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The Late Works of Hayao Miyazaki: A Critical Study 2004-2013

af Dani Cavallaro

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189972,654 (3.71)7
"Once a favorite of mainly art house audiences, Hayao Miyazaki's films have enjoyed increasing exposure in the West since his Spirited Away won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003. The award signaled a turning point for Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, bringing his films prominence in the media and driving their distribution in multiple formats"--… (mere)
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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Miyazaki has been a favorite of animation fans ever since they could get their hands on his works from Japan. Bootlegs circulated for a long time, but mainly stayed in the animation world, given that the films were very different than what American audiences were used to. But in the early 2000’s, thanks to John Lasseter and Disney, all US audiences were introduced to Miyazaki’s masterpieces, beginning with Spirited Away, which won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003. This book explores the 2004-2013 period of Miyazaki’s career looking closely at six feature films he contributed to, including three that he directed.

Cavallaro explores these “last” six films from Miyazaki’s talented career as viewed through an academic perspective. Last is used in quotations, because although he has announced his retirement he continues to keep working to this day. Cavallaro does a good job of highlighting the themes seen in these films, all of which were released under the Studio Ghibli logo, which is Miyazaki’s creative home. And while she does a decent job of talking about these films I had several issues with this work.

The biggest issue for me, and the one many others have pointed out, is that she uses so much academic jargon that what she’s trying to say often gets lost in trying to figure out what the words mean. Even among an academic audience this is sure to lose some readers. Not to mention the fact that this would be a book many fans of Miyazaki would have enjoyed if the language wasn’t so academic in nature.

The second biggest issue for me, is that it seems strange to only focus on the “later” works of Miyazaki, as from my perspective he hasn’t had different periods like other filmmakers have. That’s not to say Miyazaki sprung forth whole making the movies we know and love, but more that the bulk of his career with Studio Ghibli can be looked at as a collective. Miyazaki’s films feature the same central tenants of strong female characters, a compelling story that often looks at natural and historical themes. This isn’t something reflected only in his later years, but all of them.

In addition, she also neglects that these themes that she mentions are less Miyazaki and more that Studio Ghibli in general operates under these themes. The studio was founded upon shared principles of the same collaborative beliefs and these themes that the films look at, even the ones Miyazaki didn’t direct, fit into the overall look and pattern of the Studio.

While these concerns detract from the book, the overall information and analysis is useful for any fan of Miyazaki. I would hope that a sequel, or prequel as the case may be, comes out that focuses on Miyazaki’s earlier works, and takes some of these concerns into account.

Review Copy provided by LibraryThing Early Reviews ( )
  zzshupinga | Sep 25, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I became a fan of Hayao Miyazki’s films after seeing Howl’s Moving Castle and was delighted when I won a copy of The Late Works of Hayao Miyazaki from LibraryThing. I started the book with high hopes, as Miyazaki’s works are ripe for serious critical examination; sadly, I soon discovered that whatever small points the author was trying to make about the films were buried in overwritten and largely meaningless sentences. Not recommended.
  amanda4242 | Jun 29, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Late Works of Hayao Miyazaki doesn't have much of a thesis, either on the whole or within any of its seven chapters, a fact its author tries to disguise with pretentious vocabulary, convoluted sentence structure, passive constructions, overuse of adjectives, and excess verbiage. Here's a representative example, chosen by opening to a random page:

"When anthropomorphism joins hands with paedomorphism, a preference for infantile forms held capable of kindling protective instincts, most adult viewers feel not only able to decipher the character's expression, and read its mind: they also assume that such a cute creature is bound to be vulnerable and simple-minded, and hence feel entitled to regard themselves as superior to it."

This sentence says very little, and could have said it better in 30 percent fewer words. In fact, peel back the extraneous language, and what you're left with is 181 pages summarizing six recent Ghibli films and several shorts. Potential readers would be better served by reading the copy on the back of the Blu-ray packages. Unless you're a glutton for poorly written punishment, give this one a miss.
  Trismegistus | May 3, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I wish I could recommend this ER book to a wider audience, but The Late Works of Hayao Miyazaki is really only for Miyazaki enthusiasts, and even that group needs to be ready for an obfuscatory academic writing style. What saves the book is the enthusiasm of author Dani Cavallaro and some interesting insights and background facts sprinkled along the reading path.

