“Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation” by Helen McCarthy


For me, this was the book that sparked my love of Hayao Miyazaki. I spotted a copy at the Japanese pavilion in Epcot when I was about 15 years old and in the middle of my embarrassing weaboo [anime fanatic] phase. Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service was one of my favorite films as a little girl and I was interested in seeing more, but had never got the chance. McCarthy’s book whetted my appetite and since then, I have seen all of Miyazaki’s Ghibli features, read halfway through his mammoth Nausicaa manga, and am just starting to go through his pre-Ghibli credits.

For a novice Miyazaki fan, this book is great, but for more experienced fans or people looking for a critical examination of Miyazaki’s artistry, it’s not so great. McCarthy’s tone is gushing throughout, offering little meaningful commentary or criticism on Miyazaki’s work. A good deal of the book is also comprised of plot synopses and character profiles, which are nice, but not really needed. The background info on production and commentary are much more interesting. Also, the book was published while Spirited Away was in production, so it does not explores Miyazaki’s career beyond Princess Mononoke.

Still, this isn’t the worst piece of anime scholarship you’ll find in the West. It is enthusiastic and has an excellent filmography at the end. Like I said before, perfect for the Miyazaki newbie.

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