There’s a good chance that you’re already a Hayao Miyazaki fan if you clicked on this article and we’re sure that at some point you’ve had to defend the beauty of his work to someone who just didn’t understand it. The art of animation can often be lumped into a larger group or dismissed as just another bunch of cartoons, but fans of Miyazaki’s work know it’s on it’s own very special level. This video essay – The Essence of Humanity by Lewis Bond on his Channel Criswell – just might be the perfect defense and explanation for those who doesn’t understand.
Among the many things Bond is keen to point out about something that makes Miyazaki’s work so special is its attention to the smallest, humanizing details and the focus on emotion. We see characters slip, fall, and sincerely react to the world around them. These additions set this work apart from most other animation that usually cuts to plot point action. These subtle actions be it a slip around a corner or the way a child would hug someone lends more to the audience seeing the character as a person and therefore a stronger analog for whatever they’re going through.
The emotional aspects to the characters are even more important where no character is simply all good or all bad. The best good guys and the worst baddies are all usually shown to have both condemning and redeeming qualities. The protagonist is of course our hero but we’ll see jealousy, anger, and rage. While villains, as the evil as they may be, show tenderness, remorse and vulnerability. No one is all good or all bad and this balance of realistic morality grounds the characters further with the audience.
Miyazaki’s characters never just change 100%. Their flaws often remain but they’ve in some way learned from what they’ve been through. Their flaws – like ours – can be compared to carvings in a tree. They’ll always be there in some form but the important thing is that the characters (and we the audience) make it a point to continue to grow.
For the sake of keeping this relatively short – as we could endlessly wax poetic about the emotional impact of animation – we’ll end it here with the appreciation of the work of Miyazaki and the beautiful video essay by Channel Criswell.
What are your favorite parts of the video? Did it open your eyes to something new about Miyazaki’s work? Let us know in the comments below.
Image: Studio Ghibli
TagsChannel Criswell, hayao miyazaki, Lewis Bond, Miyazaki, studio ghibli, The Essence of Humanity
It’s been an interesting year. Tracing through all the feature films of Studio Ghibli has been both fun and somewhat exhausting, which partly explains the six months I went on hiatus. I mean, I was taking off April and May because of my wedding and honeymoon, but then June, July, August, and September managed to slide past too.
Anycase, I finished what I started!
I watched the following twenty films:
And wrote about 38,000 words combined about these films, which is more than enough to fill a book. Though it’s been a lot of work, it’s been joyful work.
I love these films. I love this studio. I love these filmmakers.
So it’s with deep sadness that I say goodbye to it all. Some of these films hold a lot of my heart and brain and life. I’ve loved them so long, seen them so many times, and felt them burrowing deeper into me.
So why did I choose to only discuss these twenty films? Studio Ghibli’s done quite a bit more than just this. There are so many short films I could have discussed. There’s the film that was only made for television or the video game or the anime that I could have spent time discussing. I could have gone backwards and discussedNausicaa of the Valley of the Windor any number of pre-Ghibli films that led to its founding.
And I don’t really have a good answer. I chose the films because they’re the ones I’m most attached to. Much as I love Nausicaa, and especially the manga of the same name, I just decided to focus purely on the things Studio Ghibli is most known for. Which is maybe selling it short, but it felt like the most thematically cohesive thing to do.
And it was important to me to do that this year, since I believed it was the last year of their existence.