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Miyazaki talks about the state of anime

Discussion in 'Film & Television' started by Steerpike, Jan 31, 2014.

  1. HUnewearl Shiro

    HUnewearl Shiro Scribe

    “Almost all Japanese animation is produced with hardly any basis taken from observing real people, you know.”

    Says the man who created a minibus made of a cat, and who can forget Spirited Away, where people are magically turned into pigs.

    I'm not a fan of his work to begin with, but I certainly disagree with him here. While I understand that in Japan, otaku is effectively an insult, that's exactly why I think this is going to alienate his fans. A lot of them ARE otaku, and for the creator of some of their favourite things to publicly insult them? It doesn't sit right.
  2. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    I live in Japan, most people know this, but I feel like I need to preface any commentary I have by saying I've been exposed to the culture here. Have I been exposed to anime as much as some other members here? No. But I have seen how people perceive otaku (roughly translated to "obsessive geek.") It's a word thrown around in Western culture a lot as a badge of honor, but in Japanese culture it still has some negative connotations as Miyazaki has used in the article. It is used positively here, but often the same way fans in Western culture may call themselves geeks or nerds.

    Otaku are kind of viewed as people out of touch with reality. Miyazaki I believe was well known for his intricacies and details in his movies. I remember being amazed the first time I saw Totoro and seeing all the little subtle things he does with character motions. You can tell he observed people a lot and was interested in human emotions.

    Does this detachment from reality hurt anime? I'm not sure since as I said, I'm not a huge fan of it. There are ones I love like Akira and the Ghibli films, but I can't say there are a lot of recent ones I've fallen in love with. I think most Western people would assume that if I live in Japan I absolutely love anime and manga. I do like it, but no, I don't go out of my way to watch it most of the time.

    However, as far as writing compelling stories, I do think a detachment from reality can restrict writers of any kind of medium. It's funny to me when I hear of people learning Japanese almost exclusively from anime and then when they try to use it in real life, Japanese look at them like they're crazy. I mean I admire trying to learn a language, but that would be like learning English from Saturday morning cartoons. That could be part of the sort of insular culture of having its own slang and such.

    In any case, I'm interested to hear the view of people who watch anime more widely than me. My perspective is more about my exposure to the culture and less about actually watching anime.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2014
  3. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

    I really think he was talking about the way people act and their motivations are portrayed in anime and, to be honest, the guy has a point.
  4. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    I'm not sure he's talking about content, but just the way characters approach these situations. I'd say in Totoro and Spirited Away these fantastical moments are viewed with awe and wonder, a natural human emotion, while in some other anime, they would be viewed as commonplace and not receive any special attention. I'm not sure if that is what he's getting at, but I do think his movies have a more human connection (loss of ones parents, sickness, etc.)


    I don't see him losing any fans over this. Older people in Japan (as in most countries) are both respected and viewed as curmudgeons, where "back in my day" is an appropriate response. I do think some anime creators may take his criticism as "yeah, maybe that's true" but would still not likely change their approach to creating their own anime. I don't know, it feels like if Walt Disney was criticizing Looney Tunes or something.
  5. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    I find it significant that he started by talking about how women in anime look and move. A lot of anime (and not just recent anime) seems focused on the plot, by which I mean

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  6. HUnewearl Shiro

    HUnewearl Shiro Scribe

    That to me though, just shows that there are different genres. Sure, he does things a certain way. But others do them in different ways. He focuses more on "realism" while others focus more on... I guess abstract is the word I'm looking for? It just feels kind of like Monet saying Picasso sucks because his work is different. Because the content is different, the reactions within would obviously be different. That's one of the things I like about anime, it doesn't have to be tied purely to reality.

    I don't so much mean other people in the industry, but fans in general. A lot of people look up to him, a lot of people are huge fans of everything he does. He craps platinum to them. But with this, he's basically coming out and saying those same people who love his work are socially-retarded idiots. And even though he's discussing the animation itself rather than the stories, it still strikes me as hypocritical because he uses a lot of fantastical characters and art forms that couldn't have been made by "observing real people".
  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    Yeah. Whether there are also nonhuman or magical elements isn't relevant.
  8. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    I have some self-proclaimed otaku students so I'll ask them what they think about this for reference. I suspect they wouldn't find it insulting because they know they're otaku. Otaku is not so strong a word as "socially-retarded idiot."

    I think his fantastical creatures actually have a lot of human or animalistic qualities to them though. Porco Rosso is a good example of character who is fantastical, but still acts very much human (because he's cursed). Even his fantastical creatures I think behave in human ways. Spirited Away is a good example of this as well. I remember the hot spring scene really standing out to me as being extremely realistic despite all the fantastical things happening.

    I do agree that there are lots of different ways to create anime. It would be boring if it was all the same. However, I do think a lot of anime focuses on fan service or looking cool at the expense of story or characters. Is this a bad thing? No, I guess not, but I can see why Miyazaki might lament that his way of thinking seems to be in the minority.
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  9. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    I'm not an expert on amine by any means. I had a girlfriend who was really into it, and I watched a lot of it at that time, and frankly I thought most of it was pretty bad. Much, though not all, of the reasons why get to things Miyazaki is talking about.

