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Hayao Miyazaki

Ever since its release in 1999, Princess Mononoke, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, is easily my favorite, most influential, and most inspirational animated film. Before Mononoke, I had watched My Neighbor Totoro, and loved it, but did not have a concept of who created it. However, after seeing Mononoke, my awareness and appreciation of Miyazaki has grown immensely, such that he has surpassed Disney by leaps and bounds in my opinion of animated storytellers.
Hayao Miyazaki was born on January 5, 1941, in Tokyo, son of Katsuji Miyazaki, director of Miyazaki Airplane. His mother, who's name I cannot find, was treated for spinal tuberculosis, but died in 1955. Miyazaki says he learned to draw airplanes and battleships through his father's work, and gained his skeptical character from his mother. He attended Gakushuin University in Tokyo, a prestigious school that includes many Imperial Family members amongst its alumni. There he attained degrees in Economics and Political Science.
After college, he got a job at Toei Animation, where he worked as an in-between artist for the anime Watchdog Bow Wow. He lead a labor dispute that followed shortly after he was hired, and became the leader of their labor union. In 1965 he married a fellow animator, Akemi Ota, and had two sons, Goro, and Keisuke. Goro is now an animator, and Keisuke is a wood artist.
Hayao Miyazaki accomplished wide success in his earlier animating years, with hits such as My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service, as well as Castle in the Sky. The release of Princess Mononoke spread his name into American popular culture.
What has been so fascinating to me about his films is the ambiguity of the battle of good vs. evil. In the films I have seen, there is either not a clearly defined antagonist, or there is no antagonist at all. In Princess Mononoke, for instance, Lady Eboshi is the closest character to a villain, but she has redeeming qualities in the care she has for her people, and her generosity towards outcasts. This, I believe, gives us relief from the generalizations we see amongst most stories, and acknowledges the fact that there are very few absolutes in the world. Also, in many of his movies the protagonist is fairly pacifistic – to one degree or another – but still has a dark or conflicted side to them. Their philosophical leaning makes them more likeable to me, while the realism of their faults makes them more believable. Its his complex, character-driven plots, not to mention the beautiful animation itself, that makes his films so engaging to me.
Also, he as a person is very interesting to me because of his philosophies on the development of children. Answering a question in an interview about the violence in Princess Mononoke, comparing it to the more gentle My Neightbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service, he says that they've “made many films, which encourage children to be bright and hopeful. We've been making films to cheer them up and support them. But given the reality they encounter, that support is not enough. They instinctively understand the problems. Where is the world headed? Are humans doing the right thing? Unless we address those questions directly, our encouragement is useless because we are not addressing the real issues. So even though we had to step outside the boundaries of entertainment, we had to make this movie or forfeit the right to make any more.? His realism and understanding that children aren't entirely naïve to the world give me great respect for him not only as a professional animator, but as a human being.