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Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation Paperback – September 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

Director Hayao Miyazaki ranks among the most interesting and original figures currently working in world animation. His charming children's films My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service enjoy a rapidly growing audience in the U.S., and his brilliant Princess Mononoke, which broke box-office records in Japan, was released theatrically in the U.S. in November of 1999. Although storybook adaptations and a few Japanese volumes about individual films have appeared in the U.S., a major study of his work in English is long overdue. Miyazaki's many fans will enjoy Helen McCarthy's Hiyao Miyazaki and Mark Schilling's Princess Mononoke: The Art and Making of Japan's Most Popular Film of All Time, but neither is fully satisfactory.

McCarthy, who has written extensively about anime, offers an overview of the artist's career in animation and manga. She discusses each film in detail, with character descriptions and plot synopses, but she writes as a fan (rather than a critic or historian), and her text overflows with superlatives. Miyazaki is an exceptionally talented director, and his work merits a more discerning evaluation. McCarthy is also surprisingly careless about details: the ill-fated Japanese-American collaboration, Little Nemo, was in the works far longer than six years; and she describes the boar-god Nago in Mononoke as being wounded by a "ball of stone" when it's a actually an iron bullet. The latter may seem like nitpicking, but the hero's search for the source of the iron sets the plot of the film in motion. Finally, like Schilling's Princess Mononoke, Hiyao Miyazaki would have benefited from more careful proofreading; for example, McCarthy misspells the name of animation giant Winsor McCay. The extensive, but by no means complete, bibliography is a useful resource. --Charles Solomon


"It is good at last to have a book in English about this master of film." -Roger Ebert -- -Roger Ebert

"It is good at last to have a book in English about this master of film." -Roger Ebert -- Review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Stone Bridge Press (September 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1880656418
  • ISBN-13: 978-1880656419
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Helen McCarthy (1951- ) has been researching and writing about Japanese popular culture since 1981. After a decade hearing that there was "no interest in that sort of thing" she founded a magazine, Anime UK, to disprove the claim. Her first book was published just over a year later, and she's been writing about anime, manga and Japan ever since. Her work has been translated into Chinese, French, Italian and Korean.

In 2010 she won a Harvey Award - the Oscars of the comics world - for her tenth book, 'The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga'. The book was also nominated for an Eisner Award. Helen's other awards include a Japan Foundation Award for furthering understanding of Japanese culture in the United Kingdom, and a Society of Authors/Sasakawa Foundation award.

She designs needlework, which led to the creation of "Manga Cross-Stitch", a book for those who want to use the energy of Japanese popular culture in their own embroidery. Combining a basic cross stitch course and a potted history of manga with a toolkit for designers and a wealth of fresh, enjoyable, easy-to-stitch charts, it has been welcomed by a host of stitchers.

