad to be able to show my movies here.
I: How do you place yourself in comparison with the international reference in matter of anime, i.e. Walt Disney?
T: I really enjoyed the first ones -- namely, Fantasia, Pinocchio and Snow White. But my own sensibility gradually and naturally took me away from the Disney Studios' full length films.
I: So, which are the works which influenced you the most?
T: Well, I quite admire the Canadian, Frederick Back, and the Russian, Yuri Norstein.
I: Then, why don't you try to use similar drawing techniques (i.e. cut pieces of paper or pastel drawings)?
T: It's simply a question of money. Their techniques are much more expensive than ours, much more conventional. That's why they are not used in Japan; production costs would be too high.
I: You said that you like European cinematography. Did it influence you?
T: Yes, that's right, I watched many European films and especially French ones. They help me a lot to obtain such a result in my work.
I: However, some of your full-length films, in particular the splendid Omohide Poro Poro, could have been done as live films. So you chose to make them anime films to convey visual expressions, to express emotions, feelings, that you'd never be able to reach with actors in the cinematographic reality.
T: That is exactly what I intended to do in Omohide Poro Poro, and I'm very glad you realized that.
I: Congratulations! You were really successful in doing it.
T: This is possible. I'd have something else to say to you about what inspired me, as well as any other anime producer in Japan. But, for this, I need some documents. So, I'll tell you about it tomorrow.
I: I really thank you for this. About the production, I'd like to know exactly which are the respective roles you and Mr. Miyazaki play, since in Europe, there is a tendency to confuse your two works and to accredit them to your colleague.
T: Yet, there is a noticeable difference. You don't see it because you don't speak Japanese.
I: Did you work on some series like Shojo Alps no Heiji (Heidi, Girl of the Alps) or Lupin III, for instance?
T: I was the editor for Heidi during the whole series. As for Lupin, I managed the production committee in which Miyazaki was working.
I: I see. I'd also like to know why you suddenly began to produce full length films.
T: Simply because I couldn't achieve any personal satisfaction with short length films. Besides, today, to produce a beautiful anime for TV is impossible, since the budget for one TV episode hasn't increased for the last ten years, in spite of the increase in price of production costs.
I: How much is the budget of an anime in Japan?
T: It depends a lot; between ¥100 and 800 million.
I: I seize this opportunity to ask you: to whom are your movies aimed?
T: To everyone, in general. I wish, nonetheless, to make clear that Omohide Poro Poro isn't suitable, of course, to the youngest; let's say you could watch it above 10 years.
I: Are your movies extracted from novels?
T: In general, I choose to produce adaptations of literary works. I often used to work on foreign works, already at the time when I was producing series. Hotaru no Haka is the adaptation of an autobiographical Japanese novel written by Nosaka AKUYUKI; but the book became famous only after the movie was out. With regard to Omohide Poro Poro, only some parts of the storyline come from a novel -- which was already more than ten years old.
I: Don't you think that Hotaru no Haka is a little sad for a child? I have not met yet someone who was not reduced to tears after having watching it.
T: I think that today we can hardly watch a natural death. For instance, people generally die in a hospital nowadays. I'd call it a scientific death. All I wished to find, beyond sadness, it is a straighter way to show things.
I: And, what about grown-ups? For a European person, it seems impossible to see grown-ups watching anime. The cultural barrier which separate each one from the other seems quite incommensurable. Could it be because they grew up, watching anime?
T: It is quite likely. In Japan, grown-ups very much like anime, especially since Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa (Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind), and they often take their children to watch them on week-ends, thus allowing the two generations to bring themselves together through entertainment. The average public is between 15 and 20, but, as I said, there are still more grown-ups since 1984.
I: Yes, I understand well the part that played the first big Miyazaki('s work) for every public. Of all Miyazaki's works, which one do the young Japanese like the most?
T: I think I can state positively that it is Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro), a movie every child in Japan really loves.
I: So do I. But I think I prefer the famous Tenku no Shiro Laputa (Castle in the Sky Laputa). What were your expectations in producing this movie? And where does its name come from?
T: The name of the island comes from Gulliver's Travels, the famous Swift work. Laputa was an island which was floating in the air and wasn't receiving sunshine because it was too evil -- which explains the negative connotation of its name which is derived from the word "bitch" ("puta" in Spanish, and "pute" in French). But the storyline was modified considerably and now has nothing to do with the original Laputa. Miyazaki and I worked to make a real adventure movie. Yet, nowadays, there is no uneducated country, because they all know the world's secrets. We decided not to do like Spielberg, i.e. to locate the world's secret beyond the earth, in the universe. We wanted to make a movie whose action takes place on earth, because it is our earth.
I: I also greatly admire Joe Hisaishi's music. His works are acknowledged outside the context of the movies for which he wrote the soundtracks.
T: Indeed, he wrote magnificent pieces of music. Come to that, I was the one who was in charge of putting them in the full length films. Before Nausicaa, he was composing "minimal music" -- a very different kind of music.
