So I might as well get my confession over with. I’m a fan of Hayao Miyazaki, and he is one of the sources I go to when I need to recharge my creative battery. I could go overboard writing about his body of work. Instead, I will mention one more of his animated features before moving on to the works of two other animators in upcoming posts.
I found Princess Mononoke to be an interesting and sometimes visually disturbing story. Aside from depicted decapitations and dismemberments, this illustrious director once again combined spiritual and ecological themes. In support of this, Miyazaki (as usual) really gets sky, wind, motion, and landscape right, and they seem to become subtle characters in his story. Combined with excellent sound (another consistent trait), these features helped to achieve an atmospheric feel conducive to the aforementioned themes. Throw in some complicated and nuanced characters, and you have some of the essential elements of good storytelling.
What stayed with me most, however, was the great forest spirit (or nightwalker). This was, for me, a truly interesting visual conception, and I liked the redemptive and restorative aspects of this character. It truly elevated the plot. Getting back to the idea of recharging my own creative battery, this is the kind of artistic product I like to view (or read) because it stimulates my imagination for the kinds of stories I myself want to write.
Hayao Miyazaki is not only a brilliant animator but also an ingenius creator of new mythologies. Many of his animated features exhibit wonderful imagination and originality in this regard. A common device which he uses very effectively is anachronism, the combining of elements from different periods of history and prehistory.
Take, for example, Ponyo from 2008. It superimposes images of Devonian fishes and invertebrates on those of a more modern Japan. These serve as effective symbols of his ecological theme. Of course there is the mythological element as well. The title character is the daughter of a sea goddess (Granmamere) and a scientist/wizard (Fujimoto), and the ecological and spiritual themes are interwoven.
This story is a wonderful and beautifully drawn reinvention of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. It is made more endearing by the truly touching portrayal of friendship between Ponyo and a little boy (Sosuke) to whom she becomes devoted. The supernatural love story aspect of the movie employs an element from many ancient mythologies: relationships between divine and mortal characters.
Next week, I will take a look at one more animated feature from this celebrated director.