Friday, December 18, 2015

Magic of Humanity: Examining Miyazaki


Proof that a casual stroll through the backwaters of YouTube can result in something more than rage and frustration.  I discovered a great,16-minute documentary spotlighting one of the masters of Japanese anime - Hayao Miyazaki.  For anyone not in the know, Miyazaki is the mastermind behind such phenomenal and well-known animated films as My Neighbor Tortoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away, among many more.  This little beauty gives a careful, almost loving analysis of his vision through the minute details of his many acclaimed works.  You can watch the whole thing down below, but just a few key points that I thought were critical for any budding animator or film maker to know:

  1. When designing a character, focus on “internal subtlety” over action or quirks. According to the video, Miyazaki eschews both the barren emotional landscape of most Western animation, and the cheap over-expressiveness endemic in modern anime in order to craft real, empathetic entities onscreen.  As a corollary, realize that the best creators are also the best observers of people.  
  2. Honestly, just focus on the character period.  Everything should center on your characters: what do they want?  What drives them?  What are their flaws?  And, most important of all, how have they grown by the end of their journey?  With good characters, the plot will take care of itself.  Also, Miyazaki wisely draws the distinction between a character’s wants, and his or her needs; learning to discern one from the other - and letting go of the former while embracing the latter - is often THE hallmark of growth.
  3. Never, EVER underestimate the primacy and power of mood.  Mood can change a landscape, making it feel much grander or smaller that you’d expect; or it can provide a subtle window into a character's thoughts, emotions, and state of mind.  Mood and feeling is extraordinarily difficult to peg down and communicate verbally (indeed, the distinction between a good writer and a bad one can often be made based on observing who is or isn’t so foolish as to undertake such a futile attempt) but that’s okay.  The inexplicability of emotions is what gives them their greatest impact.

There’s a lot to criticize in the presentation, but it’s still a fine window into one of animation’s most engaging minds.

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