英語で紹介する日本文化U                       2009109

Lesson 2: Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation : Films, Themes, Artistry 1

(Citation from Helen McCarthy, Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation: Films, Themes, Artistry, Stone Bridge Press, revised edition 2002)


Miyazaki’s Life and career


Hayao Miyazaki was born into a well-to-do family living on the outskirts(郊外) of Tokyo in January 1941. His father, Katsuji, who was then twenty-six years old, was a director of the family firm, Miyazaki Airplane. Headed by Katsuji’s elder brother, the company was active in the war(戦時) effort(動員), making parts for Zero fighters. The war had an early impact on the young Hayao's lifehe was three years old when the family was evacuated(疎開する) to safer districts, and he started school as an evacuee(疎開民) in 1947. It was another three years before the Miyazakis moved back to their old hometown, and then he changed schools again after only a year, moving to one of Japan’s brand-new, American-influenced elementary schools.


But the biggest impact was probably the long illness of his mother, which commenced(始まる) in the same year he started school. She was a woman of very strong character and intellectual interests. Although he says that he cannot trace his parents’ influences on him, and that as a teenager he consciously sought to find his own path rather than follow his family’s, the legacy(名残) of her powerful personality lives on in his work. His youngest brother once commented that the determined(決然とした), no()-nonsense(丈な) character of Ma Dola in Castle in the Sky reminded him of their mother.


Mrs. Miyazaki suffered from spinal(脊椎) tuberculosis(結核). She was bedridden(寝たきり) from 1947, two years after the birth of her fourth child, to 1955. The first few years of her illness were spent largely in the hospital, but she was able to be nursed at home thereafter and lived to old age. Despite her absence from home and her long illness, she played a huge part in forming her son’s view of the world.


Like many children in postwar Japan, the youngster decided he wanted to become a comic artist while in high school. His abilities at that time were limitedhe couldn't draw people well, having (like war babies all over Europe) only drawn planes, tanks, and battle-ships for years. It was an exciting time to be a young comic reader in Japan, and there was plenty of encouragement and inspiration. The teenage Osamu Tezuka had leapt to comic stardom(スターの地位) in 1947 with his seminal(影響力の強い) manga New Treasure Island and started a powerful wave of enthusiasm. Established artists began to try new styles and techniques, and throughout the fifties there was an increase in comics consumption.   


Like comics, animation enjoyed a peacetime renaissance(復興). The experimentation(実験的な環境) of the early years of the century had brought Japanese animators into contact with their Western counterparts. Interrupted by war, this contact was now resumed with the active encouragement of the occupying American authorities, and Japan’s animation industry once again began to produce entertainment for the cinema audience rather than overt(公然とした) war propaganda. From the 1960s this mass entertainment included material for the new medium of television.


Miyazaki's youthful interest in animation was kindled(火をつける) by the first Japanese color animated feature, Taiji Yabushitd’s Legend of the White Serpent. He had been considering a career as a manga author, a path that he was not to reject entirely.


It seemed his career path was moving away from the arts when he entered Gakushuin University, a prestigious(名声ある) institution with imperial connections, to study political science and economics. His final-year thesis was on the theory of Japanese industry. He could easily have been another pioneer of Japan’s economic revival, but he wanted to find his own path in life and his interest in graphic entertainment and its possibilities was still strong. Among the many clubs and societies on offer at the university was a children’s literature research society, which he joined. The group read children's books and comics, including many European texts. When he left the university in 1963, he did not take up an academic post or a business opportunity. Instead he joined Toei-Animation, the animation studio of the Toei Company, moved into an apartment near the studio, and after three months training did his first professional work.


