Sunday Snippet: Hayao Miyazaki

“Personally, I was never more passionate about manga than when preparing for my college entrance exams. It’s a period of life when young people appear to have a great deal of freedom, but are in many ways actually oppressed. Just when they find themselves powerfully attracted to members of opposite sex, they have to really crack the books. To escape from this depressing situation, they often find themselves wishing they could live in a world of their own – a world they can say is truly theirs, a world unknown even to their parents.

“To young people, anime is something they incorporate into this private world. I often refer to this feeling as one yearning for a lost world. It’s a sense that although you may currently be living in a world of constraints, if you were free from those constraints, you would be able to do all sorts of things. And it’s that feeling, I believe, that makes mid-teens so passionate about anime.”

Aside from some Dragon Ball Z and the odd movie here and there, I never really got into anime as a kid. I never really followed any of the series and it wouldn’t be entirely fair to say that I follow any of them today either. I did get into Naruto and Initial D for a time, and they both offered an entirely different kind of escapism to help get my mind off of work and school. But as far as anime movies go, there are few that can rival the creations of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.

Most of us are familiar with the more iconic works, like My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away, but there are some other films that are also worthy of your attention, like those I recently highlighted with my Studio Ghibli movie reviews. Not unlike other legendary figures Walt Disney and Shigeru Miyamoto, Hayao Miyazaki has always had an incredible artistic vision. He’s captured our imaginations time and time again, and as he illustrates in the quote above, he’s been able to free us from worldly constraints as a result.

As young children, we are faced with a near infinite world of possibilities. When you’re a mere tot, the dream of becoming a firefighter, professional ballet dancer or Hollywood movie star is very real. As we get older, it can feel like this sense of endless possibility starts to shrink and dwindle. If you don’t get noticed by college scouts, the chances of you making it as a professional basketball player start to slip away.

As you approach the age of an older adult, the likelihood that you’ll go back to school to become a brain surgeon starts to fade away. It’s not impossible, but it’s not as possible as when you had those dreams and ambitions as a young child.

The more decisions that you make, the more it starts to feel like you are casting aside other possibilities. You could be making great progress, but you could also be constraining yourself even further. And that’s why we look to manga, anime and other forms of entertainment as a means of escape. If only vicariously via the characters on the screen, we can live out some of these alternate realities. You can start feeling like you are “able to do all sorts of things.”

Children innocently approach the world with a grand sense of wonder, curiosity and enthusiasm. Nothing is impossible, because everything is possible. As adults, there’s no reason we can’t have the same kind of passion and imagination. And we can thank Hayao Miyazaki for reminding us of this important lesson.

Who knows? You might indeed meet a gigantic cat with a tiny umbrella one day. And he could help you grow a bunch of trees in a matter of moments.