She also writes poetry and tweets haiku and random nonsense daily. In her spare time, she studies and re-creates historic clothing and costume. She lives in London with an artist and a universe of toys.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 55 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book provides a detailed look at the theatrical films made by Hayao Miyazaki (in Ms. McCarthy's assessment, the "Kurosawa of animation", director of such masterpieces as _Nausicaa of the valley of the wind_, _Laputa: the castle in the sky_, _My neighbor Totoro_, _Kiki's delivery service_, _Porco Rosso_, and _Princess Mononoke_).
After an introductory chapter giving a brief biography of Hayao Miyazaki and an overview of how animation is done, the book devotes a chapter to each of Miyazaki's films (those listed above, plus his _Lupin III: the castle of Cagliostro_).
Each chapter describes the context in which the film was made, and has sections describing the major characters, giving a detailed summary of the plot, and concluding with a critical assessment, placing the work in the context of Miyazaki's other films.
A concluding chapter talks about merchandising.
The book includes an extensive bibliography and filmography listing Miyazaki's written, drawn, and animated works.
Along the way, one learns about aspects of Japanese culture that shed new light on scenes in Miyazaki's works (e.g., in Japanese culture, cutting one's hair is a statement that one is committed to a path that may end in one's death --- which illuminates scenes in _Mononoke_, _Laputa_, and the Nausicaa manga; lost little Mei in _Totoro_ is sitting by idols dedicated to a god who protects small children, sending a subliminal message to _Totoro_'s Japanese viewers). Fans of Miyazaki's manga works will be a bit disappointed that they are given short shrift in this book (the title says *animation*, after all). Fans will also find a thing here and there to quibble about, but nothing really significant.
There are many illustrations.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Kiki on November 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
Although I appreciated Helen McCarthy's inside information from interviews and her filmography list, I found her analysis of these films very superficial. In short, I feel that any avid fan of Miyazaki could have written this book: it is simply a collection of facts and, as the other negative reviewer said, gushing about the films. There is no in-depth, intellectual engagement with Miyazaki's work.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Zack Davisson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
"Hayao Miyazaki : Master of Japanese Animation" is an OK book, and stands out only in the "beggars can't be choosers" world of English books about Miyazaki. Helen McCarthy deserves praise for getting this book out in the first place, and it is certainly not terrible.
The book is full of justifiable praise for Miyazaki, and is clearly intended to be a fan book rather than a critical analysis of his films. Each film gets its own chapter, with a heavily detailed plot synopsis of each film (completely unnecessary to those who have actually seen the films) making up the bulk of the book. Lists of characters and character backgrounds are also included. There are several blatant factual/story errors in her interpretation, which makes me think a better editor might have been useful.
There is some attempt at critical analysis, and it is appreciated, but more depth would have been better. There is a touch of history about Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, and a smap of detail about animation technology, but not enough to provide any real insight or background. I cannot say that I came away from this book with a deeper appreciation of his films.
As a fan book, it is strangely lacking in pictures and rare information. Photographs of interesting Ghibli products would have been appreciated, or rare character sketches or anything that cannot be gleaned from the films themselves. In many ways, that is its main failing. If you have the movies, there is no need for this book.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 29, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
McCarthy has done us all movie lovers a great favor by filling this "first" book on Miyazaki with perceptive critical insights, generous illustrations, up-to-date news, and fascinating behind-the-making tidbits in a very eye-catching and reader-friendly edition. It is both an ideal intro for a new visitor just entering Miyazaki Universe, and an indispensible guide for a long-time fan like myself, who not only finds the book a fun read but also a fine study into the depths and richness of an artistic genius' work that I've treasured for years. For those millions of people out there who still haven't experienced Miyazaki, I envy you guys of "the magical first time" you're about to have. Go catch the movies and the book now!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Stacy Livitsanis on May 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
As the first English-language study of one of the most (I'm using superlatives already) important figures in Japanese animation, Helen McCarthy's book is long overdue and an indispensable addition to the literature on anime. Other books have been written covering the field, (Antonia Levi's Samurai from Outer Space for one) but none have focused on a single artist.
McCarthy, unabashedly writing as a very enthusiastic fan, details Miyazaki's career and his seven major films from Lupin III: Cagliostro no Shiro (The Castle of Cagliostro) in 1980, to Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke), the most successful Japanese film of all time, released in 1997. While not as comprehensive of all his works as a true otaku might expect there is still much to admire here, not least being the genuine delight McCarthy takes in describing the sheer joy of seeing Miyazaki's films. Some may suggest that this leaves little room for harsher criticism or detached discernment (we rarely spend much time exposing the flaws of our favourite artists) but when the works under discussion are Miyazaki's, superlatives seem inadequate. I am as dumbstruck by the sheer talent of the man as McCarthy and equally keen to praise his films as highly as possible.
For any serious fan of anime it is a given that you will want this book. Hopefully it will help raise more awareness of Miyazaki's films (and manga) in the West. And if you think McCarthy hasn't done a good job, do as she suggests and write your own book. It would be difficult to run out of things to say.
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