My Neighbor Totoro


The dominant image of the movie is the largest Totoro, called O-Totoro (King Totoro) in Japanese and Big Totoro in the existing(現存の) U.S. release. There are elements of a number of creatures of nature and folklore(民間伝承) in its make-up. It is related to the tanuki, the Japanese raccoon, with its playful(遊び好きな) spirit and magical powers. There are also links to the owlits round eyes, its arrow-marked chest, and its hooting(フクロウの鳴き声) song, which was rescored(楽譜を書きなおす) by composer Joe Hisaishi onto the film soundtrack, played on the ocarina. The cat, long credited(〜の性質を持つ) with(と考えられる) shape-shining ability in Japanese legend, lent some genes to the Totoros and their companion the Catbus. Lewis Carroll, creator of Alice in Wonderland, threw some elements into the mix for boththe ability to vanish at will and the huge, infectious(伝わりやすい) grin(笑顔). Many adult Tororo lovers also find that Big Totoro's comforting(慰めを与える) bulk(大きさ) and warm, uncritical nature bring back delightful memories of their favorite childhood teddy bear.


With My Neighbor Totoro, more than any other of his works, Miyazaki is his own   strongest influence. Reaching back into his youthful memories, he accessed both the most painful and the most joyous portions of childhood. He also paid homage(敬意) to some of his favorite scenes from children’s literature. Little Mei’s fall down the tunnel in the camphor(クスノ) tree() into Totoro's nest is another homage to Lewis Carroll. The two rides in the Catbus strongly reminded me of C. S. Lewis's description of Susan and Lucy's ride through Narnia on Aslan’s back in The() Lion(), the() Witch() and() the() Wardrobe(). I can never see the sisters swaying(揺さぶる) happily on the fur-covered seats with the rhythm of the Catbus’s twelve-legged stride without thinking of Lewis’s passionate evocation(呼び覚ますこと) of rough(もじゃもじゃした) fur and soft footfalls(猫の) padding(肉級) through the blossoming(成熟した) glory of summer woods. Yet the magic that suffuses(いっぱいにする) Narnia is different, more a subversion(破壊) of nature than a celebration of it. Mei and Satsuki are not a pair of princesses riding on the back of Christ in a neo()-(ディ)Dionysian(オニソス派) post()-()sacrificial(犠的な) celebration; they are a pair of ordinary children on a bus ride to see their mother and go home again. Miyazaki’s magic does not need to take us into a hidden kingdom to show us wonder.


Lewis placed religion at the heart of his created universe; My Neighbor Totoro's plot deliberately sidelines(脇におく) religion in favor of nature. Because it’s set in Japan, the trappings(装飾) of rural religious tradition are clearly visible, but as far as the plot is concerned, they’re decorative, not functional. Miyazaki uses religious iconography(図像) to send one clear signal, which will be lost on most American audiences: when Mei is lost, she sits at the feet of a row of statues. They are dedicated to a traditional Japanese deity() who protects children, and this sends a subliminal(暗示的な) message to the audience that she will be safe. Elsewhere in the movie are roadside shrines to which the characters pay the respect that good manners and tradition demand. There are statues of foxes and protective deities, Shinto shrine gates, and ritual() cords of() rice straw() and paper() streamers() around the trunk of the camphor tree, but none of this affects Totoro and the Catbus or the daily life of the forest creatures. Religion is a human construct and has nothing to do with nature. Nature spirits live outside it, creatures of simple goodwill who mean no harm.

Though nature and its spirits can express themselves in hurricanes and howling(吠える) winds, the struggle and spite(苛立ち) of human society are unknown to them, and the natural cycle of life and death is essentially a cycle of goodwill. No harm will come to our two heroines in the forest’s sunlit(日が差す) glades(森の中の空き地) and mysterious shadows. They may be afraid sometimes when they glimpse the power and majesty around them, but it is the scale of the power itself they fear. They know instinctively that nature has no malice.


Like Satsuki's and Mei's childhood, the delicate balance of forest and farmland cannot last. The adult in the audience knows that in few more years Tokyo will swamp(圧倒する) the small fields and quiet lanes(路地), while the(大人) child(の中) in() the(ある子供) adult(の部分) is glad that Miyazaki has kept them alive and beautiful, giving us, whatever happens to our world, the key to the door into summer(青春).