While watching Hayao Miyazaki's final film The Wind Rises, I had flashbacks to every one of his films. When the credits rolled I had a single tear in my eye an when I left the theater, I noticed I wasn't the only one. One person was balling, much the way I did during Ponyo. Miyazaki hasn't always been a part of my life but, when he joined my life he made an everlasting impact.
The first Miyazaki film I saw was Princess Mononoke. The VHS case on that Blockbuster shelf is what drew me to this film. My dad agreed to rent it and that night we watched it as a family. It shocked my mother, enthralled my father, and it captured my imagination. Four years later, I saw Spirited Away on the big screen with my dad. After that, I watched every Miyazaki film I could get my hands on for the next four years. Then, Howl's Moving Castle hit DVD as I ran off to college. Bringing my love of Miyazki with me, I took Japanesse as my language course and named my second car Yakul. I spent my free time in the woods or in a room covered in painting of Kodamas sitting in trees. Miyazaki became a bonding point for me, and helped me make some excellent friends in college.
After, those friends moved on, one friend remained. The friend with the Kadoma room. It was with him that I drove an hour, in Yakul, to see Ponyo on the big screen in a small theater in a medium-sized village. What we saw was a deception of Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid that was larger than life. A love letter to hand drawn animation. Which is why I love him so much.
In a world that has been running away from hand drawn animation since Toy Story in 1995, Miyazaki has stuck it out the classic style, using CG sparsely in recent years, mostly only for background elements, and even then, it's quite rare. All of his characters are brilliantly animated by hand. Still, Miyazki's films contained less CG elements than Disney classics, Beauty and the Beast and Lion King. But, his hand drawn style does so much more than the last stand against the digital revolution. It's an artistic statement. It adds more emotion and depth to the characters and the world they inhabit. When he animates food cooking it makes you hungry. When he animates nature it creates a desire to be there with those characters and to live in their world. In a fully animated world there's so much to absorb, and his works deserve to be seen in theaters. Just watching the blades of grass sway in the breeze is a reminder of how much love goes into his films. When that much love is put in, the audience can feel it and therefore become more engrossed in the film. I should stop before this becomes a rant on how Miyazaki was robbed on multiple occasions by CG films at the Academy Awards. Honestly, he doesn't need the Oscars or the gold when he has millions of adoring fans.
As I watched Princess Mononoke today, I looked forward to sharing it with my daughter. Maybe, not Princess Mononoke at first, maybe Ponyo, and we'll work our way up from there. I'm happy to know I'm not the only one to love his films and I have this gut feeling that his work will be passed down for generations because his work is so beautiful and touching. There's something to relate to in everyone of his films and that makes it okay to cry when the end credits roll on The Wind Rises.