“I’ve come to the point where I just can’t make a movie without addressing the problem of humanity as part of an ecosystem.”
– Hayao Miyazaki
Dear Hayao Miyazaki,
It all started one afternoon in my uncle’s room on a hot and humid summer day in The Bronx in 1999. My uncle popped Princess Mononoke (Mononoke Hime) in the VCR and my brother, cousin and I sat in awe for 134 minutes. Then I watched it again. And again. And again. I fell in love with Princess Mononoke that day, and concurrently with everything that you breathed life into.
Mononoke was different yet so familiar, like a story I knew I always needed to hear. There was violence, industrialization and humans juxtaposed against nature, spirits and gods. But it was all beautiful. I didn’t know who was bad and who was good. It was strange not knowing who to root for, especially at 12 years old. But then I realized that was the point. It’s rare in family films that the line isn’t distinct between the hero and the villain. Life isn’t black and white, and through your films you showed us and prepared children for the realities of the world.
After Mononoke, I devoured any and everything you made that I could get my hands on, from Porco Rosso, Spirited Away, Laputa: Castle in the Sky and much more. Totoro, Kiki and Nausicaä represent a lot of your recurring themes such as reverence for nature, highlighting independence and encouraging pacifism but depicted in such magical ways. Disney had female characters, some strong, some not. But you are constantly representing strong female characters in your work. They were not always likable, but always real, and I respect and admire you for that. That is what young girls and boys need to see.
You are one of the worlds greatest directors of animation and writers to grace this planet. Your films tickle my soul and you make the world a better place.
Thank you, Hayao Miyazaki.