Miyazaki was the artistic force behind animated films like Spirited Away (which won the Academy Award) and My Neighbor Totoro. It was almost worth the price of the book (well, it was free) to get the forgotten (by me) Voltaire quote that she gives at the outset: "It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets." Miyazaki is a well-known pacifist, and anti-war themes repeatedly crop up in his movies. The author has some interesting discussions about that, particularly in connection with his movies Howl's Moving Castle and The Wind Rises. She also provides some fun anecdotes, like this one, from the director of the English version, about Lauren Bacall voicing the cigar-smoking Witch of the Waste in "Howl's Moving Castle": "We were a little bit scared before she came in . . . 'Oh, I don't know if she's going to appreciate being the voice of this blobby, fat, kind of disgusting character.' So we tried to explain to her a little before we went in that her character is maybe a little despicable. And she said, "Dahling, I was born to play despicable."

Those who appreciate Miyazaki's artistry and attention to detail in his films will understand his retirement comment that what has mattered most to him is "animating a cut that barely even matters, drawing the wind well, doing the water well, and making sure the light shines right."

Miyazaki declared The Wind Rises his last feature film because of his age. The author provides a good discussion of that movie's basis in the real life of Jiro Horikoshi, famed designer of Japan's Zero war planes used in World War II. Horikoshi was an engineer enthralled with the challenge of designing a sleek, fast airplane, but like his Italian counterpart Giovanni Caproni, knew his creation would end up being used for further killing in the war. This tension between a decent person's career based on his love of flight, and the purpose to which his work is put, makes for an ambitious and engaging final film. The author fairly presents Miyazaki's goal of "stimulating thought, instead of dishing out precooked morals."

The book also gives us glimpses of short films on view at the Studio Ghibli museum in Japan, and the good news that Miyazaki will be devoting himself to creating more such short films in the coming years, even as he lets go of feature film-making.

Mainly because of the unfortunate writing style (e.g. "Howl's intensification of the more serious facets of Miyazaki's vision is brought home not only by the film's sustained critique of ideological and political evils, but also by its exposure of hypocrisy and deceit within the microcosm of the family"), this one gets two and a half stars. ( )
  jnwelch | Apr 30, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
"I am an animator. I feel like I'm the manager of an animation cinema factory. I am not an executive. I'm rather like a foreman, like the boss of a team of craftsmen. That is the spirit of how I work." [Hayao Miyazaki]

The above quote opens A Critical Study, 2004-2013 [[The Late Works of Hayao Miyazaki]] by [Dani Cavallaro].


The quote is an appropriate choice by the author to top the preface of her survey of the last decade of output by this creative genius, who announced his retirement following his most recent feature [[The Wind Rises]], as it gets to both his humble nature and the collaborative process that all film-making involves. Following the preface and a chapter summarizing Hayao Miyazaki's career-to-date Cavallaro, who previously wrote about the director and his films in [[The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki]], examines six films in chronological order with a chapter devoted to each. All of the films were produced by Studio Ghibili, which is the creative home of Hayao Miyazaki as well as director [Isao Takahata] and producer [Toshio Suzuki], with Miyazaki directing three of the films [Howl's Moving Castle], [Ponyo] and [The Wind Rises] and contributing creatively to the the other three as a writer and producer on [Tales from Earthsea], [The Secret World of Arrietty] and [From Up On Poppy Hill]. Cavallaro does a good job in highlighting the common themes across all the films, regardless of whether Miyazaki directed them or not, highlighting the contemplative aspects of this creative elder statesman in the last decade of his career, which she analogizes to [Shakespeare] and his later works such as [[The Tempest]].



Cavallaro gives the reader much to think about with the deep-dive she takes on each film highlighting the complexity in theme and characterization that Miyazaki brings to all of them. All characters are given shades of gray, so none are purely good or evil, and Miyazaki works in his themes about creativity, individuality, and the environment in ways that provoke thought and contemplation in the viewer.

Some concerns that I have and that I have found reflected by others online are part and parcel with Cavallaro's approach. At times the language is so academic and dense that it obfuscates or even obliterates the point the author is trying to make. While the bibliography is extensive the author's approach to citation appears to be her own and not particularly helpful. A complaint that was leveled about "The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki" was over the total lack of illustrative images which is again the case here. The lack of images is less of an issue with the feature films than with detailed asides the author has on shorts that Miyazaki created that are only available for viewing at the Studio Ghibli museum. Since these are not available for viewing it would have been a great help to have images from these shorts and also some indication how the author was able to view them.

Other than those mentioned caveats I would recommend this book to anyone who had a serious appreciation for Hayao Miyazaki and wanted to explore some of the themes at play in his work.

This was book 19 in the 75 Book Challenge for 2015 and the first I have received as a Library Thing Early Reviewer. ( )
  ralphcoviello | Apr 25, 2015 |
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"Once a favorite of mainly art house audiences, Hayao Miyazaki's films have enjoyed increasing exposure in the West since his Spirited Away won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003. The award signaled a turning point for Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, bringing his films prominence in the media and driving their distribution in multiple formats"--

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