Happy Birthday Miyazaki!

Today is Hayao Miyazaki‘s 74th birthday!  He is most famous as co-founder of the Studio Ghibli animation studio (official website, in Japanese) and as writer and director of many of its most beloved films.

Miyazaki began working in animation in 1963, a career that came to an end 50 years later in 2013 with the release of The Wind Rises, which he said would be his last movie.  His retirement has launched a new wave of accolades, including an Academy Honorary Award at last year’s Governor Awards (see his acceptance here).

Five years earlier in 2009 Miyazaki was honored at an event by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and here he speaks on the tension between hand-drawn and computer-aided animation:

(There are more clips from this conversation, and this bit about his villains is especially interesting for someone known for his morally ambiguous “bad” guys.)

As for what Miyazaki will do in retirement, he has started work on a serialized samurai manga set in Japan’s Warring States period, (EDIT: updated Warring States link from ancient Chinese namesake to correct Japanese version) so a return to manga like his environmental epic Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, serialized between 1982 and 1994.  I’m actually on the last volume of this myself, so expect further thoughts on it soon…

Some of his collaborators have said it’s likely Miyazaki will come out of retirement (he’s done so before), but in the meantime, Studio Ghibli is still releasing movies, including The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (already released in Japan in 2013), directed by the other Studio Ghibli co-founder, Isao Takahata, with a markedly different animation style:

The Cartoon Picture Plane

Two newly opened New York gallery exhibits have varying connections to comic and cartoon art…

Saul Steinberg's 1974 Rainbow Reflected at SculptureCenter

Saul Steinberg’s 1974 Rainbow Reflected at SculptureCenter

SculptureCenter‘s first exhibit in their newly expanded gallery takes as its point of departure space as depicted in comics and cartoons, specifically citing the 1988 live-action/animation hybrid movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit alongside New Yorker illustrator Saul Steinberg as influences.  From the exhibit website:

Incorporating a sense of wonder and humor, concepts surrounding animation and cartooning are expanded into an exhibition that enacts a similar sort of hysteria around flatness and depth in relation to technologies, real and illusory spaces—physical, virtual, internal, and external.

The emphasis on Steinberg probably has to do with the fact that 2014 is the centennial of his birth, in honor of which The Saul Steinberg Foundation has been promoting centennial exhibits & events at galleries and museums around the world.

Takashi Murakami's 2011 An Homage to Monopink 1960 B, from Sims Reed Gallery, London

Takashi Murakami’s 2011 An Homage to Monopink 1960 B, from Sims Reed Gallery, London

The other comic-related exhibit I was thinking of has a more tenuous link…

52-year-old Japanese artist Takashi Murakami made his name with the Superflat art movement he founded, inspired by the visuals of Japanese anime and manga.  He’s best known for this style, using the super-cute Japanese pop culture aesthetic of kawaii and engaging with the otaku culture of anime and manga fandom.

That being said, he’s also mined more classic Japanese art history and cultural traditions.  His current show at the Gagosian Gallery consists of art made in response to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and the subsequent tsunami and Fukushima nuclear crisis.  After studying earlier responses to natural disaster in Japanese art, he has created an immersive installation combining traditional art historical forms, Buddhist and Shinto religious iconography, and contemporary pop culture imagery in response to that national tragedy.

I’m assuming the art here won’t be as relentlessly sunny and poppy as his other work, but it’ll be interesting to see how he applies his Superflat aesthetic to a more tragic subject…

Do you know of any other comic, cartoon, or comic/cartoon-inspired exhibits going on in New York?  Or anywhere else?  Let me know!

Peach Boy goes to War

Tomorrow I’m seeing a 1942 propaganda anime, Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, which transposes a traditional Japanese folk tale to the Pacific during World War II.  The movie, 37 minutes long, was released with English subtitles for the first time in the above early anime sample pack from Zakka Films.

A 74 minute sequel, Momotaro: Divine Warriors of the Sea, was released in 1945.  This was the first full-length animated feature out of Japan.  Some kindly soul has put it up on YouTube for all to enjoy:

PS: Sorry for the long absence dear fans!  I just finished the last of my summer classes and have been trying to make my part time job as full time as I can ever since…  Will try to get back on schedule now…


Johnny Wanders to Japan

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in the US, so to celebrate here’s Yuko Ota‘s brief travelogue about a 2012 trip to Japan to visit family.

Japan Travelogue, 2012, by Yuko Ota

Japan Travelogue, April 2012, copyright Yuko Ota & Ananth Panagariya

Yuko is the drawing half of the Brooklyn-based Johnny Wander autobio webcomic duo (alongside writing half Ananth Panagariya), which I featured way back in the blog’s early days.  Between half-Japanese and…  Indian, I guess?  they’re an APAHM double whammy, oh yeah!

Miyazaki Movie Marathon

Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?  The Brooklyn Academy of Music, in addition to being an occasional host to opera, also offers theater, concerts, and film…  And right now they’re halfway through a film series of Hayao Miyazaki movies!  This is the last weekend to see these movies on the Brooklyn big screen, with Porco Rosso tonight, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle on Saturday, and Spirited Away on Sunday.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7p_wxIleNkI&w=350&h=300]

I seriously need to catch up on my Studio Ghibli, but I don’t think they’re on Netflix?  So I might need to just head out to Brooklyn…  Cuz my local librarian probably judges me enough as is without me borrowing Kiki’s Delivery Service from them too : P  Just kidding, wear your freak flag proud!

Mostly Manga Maniac

Remember when I said I was just starting to dip my toes into the world of manga?  Well, judging by my line-up of library books on hold, I think I caught the manga bug:

My Library Holds

Not to mention, I’m finishing up Haruki Murakami‘s Norwegian Wood too, so it’s a full-out Japanese smorgasborg over here… (here’s an interesting Paris Review interview with Murakami, btw.)

I’m also picking up Ivan Brunetti‘s Cartooning which sounds like a good introduction to instructional cartooning.  Anything my comics crush Bill Kartalopoulos recommends is good enough for me.

How do you say Nostalgia in Japanese?

I recently started reading Naoki Urasawa‘s 20th Century Boys, my first real foray into manga.  I’m almost done with the first volume (pictured below), but it’s kind of a big commitment; there are 20+ volumes in the NYPL catalog, which I didn’t realize when I started!

It’s kinda funny, manga obviously has its own set of graphic storytelling conventions but I’m adapting to those (and to reading right to left) just fine.  But there are still little things that seem very culturally specific and sometimes (here’s where my undergrad linguistics major shows) I wonder if there are things that just can’t be translated. Continue reading