Capturing the Wind: Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata Before Studio Ghibli

Up until recently I had given panels at my local anime convention, a run of about five years from 2015–2019. My most successful panel, and one I gave for three years in a row because of the evergreen content, was Capturing the Wind: Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata Before Studio Ghibli. Obviously it was a popular event for an hour of time and witnessing Studio Ghibli panels from the past and noticing the audience turnout, I knew I had to do one, yet I had to do it my own way within the framework of my definition of ‘classic anime’. Reason being, talking about anime from the 1980s, let alone the 1960s and 1970s can be a very niche category. Most fans are younger than me, or have a frame of reference that is the most zeitgeist of properties available. By the way I was born in 1979 in case you want to do the math. That being said, how do I do a panel discussing the work of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, two men I respect, within the confines of my focus of study?

CtW_1And then it happened… of course, talk about their work before Studio Ghibli’s foundation. These two gentlemen cut their teeth on a lot of movies and television series, all of this before the year of 1985, the year of Studio Ghibli’s birth. I had my content! Of course I focused on their major projects, mostly when they had the directors chair, because I could run a laundry list of doing key animation for this one episode of this series, or assists with whatever task was available for that movie. Ten productions would make the cut, each with video clip, but for here it will all be in the written word. Studio Ghibli fans, who is here to learn and experience some lost, or perhaps not so lost if one has familiarity, treasures of the careers of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata? Don’t be surprised that what you love about the work of these two gentlemen also shows up in their earlier works as well; good habits and styles never change once they solidify.

Beginning with directorial debuts for a feature film, then leading to initial collaborative efforts, I would continue with two final categories: television work, because we often equate Miyazaki and Takahata with their cinematic presence and finally a quartet of final projects from the early 1980s that directly preceded the founding of Studio Ghibli. I will not explain in detail each of the productions here, but with link them to my other posts where you can read more in depth on each particular production. Of course this panel only covered what I had seen at that particular moment. Even now I am still filling in gaps by watching other anime not available at the time where I could have had opportunities to showcase more material. But then again I only had one hour and what I had to work with was enough of a fun show.

Here were the following anime that I focused on for the panel Capturing the Wind: Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata Before Studio Ghibli:

My initial goal was to showcase to Studio Ghibli fans that the names of Miyazaki and Takahata go well beyond the familiar movies we have watched time and time again. Did I succeed? I think so, but now that legacy can live here online and reach a wider audience. Of course there are a couple more anime that I wish I could have included, but at the time I had no access to the show or movie, Heidi: Girl of the Alps being the best example (watching that one now!). If you love Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, their collective work at Studio Ghibli is only the beginning to a world of many treasures which featured their creative talents. Before capturing the wind of Ghibli, we can witness the emerging portraits of these two artists as young men… a little nod to you James Joyce 🙂

CtW_2Many a thank you to the work you both did. We love you!

1984… 35 Years (and counting) of Love / A Film Trifecta

1984… ‘Anime’s Golden Summer of Love’. And let me say first and foremost, that this statement is my personal opinion. I am of course paying homage to the famed ‘Summer of Love’ from 1967 that was the high point of the hippie counterculture. An idealistic paradise of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll during an era of intensity and danger. The anime version that I am putting a label on is nothing like 1967, but was a year of ‘Love’ in more ways than one. I was a five year old living in the U.S. during 1984, so I don’t have first hand knowledge of what actually happened in Japan. What I do know is that 1984 could be a serious contender for being a tipping point year in anime. And this is was all down to three beautiful and classic films.

The stars must have been aligned a certain way for a year that featured the directing talents of Noboru Ishiguro with Shoji Kawamori, Mamoru Oshii and Hayao Miyazaki. Three plus one geniuses in terms of animation, story telling and visual presentation. A couple dozen productions made their way into theaters in 1984, but the three movies that these gentlemen directed perhaps… stole the show. One was a reimagining of a popular romantic mecha science fiction TV series, one was a sequel to a film that was part of a long running screwball comedy and the third was an adaptation to an original manga that rocketed it’s creator into superstardom. Funnily enough, only one of the films was released in the summer time, but we are taking this as a collective metaphor.

Let’s start in February of 1984, February 11 to be exact. Oh wow, personal bias… that’s my birthday. This was the release date of Mamoru Oshii’s entry, Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer. Urusei Yatsura was Rumiko Takahashi’s first huge success and with the successful TV series and manga, films began to follow. The second is the topic of this discussion and it would be the first time that Mamoru Oshii would show his more signature approach to crafting a movie. While Urusei Yatsura was known for high school slapstick silliness, Beautiful Dreamer would show something else. Oshii’s use of the surreal, odd angles, subtlety, lighting and the sublime would be interjected into the project creating something different from the usual Urusei Yatsura fare. These approaches would eventually become his calling cards, but they began to show there potentialities with Beautiful Dreamer.

March 11, 1984. A popular manga from an anime veteran would see release into theaters. This was the work of the now famous Hayao Miyazaki and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind would be his second time behind the directors chair for a film. Miyazaki’s tale of a young heroine passionate for making the world a beautiful and peaceful place struck a chord with audiences and in a BIG way. Nausicaä’s messages of environmentalism and compassion took sci-fi and fantasy down to earth literally. In an era of far out grand space epics, we are thrust to return to our immediate surroundings and confront the issues plaguing in front of us: reconnecting with and preserving nature, witnessing the corruption of power and greed and standing up for what is true and moral that is within our hearts. The film’s success would give us one of Miyazaki’s most beloved characters with Nausicaä, who would become a benchmark for many of his later creations. Miyazaki’s success and growing popularity from Nausicaä would lead him with his partner in crime, Isao Takahata, to found their famed Studio Ghibli.

