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The purpose of this blog is to explain the basics of art and culture to English language learners in secondary school in Slovakia. This is not for profit. If you look to your right, you'll see a long list of topics that I plan to cover. This is a large project that will most likely take years to complete, covering some topics I know little about (like dance), so I will be borrowing heavily from other experts, with their permission, giving credit wherever possible. Please be patient, and, of course, all advice is greatly appreciated.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Biography of Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki (1941-)

ü      Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese film director, producer, screenwriter, animator, author, and manga artist.

ü      He helped found the famous Studio Ghibli, which has produced many famous anime films, including My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle, Nausicaä, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and his last film, The Wind Rises, released in 2014.

ü      While some of these films, such as Princess Mononoke, include digital technologies and colouring, Miyazaki prefers traditional drawing and watercolours, and has gone back to this practice in his latest films.

ü      Miyazaki has won three Japanese academy awards, two American academy awards (one honorary, and also two nominations), and was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe. Miyazaki refused to attend the ceremony when Spirited Away won an academy award, because America was bombing Iraq.

ü      Many of Miyazaki's characters and designs are on display at the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo.

ü      Miyazaki has also drawn many manga comics, including Puss in Boots, People of the Desert, The Journey of Shuna, and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

ü      Miyazaki has been critical of the current state of manga in Japan, blaming otaku. Otaku means many things in Japanese, but is used in slang to mean a geek, an obsessed fan of manga, who's out of touch with reality. He says, "Great anime and manga are produced by observing real people in action. That is not the case today because the industry is full of otaku."

ü      Hayao's son, Gorō Miyazaki, is also an anime director, with two films: Tales from Earthsea, and From Up on Poppy Hill.


1.      Most of Miyazaki’s films focus on mankind’s relationship with nature and technology, emphasizing that technology comes at a price. The pollution we produce causes permanent changes to the environment that can make us sick, and has other unforeseeable consequences, which we will have to live with.

2.      His films also focus on the horrors of war, at a level that parents can find acceptable to children, yet without glorifying or glossing over its ugly side.

3.      Many of Miyazaki’s films don’t have a villain. There may be an antagonist, with a different world view than the hero, but they are not all bad, showing that many problems come not from evil, but from ignorance. Many of his characters are misguided, and have the wrong priorities.

4.      Miyazaki creates coming-of-age stories. The heroes are children who must overcome some challenge, solving a problem, and facing stressful emotional situations. Many of these young heroes can fly, or learn to, symbolizing their future potential and the good side of life – that there’s reason for hope.

Personal Life:

Miyazaki was born in Tokyo, and grew up during WWII. His father was an airplane designer and factory owner. As a four-year-old, Hayao remembers his family fleeing an air raid that burned down his town. Although his family survived the war, his mother suffered from spinal tuberculosis, and was bedridden until 1955.

As a child, Miyazaki developed a love of manga, copying his favorite artists. At university, he studied economics and political science, while continuing his interest in drawing.

Miyazaki began working in animation in 1963. In 1965 he married Akemi Ota. They had two sons, Gorō and Keisuke. His first feature film, Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro, was produced in 1979. This was followed by many more, making him famous and well-loved in Japan. But it wasn’t until 1997 that he gained fame in America, when Miramax (owned by Disney) bought and distributed his films, starting with Princess Mononoke. It won a Japanese academy award, and his next film Spirited Away, won academy awards in Japan and the US.

After 50 years of work in animation, Miyazaki has officially retired from the industry, but still plans to continue some smaller projects, including a short film, Boro the Caterpillar, and a new manga series about a samurai warrior.

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