    I like everything Miyazaki has put out, and more recently I like Mamoru Hosoda. There have been some other really good works I've come across as well. With Miyazaki, it's not just about the better character development compared to most of what I've seen (which he has), but it is also about the drawing and animation. Numerous times I've seen some gesture or action and thought "Hey, that's pretty observant. I've seen my kids or others do that same thing." It adds a lot to the film to capture all these little details that may seem insignificant alone.

    Again, I'm no expert on anime so I can only base my comments on what I've seen first hand, and based on what I've seen I'm in agreement with Miyazaki.
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  10. Lunaairis

    Lunaairis Sage

    I believe he is talking about that you can't just draw from memory. You need to reference reality into your animations. Or else things don't move believably. Or aren't drawn believably. Which is a problem with a lot of anime cause either things don't move realistically or the drawing are too out of proportions, flat(even though its 2d doesnt mean you are allowed to draw flat, you need to always be thinking of the kind of shapes that make up the character) or lack any acting. (Think about characters in anime, who say they are sad but their face looks happy or just lacking expression.)

    He isn't the only animator to say you need to look at the world. Any great animator will say the exact same thing. If you we're to go to an animation studio and watch the animators, you will always see that the better animators are up and about acting out the scene they are animating to get the moves and poses right. While the ones who get a lot of revision are sitting in chairs redo their scene for the something-th time still no we're near the quality of the better animators. The better animators will also cover their work station with reference photos, they may even have a screen showing a video of people doing the motion.

    Also plot and animaton are two different things. Just cause you don't like the story doesn't mean the animaton is bad. Good animaton is more in the acting , the way the character moves, the timing of how the character goes from pose to pose and lastly the total appeal of the drawings and characters.

    But you you know. I'm just an animation student and everything which is said in this article is exactly what I'm being taught.
  11. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

    Miyazaki has made this complaint before--I think in the NYer profile--and he's right, but his complaint about otaku is shorthand for a much larger problem that affects anime and CGI-fest movies alike. The otakun (?) demand for increasingly crazy spectacle in the latter forces them to defy the laws of physics and biology, whereas his films--all of which I've seen--depend entirely on physics and biology, and it's the identifiable physics and biology that let us as human relate to his characters while, say, the giant robots in the Transformer movies are cold, useless hunks of metal. They are boring. Yes, he made a cat bus, but what made it work is that it was somehow both cat and bus at the same time. Yes, he made a cat who dresses dapperly and a pigman who could fly, but they were almost more human for it because he paid attention not to the spectacle of the cat or pig but to the simple questions of, for instance, How would such a creature get around? And his magic works because it's usually only a small deviation from otherwise normal surroundings, whereas, well, half of Nick Cage's movies, which want the effects to carry a movie the script can't.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2014
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  12. In other words: character over spectacle.
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  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    You nailed it.
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  14. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

    It's probably worth noting, as well, that otaku culture has a tendency to be a bit... misogynistic? Perhaps too strong a word, but it's one dominated by men who enjoy the occasional panty shots and making love interests out of underage girls. It's by otaku, for otaku; which translates to 'by men, for men' in most cases. Whereas Miyazaki is a noted feminist who writes films about and for young women and girls. Plus, the prevalence and glorification of violence in a lot of mainstream anime likely clashes a bit with his strong pacifism.

    Not saying his main point is wrong, either, but I imagine he's got a lot of reasons to dislike an otaku-dominated industry that made him come across as strong on this one, you know?
  15. acapes

    acapes Sage


    New to the site and the thread, but to get on topic :) I remember seeing Miyazaki berating the staff a bit in a featurette included on the 'From Up on Poppy Hill' DVD about how some of the characters' legs weren't moving realistically when they walk? Hope I remember that right.

    Hard for me to say whether he's spot on - as I don't watch a lot of series and I wonder if that's where a lot of his comments are directed? (I watch more films than series). Last one I really enjoyed was Neon Genesis, not sure how it stacks up compared to say Death Note or newer series?
  16. librarianm1488

    librarianm1488 Acolyte

    I'm so glad somebody pointed this out. As a huge otaku myself, I am not offended by Miyazaki's insults simply for the reason that his version of anime is not the same as other versions of anime. It's kind of like traditional fantasy taking a hit at urban fantasy. They're just totally different. And I'm kind of glad for that too. Miyazaki's works are fantastic but they are different from the other anime out there. I love having the variety and not all anime is bad. I've come across some great series that I watched multiple times because they were just THAT good.
  17. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    I believe what Miyazaki means is that aspiring anime/manga artists should start out drawing from life and studying real human anatomy. Right now, lots of newbie artists in my generation or younger set out to draw in an anime-like style without a firm grasp on these basic skills. Of course, it doesn't help that anime's simplified art style looks deceptively easy to draw compared with more detailed and "realistic" styles.

    Personally I am not all that enamored with anime, even Miyazaki's. I gravitate more towards Western animation. Though artistically speaking, the distinction between these can sometimes get blurred...

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