Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation
by Tom Mes
The first English-language publication on the life and work of Japanese animation's leading light, Helen McCarthy's tome on Hayao Miyazaki was written and published before the global triumph of Spirited Away and is ripe for rediscovery. Written in a nicely accessible style that is neither too highbrow nor too populist, McCarthy has delivered a book that can be enjoyed by fans and professionals alike.
Divided into chapters dealing with each of Miyazaki's major films (starting with 1979's Castle of Cagliostro and ending with Princess Mononoke), his youth and ascent up the animation ladder (including an informative and welcome subchapter on the making of a Japanese animation film), and on assorted info such as merchandising and distribution, it packs in just about everything one could wish to know about Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Though the extensive and detailed plot summaries of each film may be of interest to few but the die-hard fans (the chapters for each film work fine even if you skip these summaries), the wealth of information and details on Miyazaki, particularly the exhaustive filmography/bibliography, will be of great value to all types of readers.
Though McCarthy's admiration for her subject is clear throughout (negative comments about a particular film merit a brief mention at most), this tone of praise fits rather well with the author's intention for the book, which is to provide an introduction to Miyazaki's work, rather than a definitive study. McCarthy aims high, leaving the other writers she so anxiously wishes to see emerge on the subject of Miyazaki to fill in the nuances. With the artist's work already the subject for numerous graduation theses, no doubt other books will follow in the future. One thing is for sure, Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation will remain the seminal publication in the study of the animator's work. A wonderful accomplishment indeed.