Cole Delaney of Any-mation takes us through an exploration of what is so unique about Miyazaki's work—digging, layer by layer, down into the very driving force behind his incredible body of work.
hayao miyazaki

To quote the man himself, “Many of my movies have strong female leads; brave, self-sufficient girls that don't think twice about fighting for what they believe with all their heart. They’ll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a savior. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man.”

Through his animation company founded in 1985,
Studio Ghibli, he has presented to the world movies dealing with environmentalism, friendship, love, family, Japanese culture and history, war, and all the emotions good and bad in the human condition.
 

What is also lush and beautiful about Miyazaki films is the music. Longtime collaborator Mamoru Fujisawa aka Joe Hisaishi1 has scored Studio Ghibli films for over 37 years. His musical scores are as much a part of the film viewing as the animation and storyline. That said, the other vootie thing about Hisaishi’s music is that you can listen to it separately: Whole film soundtracks are soothing and relaxing.

Of Miyazaki’s films that resonate with me the most are the ones concerning the environment. From the revelation of spirits in

nature in My Neighbor Totoro and Ponyo to the destruction and rebirth of a toxic land caused by human war in Nausicaä Valley of Wind; from the unchecked greed and spiritual vacuum in Spirited Away, to the misguided environmental destruction in Princess Mononoke. All are reminders that a balance between the human world and the natural world must be found for the benefit of both—with visually stunning messages crafted through the genius of Hayao Miyazaki.

 

If you have the chance to view a Miyazaki film, do.

1 When Mamoru started to become more well known, he decided to use a stage name. One of his musical inspirations is American musician Quincy Jones. In Japanese Kanji, “Quincy” can be written as “Hisaishi” and “Joe” comes from Jones.

 

IF THIS THEN...

» Joe Hisaishi & 25 years of Studio Ghibli Concert
» Wolfwalkers

» Iron Giant
» Tokyo Godfathers

» My Life as a Zucchini

» Persepolis

» A Cat in Paris

» The Triplets of Belleville

» Iye Loves Life veganizes Studio Ghibli food!

overstory_cover.jpg
The Overstory
BY RICHARD POWERS

The beauty of The Overstory is its ability to tell nine narratives, but the focus and main character is actually trees. This book is basically about trees. Richard Powers is a gifted author with the talent to write a protagonist whose indirectness affects and influences the nine characters and their perspectives.

To begin, I recommend a physical copy of the book for two reasons. (1) In order to feel closer to the protagonist, a tree’s copy is lovely. A tree’s copy is a natural version with a natural way of reading. Yes, I may be biased and against digital books. Whatuvit? (2) There is an abundance of underlining-worthy sentences for pondering further and referencing again at a later date and taking analog notes in the margins of a tree copy is always better.

The nine narratives begin separately, and you may wonder what the deal is with these individual storylines and what the point is, and you may even at some point want to quit reading because at this moment in time you didn’t sign up for short stories, you wanted a novel with actual plot. BUT DON’T QUIT READING. The narratives eventually begin to connect, and the characters

intermingle, and plot develops, and lives become at risk and it’s all for the love of trees. If you are in the mood for short stories, then the first section of the book is excellent, and you will become captivated by each character and the desire for more will befall you.

Overall, after reading, you are left with more appreciation for the world that we live in and on, for we are intruders of nature with a great lack of respect for it and the human hubris is killing our ability to cohabitate naturally. It will remind you how much we are affected by our environment, even in unforeseen ways. Trees can stand outside of our lives but are forces of unspoken inspiration. After consumption, a desire to be outside amongst the trees will enchant you and your perspective will perhaps change forever. It will entice you to be in a natural headspace rather than a digital one.

This is a book for a more relaxed read, so take your time. Many cups of tea and the shade from a tree are awaiting the company of its thought-provoking words. Awareness and self-growth are nearing.


Trees fall with spectacular crashes. But planting is silent and growth is invisible.

IF THIS THEN...
» Walden by Henry David Thoreau
» The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
» Richard Powers website
» His new book, Bewilderment, which is (from what I understand) another love letter to nature and how humans are horrible at relationships with it

Hilda BY LUKE PEARSON

This may be a case of The Office—where whichever series you watched first (the British or American one) is the best version. It's the British one, btw. But I think this is different... ?

I came to know of Hilda from the 2018-2019 Netflix series (and later the 2021 movie and Netflix finale). As a graphic designer, I immediately swooned over the color palette: a consistent brand of soothing renewed retro. It's absolutely stunning. After watching the entire series in one evening, I was hooked and ordering the original graphic novel set.

Hilda's connection to the land and animals (which are otherworldly) is nurturing, confident, and protective. She lives her life as part of the natural world, not like most humans watching nature like a TV show (ironically). Her cohorts in warm, fuzzy-hearted adventures are her mom (supportive, trusting, and encouraging), Frida the over-achiever and David the anxious hesitator (her city besties), and Alfur the elf and Twig the deer-fox (her nature pals). It's a playscape I made believe (in my own version) as a child.

Luke Pearson, who created both the graphic novels and the Netflix series (and was a storyboarder for Adventure Time) did something that rarely happens. He made the TV series even better than the graphic novels and tie-in storybooks. They are very much one in the same, except he upgraded the Netflix series with tiny details beyond the way the cast looks. As if he jumped at the opportunity to do that one last thing he wish he did before it went to print. That being said, I think these would make great bedtime stories with your kiddos (or for yourself).

IF THIS THEN...

» Bee and Puppycat

» Gravity Falls

» Summer Camp Island

» Bluey