Years before animation was considered a serious film genre, it was mainly produced for children’s movies or television shows. This misconception widely shifted after Hayao Miyazaki entered the film industry. Born in Tokyo, Japan, Miyazaki did more than just make animation a respectable genre–he shattered preconceived notions that international movies, specifically those created out of Japan, could not be enjoyed and understood worldwide.
Most of Miyazaki’s movies include fantastical and out-of-the-ordinary plots filled with dragons, ghosts, and other otherworldly creatures. Yet, they center around common topics of friendship, family, love, and, most importantly, the devastating effects of war. This is because when Hayao was three, his native home of Tokyo was brutally firebombed during the World War. He had experienced firsthand the losses that war inevitably brings and therefore incorporated this into all of his films. One of his most famous examples is his disturbingly accurate portal of war in his 1988 film titled “Grave of the Fireflies.”
Miyazaki has won numerous Oscars for his works, some of which popularly include “Spirited Away,” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” and “Ponyo.” Yet, he refused to accept his award at the 2003 Oscars in silent protest of the American Invasion of Iraq. Despite his global success, Miyazaki stayed true to his pacifist and creative techniques that have endured centuries. Studio Ghibli, his animation company, still today produces world-renowned films. Hayao himself has announced his last film ever, titled “How Do You Live,” set to be finished in around three years.
There is no doubt that Hayao Miyazaki has changed animation forever. Not only has he opened the door for other Asian filmmakers, but he has also left an immovable impact on how we view war and its effects on humankind. Yet, his legacy leaves an important message: the ability of film to connect viewers from all around the world through common hardships which we all endure throughout our lives.