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Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation
Helen McCarthy
Stone Bridge Press, 239 pages

Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation
Helen McCarthy
Helen McCarthy's other titles include Anime! A Beginner's Guide to Japanese Animation, The Anime Movie Guide, and (with Jonathan Clements) The Erotic Anime Movie Guide. She appears frequently on radio and TV and at conferences around the world. She lives in London.

SF Site Review: The Anime Companion
Stone Bridge Press Website

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A review by Lisa DuMond

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For fans of anime, here is the best pairing since Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask: as of 29 October, you can see Miyazaki's acclaimed Princess Mononoke, and as of now, you can read Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation. See the film and discover the man behind some of the most popular and influential anime films ever produced. And you thought the days of the double-feature were gone for good...

Miyazaki's animated feature films have achieved the kind of fame that ensures the titles and images are familiar even to those who have not embraced anime. Sometime in everyone's life, they must have heard of My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, or Porco Rosso. Until now, though, there has been no definitive English language study of Miyazaki and his work.

If you have to wait that long for a book, it had better be a good one. Whew! What a relief! Master Of Japanese Animation is that book, and it is that good.

Helen McCarthy is one author who knows her topic; this is her 4th volume on Japanese animation. The research and analysis that went into Master Of Japanese Animation is impressive. The writing style that makes the book both enlightening and entertaining is a pleasure.

McCarthy picks up with Miyazaki's first theatrical work on Watchdog Woof Woof (you have got to love these titles -- they have an innocence and enthusiasm most of us lose in maturity, sadly) and reaches to beyond the success of Princess Mononoke. The story of a young artist entering the growing industry in the early 60s, gaining control over his own projects, and emerging as the Master Of Japanese Animation is the stuff movies are made of.

The stuff Miyazaki's movies are made of is far more intricate, intellectual, and emotional than a quick viewing might convey. Perhaps the most satisfying facet of the book is McCarthy's probing of the development of the scripts and the finished product. The thought and commitment that is put into every aspect of the films is truly mind-boggling.

As McCarthy illustrates beautifully, what appears on the screen is the soul of the man. Miyazaki's environmental concerns, his abhorrence of war, his delight in life are just a few of the qualities that come through so clearly in the finished product. Not a cel escapes his scrutiny and perfectionism.

Miyazaki, you learn from Master Of Japanese Animation, is the kind of person you couldn't help but admire and, probably, like a hell of a lot. And McCarthy is the kind of author you would want writing your biography -- unless you've got some nasty things to hide, that is. As lavish as she is in her praise, she is equally forthcoming about the weaknesses of Miyazaki's work. It's an even-handed treatment that leaves you with a feeling of balance and the real man, not an icon.

So check out Princess Mononoke or one of Miyazaki's other films and sit down for a good read with Hayao Miyazaki: Master Of Japanese Animation to get the full scoop. And, while you're at it, pick up The Anime Companion: What's Japanese In Japanese Animation? -- then you'll have the whole picture. Almost.

Copyright © 1999 Lisa DuMond

Lisa DuMond writes science fiction and humour. She co-authored the 45th anniversary issue cover of MAD Magazine. Previews of her latest, as yet unpublished, novel are available at Hades Online.


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