I: I never heard about it. What is it?
T: It is modern music, composed with a limited number of sounds which are repeated continually, from which comes the name. I'd have liked to have had such a talented composer for my movies.
I: But, at the beginning, all Studio Ghibli's movies were made profitable. It is very difficult to pay off such expensive anime in only one country.
T: It has only been since Majo no Takkyubin (Kiki's Delivery Service) that our productions have become profitable. None of the previous ones paid off, in spite of their great popularity -- unless we take into account the selling of derived products and rights, in which case, we can consider the balance positive.
I: With such a budget, you nonetheless have never used computer means to make the animation, have you?
T: No, everything was done manually.
I: In France, our national pride circulates the rumor that there could be a collaboration between Mr. Miyazaki and Jean Giraud (Moebius). What is the truth?
T: Surely, both men regard the other highly. However, at the present time, we have to exclude the hypothesis of any work in common for a simple reason: both have very strong personalities.
I: I understand; but on the other hand, were your works issued in foreign countries? For instance, we watched tapes from the American version (with 30 minutes cut) of Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa.
T: Yes, indeed. They showed me this version, as well. It is absolutely horrible! They did an enormous and aberrant censorship; they cut Hisaishi's pieces of music, without forgetting the changed dialogues. It was a great error of Studio Ghibli and we haven't given broadcast rights to foreign countries since; and we'll never again give such rights without an attentive examination of the condition beforehand. For that matter, the international rights for Nausicaa given to the U.S.A. will be over in 2 or 3 years. All these movies are grounded strongly in Japanese culture and are not conceived with an eye towards exportation. Censoring them is worse than betraying them. This festival constitutes the first public broadcasting in a foreign country and I have to admit that I am very surprised by the public's reaction. Anyway, we're still very afraid of how our products will be used in foreign countries.
I: Indeed, we know these problems. We try to obtain a better respect for Japanese anime, so as to maintain a level the nearest possible of the original work. Most certainly, this attempt is often hopeless, but we remain a dissenting voice.
T: [Here, Mr. Takahata begins to speak French] I... er... agree with what you're doing.
Then we had to part company: he had to rest to prepare himself for the hard events of the day after. But the next day, once again, as he promised, he talked to all the magazine's staff (that was there this time) and to myself (we ate breakfast together) to explain some of the reasons of his inspiration, fundamentally based on Japanese culture.
T: Here. This book contains the reproduction of a Twelth Century Japanese parchment. (He showed us a book containing the representation of a Japanese parchment which must be very long since each page represented a part of this parchment; thus, if they were torn out and placed side by side, we would have the entire linear parchment.) The original is made with two tubes around which are affixed the rolled parchment. Thus, the two tubes would be rolled by hand simultaneously so as to unthread the scenes. Thus, we have the first Japanese animated scene of history. On the other hand, the scenario is explained in ideograms at peculiar passages.
So the story took place: of an incendiary who is eventually found and punished by the Emperor. Stylistic effects are plentiful: movement in the reading direction or in the opposite one, the presence of the same character several times in the same scene to show his movement, the characterization of faces, all expressing different emotions (for these, the work was focused solely on manipulations of the effects of light and shade which was very elaborate)... It would be very difficult to explain everything, since we'd have to show you these documents to explain their plastic meaning... In a methodic way, thus revealing a pedagogical mind -- so much so that he took care to describe each scene and each detail which he talked with us about later -- he kept on turning the pages, helping us discover the document. His ostensible purpose was to make us understand that the style used nowadays in the anime industry did not date back to the discovery of Walt Disney, but longer ago. In this document, we recognized the strokes of the outlines which made the characters, cinematographic plans, and an idea of the (virtual) movements, thanks to only the reading direction.
T: The basis of such works have to be understood. They are mere scenes of everyday life, expressed in the slightest detail. This is an integral part of the Japanese culture, this is a very old translation. Moreover, please note the very expressive features of every face. You see, when I wanted to produce these full length films, no one thought that the subjects chosen could be done as an anime. They were wrong. The culture, the one which comes from our culture, explains for the most part all that we can find in anime nowadays. And, try to remember one thing, which counts the most: it is not the real, nor even the relationship with the real; it is only the line and the way of drawing.
- According to Olivier Cao, Philippe LHOSTE is "a head person among French otakus. A french otaku personality, if you will. He wrote many articles in many anime French fanzines, and even one in a Canadian anime fanzine -- namely, Protoculture Addicts; it was an article about anime in France -- and founded an anime APA [Amateur Press Association club] in France."
- Cedric Littardi, the interviewer, noted: "I acknowledge some time after that he reads French -- even if his conversation was a little limited -- and that he even translated some works on some French artists."
- It seems like France has filled these conditions since we have the rights to broadcast (this will be done next year) both Porco Rosso and Totoro.
- There is an Italian proverb that goes, "Translator, traitor" ("Traduttore, traditore," if my memory serves me). ;)