We now come to summer, July in fact. Debuting on July 7 would be our final film, The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love… say that three times fast. Macross was a huge hit on TV for being an amalgam of everything otaku related at the time. Mixing aliens, space opera and mecha with tenderness, romance and beautiful character designs (hooray for Haruhiko Mikimoto!), Macross would reach a large fan base and encapsulated the height of passionate sci-fi idealism of the era. A reinterpreted film would show it’s hand in 1984 bringing the characters back to life yet again after the now defunct TV series left the air. This would be an alternate retelling and helming the directors chairs would be two men, series director and long time industry veteran Noboru Ishiguro and mecha designer/sci-fi fan Shoji Kawamori. Together they resurrected the giant Macross ship for another voyage that left fans, including me, jaw dropped and spellbound.

Of course 1984 was so much more than these three films and in the future I will include a more in depth focus for the year as a whole, but these three movies are something special. This ‘Summer of Love’ came to me because of the fact for the title of the Macross film; an exercise of putting two and two together. But pondering on this title I thought ‘Love’ could stand for a labor of love. All three of these films were created during the analog era of painted cel animation, “Look mom no hands computers.” All three of these films are a testament to the sweat and effort during that era as these productions were well crafted, painstakingly detailed and hold up in terms of quality today. These are three films that I love (one more than the other two because I am an uber fan of Macross) and treasure and I hope that you do as well.

My Favorite Anime Movies from the 1980s

I am usually not one for Top 10 listings to be honest. It’s all subjective and a matter of opinion. Why limit the variety of beautiful things in the world to a select number? Still making a list can be a good exercise and I decided to do this in regards to the animated films Japan created during the 1980s. To be fair, I am going to make two listings here. Why? Many of my favorite choices are a bit on the rare, or esoteric side of the fence and many of the better known, or easier to obtain films deserve a voice as well.

For my favorite listing I will use the following criteria… first, it has to be a film that I genuinely love and am proud to stand up for, anytime and anywhere… second, the movie has to be one that I replay and, or think about often. That’s IT! Keep it simple. For the second listing I will include as many of the films from the 80s that left an impact on me. Now on with the show…

I hope some of these resonate with you and by all means… list your favorites.

 

My 12 Favorites

(in alphabetical order)

ae-ud

Angel’s Egg (1985)
A visual poem that is dark, gothic, symbolic, mysterious and directed Mamoru Oshii. A true piece of fine art that belongs in a museum. To learn more click here.


aomy_4

Arcadia of My Youth (1982)
Captain Harlock on the big screen well before the CG movie. A tale of stoic heroism, honor and following one’s definition of being free. To learn more click here.


ctb_2

Chie the Brat (1981)
An endearing tale about a working class girl, her dysfunctional yet lovable family and the town she lives in. Directed by Isao Takahata. To learn more click here.


DiS_3

The Door into Summer (1981)
There is usually one year, or one summer, that defines us in our journey out of childhood and into adulthood. Once beyond that threshold, there is no return. To learn more click here.


grey3

Grey Digital Target (1986)
A story in a dystopian wasteland where in order to survive and thrive, one must earn their way through fighting and war. To learn more click here.


idem_1

The Ideon: Be Invoked (1982)
The epic conclusion to the Ideon saga. One of the darkest mecha space opera of all time and a powerfully sublime ending as well. To learn more click here.


notgr_4

Night on the Galactic Railroad (1985)
Friendship, sacrifice and the beauty of all that is life all wrapped up though a voyage to the stars on a train. To learn more click here.


Nau_1

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
The movie that made Hayao Miyazaki a household name about a righteous heroine in a post nuclear world in search of ecological balance. To learn more click here.


DYRL_5

Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? (1984)
Space opera, mecha, romance, aliens and remembering love through a lost culture. Take the original Macross series and multiply it by 100! To learn more click here.


TW11_3

They Were 11 (1986)
A defining tale about trust, growing up and identity for a group of students wanting to pass their final exam onboard a spaceship. To learn more click here.


TtT_2

Toward the Terra (1980)
In the future children are born and raised to become perfect citizens. A new race of evolved humanity contradicts this and declare their individuality. To learn more click here.


Windaria_5

Windaria (1986)
A tale of love and war through the eyes of two young couple showing the price of following what one is expected to due over listening to one’s heart. To learn more click here.

 

The Honorable Listing

(in alphabetical order)

Akira (1988)
Barefoot Gen (1983)
Castle in the Sky (1986)
Crusher Joe (1983)
Dirty Pair: Project Eden (1987)
Fist of the North Star (1986)
Gauche the Cellist (1982)
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Mobile Suit Gundam: Movie Trilogy (1980/1981)
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Patlabor: The Movie (1989)
The Professional: Golgo 13 (1983)
Project A-Ko (1986)
Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise (1987)
Space Adventure Cobra (1982)
Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer (1984)
Vampire Hunter D (1985)