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Starting Point, 1979-1996 Paperback – April 8, 2014
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About the Author
Hayao Miyazaki is one of Japan's most beloved animation directors. In 2005 he was awarded the Venice International Film Festival's Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement, and his Studio Ghibli received the festival's Osella Award for overall achievement in 2004. Miyazaki's films include Spirited Away, winner of the 2002 Academy Award® for Best Animated Feature Film, as well as Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, and Ponyo, all of which have received great acclaim in the U.S. Miyazaki's other achievements include the highly regarded manga series Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Starting Point: 1979-1996, a collection of essays, interviews, and memoirs that chronicle his early career and the development of his theories of animation. Both are published in English by VIZ Media.
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The only thing that saddens me is I thought the book would be filled with sketches and animations. But it isn't. It's mainly essays from animators. Which is great because the animators go into such detail about animation styles, how Miyasaki inspired them, how he inspired Disney, what makes a good animator, struggles, etc...it's so so so detailed. It's truly a treasure.
The book, which is nearly 500 pages long, has been divided into several parts and includes a foreword by John Lasseter (director of Toy Story) and an afterword by Isao Takahata (director of Grave of the Fireflies). The first part, entitled "On Creating Animation" is perhaps the most technical part of the book. Even though many of Miyazaki's thoughts on animation and film techniques were a bit over my head, I still enjoyed reading those chapters and thinking about them. Miyazaki's writing style is simple enough that I didn't feel swept away by too much jargon or overly-technical terms. For filmmakers and those interested in how animation works, this part of the book will be fascinating. The second part, called "On The Periphery of the Work" was similar to the previous section in that it contained chapters about animation techniques. However, Miyazaki mainly writes about his thoughts on various animated films. He also includes some very short essays like "The Tokyo I Love" that almost feel like journal entries. Part three, "People", is full of essays about individuals who have helped, inspired, and even irritated Miyazaki. Two of my favorites are "I Left Raising Our Children To My Wife" and "My Old Man's Back." These are both very vulnerable essays about some of the people closest to Miyazaki, and reading them almost brought tears to my eyes.
"A Story in Color" and part of "My Favorite Things" give the reader a short break from the text with a comic and some illustrations. "Dining in Midair" is a charming and sometimes amusing comic about the history of in-flight dining. Scrapbooks No. 1 - 3 in the beginning of "My Favorite Things" display some pictures of flying machines, tanks, and cars, and also a very short illustrated story called "I Want A Garden Like This." Then we are back to more essays for the remaining part of "Favorite Things." My favorite essay in this section is "My Random Thoughts Notebook Is My Hobby." This one made me laugh because I expected it to be an essay about Miyazaki's random thoughts notebook. However, it was simply a piece full of disjointed thoughts, memories, and observations.
"Planning Notes; Directorial Memoranda" was a nice inclusion and the directorial memos were fun to read. For those who want more details about some of their favorite Miyazaki films like Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, and Princess Mononoke, this section is for them. Although the memos are fairly short, I found them fascinating and enjoyable. However, for those who really want depth and insight into their favorite films, "Works" is the part to flip to. This section has a lot of information on Miyazaki's earlier works, like Lupin III, Future Boy Conan, and Panda! Go Panda! I had not heard of any of these before reading the book, but reading the chapter on Lupin was what convinced me to watch the film Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro, which was excellent. "Works" also has quite a few extensive chapters on Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbor Totoro, and Castle in the Sky. Miyazaki focuses on Nausicaä especially in several chapters, one of my favorites being an interview titled "Nature Is Both Generous and Ferocious."
All in all, this book was excellent and I am very pleased to have it in my library. I have heard rumors that Viz Media might be publishing Miyazaki's later book Turning Point: 1997 - 2008 soon, and I hope that is the case. Much as I enjoyed this book, I would love to read more about Miyazaki's later works like Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Ponyo. In the meantime, I plan to read this book over and over again, and I encourage anyone interested in Miyazaki's works (or even just interested in film and animation) to pick up a copy.
Having read it cover-to-cover, it is probably better to start by reading chapters on topics of interest, then going back and for the rest. I found the first 70 pages unrewarding, and nearly gave up before reaching the "good stuff".