Starting Point: 1979-1996 Hardcover – Aug 4 2009
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About the Author
Hayao Miyazaki is the prominent director of many popular animated feature films. He is also the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, the award-winning Japanese animation studio and production company behind worldwide hits such as PRINCESS MONONOKE, HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE and SPIRITED AWAY.
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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.
That easily is the best reason of why to buy this book. Covering the sursprisingly amount of 500 pages, Starting Point (in a beatiful edition by Viz Media) icludes not only all the essays and commentaries written by Miyazaki between 1979 and 1996, but also integrates a lot of skecthes, cartoons and rare drawings of the famous director. Not only that, but the biggest catch of the book is discovering that Miyazaki, as what it is (a genius), it's also a complex individual and a likeable writer. His opinions included in this book, cover a wide variety of topics: the history of Japan, animation principles, evolution of the anime industry, his personal life, opinions of society, ecology, war and even life.
Starting Point is a provoking and complex read. The opinions of Miyazaki may come as overly extreme or controversial, but in his broad vision of the world is clear that he makes his animated movies with passion and care for the children (which are his intended audience). Viz Media deserves a price for this hardcover edition, the design and quality is top-notch and includes a brief, but insightful introduction by John Lasseter and an Afterword, by the also amazing director, Isao Takahata -from Grave of the Fireflies fame-.
A recommended read by fans of anime, animation or Studio Ghibli and a must-buy by animation students.
The first section of the book is "On Creating Animation." It includes twelve pieces Miyazaki wrote that talk about his thoughts on what animation is, how animation is created, how to draw movements, his thoughts on scenarios, and his thoughts on the workplace for animators. Next is "On the Periphery of the Work," which includes seventeen different pieces. Here, Miyazaki talks about his thoughts on Dave Fleischer, his thoughts on Fantastic Planet, his thoughts on two student shorts that he viewed, his thoughts on period dramas, his thoughts on The Man Who Planted Trees, his thoughts on the first war in Iraq, the type of film he'd like to create, his theories on the popularity of manga, and his thoughts on environmental issues.
The next section is "People," in which Miyazaki shares anecdotes and thoughts about people he has known both in his personal life and in his professional life. This is followed by "A Story in Color," which is eight pages of a kind of manga telling of the history of in-flight meals.
"My Favorite Things" includes a few drawings from Miyazaki's scrapbook. The first few pages have been translated into English. However, there is a second copy of two of the pieces that include Miyazaki's original text in his handwriting. I personally thought this was a nice touch. This is followed by a couple of pieces by Miyazaki about his car and the Takei Sanseido stationary store. "Planning Notes; Directorial Memoranda" include a proposal to acquire the film rights to Richard Corben's Rowlf, press release material for Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the original proposal for Castle in the Sky, the project plan and a directorial memo for My Neighbor Totoro, a piece about Kiki's Delivery Service, a couple of proposals for projects that were never produced, a directorial memo for Porco Rosso, a piece about Whisper of the Heart, and a planning memo for Princess Mononoke.
The next section is "Works," and it includes Miyazaki talking about some of the projects he had worked on: Lupin III, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Future Boy Conan, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Panda! Go Panda!, and "On Your Mark." The biographical chronology starts with Miyazaki's birth in 1941, and ends with the opening of the Ponyo exhibit at the Ghibli Museum in 2009.
I personally found this book to be rather fascinating; however, it is not something I would consider to be "light reading." I really enjoyed being able to see a bit of who Hayao Miyazaki is through the pieces and interviews included in the book. I also liked getting to see some of the production notes for Miyazaki's works that I have seen. Probably the hardest part of the book for me to get through was the section talking about Future Boy Conan, because it's one of the few Miyazaki works addressed in this book that I have not personally had a chance to see.
I think the readers who would get the most out of this book are those who like Hayao Miyazaki and his works. If you're a fan of Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli, this book would be worth adding to your anime book library.
I wrote this review after reading a copy of this book that my husband gave to me as a gift.
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