The easiest way to explain Hayao Miyazaki’s role in the anime industry is to compare him to the legendary Walt Disney in the West. I’m far from the first person to do this, but it does give you a general idea of the type of position he holds in the minds of anime fans. I think the comparison does do him a rather large disservice.

War Baby

Miyazaki was born right in the midst of the Second World War on January 5, 1941. His parents were pretty well off, but the early years of his life were characterized by constant evacuation to escape bombings. Although he was young, this clearly had quite an impact on his formative years.

As a child Miyazaki really wanted to be a mangaka, but apparently he sucked at drawing human figures, which is understandable given that figures are the hardest subject. So instead he drew mechanical things like airplanes. There’s a clear line between Miyazaki and the artists that came before. Legends such as Osamu Tezuka were an inspiration to him.

It’s All Politics

Despite his love of art and eventual obsession with animation in particular, Miyazaki completed university with qualifications in politics and economics, setting him squarely on the path to be a salaryman and perhaps successful businessman one day. Still, during this time he never stopped working in art, even joining the university manga club.

castle in the sky

Toei Infinity and Beyond

That was not to be. In 1963 Miyazaki got a job at the legendary Toei Animation – the same studio responsible for Cyborg 009, Mazinger Z, Devilman, Dragon Ball, and much, much more.

He started out as an “in between” artist. This is the person who creates the frames that go in between animation “key” frames to complete the illusion of motion. Eventually he rose to chief animator and he also met Isao Takahata. The two of them would go on to work together for the rest of their careers.

Miyazaki also published some manga under a pen name and started to really hone his craft under his mentor Yasuo Otsuka. He would stay with Toei until 1971. After this, he and Takahata were hired as directors at A-Pro. They worked on the Lupin the Third Part 1 title. After A-Pro, he move to Zuiyo Eizo, which is where he worked on Heidi, Girl of the Alps.

He would spend the next few years moving from studio to studio and project to project. Then in 1985, the magic finally happened.

The Ghibli Years

Miyazaki is best known for the studio that he founded with Takahata and two other colleagues named Tokuma and Suzuki. It was Studio Ghibli that arguably brought the anime industry to true global attention.

Miyazaki’s last feature film was released in 2013, after which he announced his retirement. Between those two points he created an incomparable series of films as director and had a hand in countless other classics. Today he’s still working on shorter pieces and manga, his first love and dream.

Sharing is caring!