There’s a good chance that you’re already a Hayao Miyazaki fan if you clicked on this article and we’re sure that at some point you’ve had to defend the beauty of his work to someone who just didn’t understand it. The art of animation can often be lumped into a larger group or dismissed as just another bunch of cartoons, but fans of Miyazaki’s work know it’s on it’s own very special level. This video essay – The Essence of Humanity by Lewis Bond on his Channel Criswell – just might be the perfect defense and explanation for those who doesn’t understand.
Among the many things Bond is keen to point out about something that makes Miyazaki’s work so special is its attention to the smallest, humanizing details and the focus on emotion. We see characters slip, fall, and sincerely react to the world around them. These additions set this work apart from most other animation that usually cuts to plot point action. These subtle actions be it a slip around a corner or the way a child would hug someone lends more to the audience seeing the character as a person and therefore a stronger analog for whatever they’re going through.
The emotional aspects to the characters are even more important where no character is simply all good or all bad. The best good guys and the worst baddies are all usually shown to have both condemning and redeeming qualities. The protagonist is of course our hero but we’ll see jealousy, anger, and rage. While villains, as the evil as they may be, show tenderness, remorse and vulnerability. No one is all good or all bad and this balance of realistic morality grounds the characters further with the audience.
Miyazaki’s characters never just change 100%. Their flaws often remain but they’ve in some way learned from what they’ve been through. Their flaws – like ours – can be compared to carvings in a tree. They’ll always be there in some form but the important thing is that the characters (and we the audience) make it a point to continue to grow.
For the sake of keeping this relatively short – as we could endlessly wax poetic about the emotional impact of animation – we’ll end it here with the appreciation of the work of Miyazaki and the beautiful video essay by Channel Criswell.
What are your favorite parts of the video? Did it open your eyes to something new about Miyazaki’s work? Let us know in the comments below.
Image: Studio Ghibli