Review of “A Man Who Lived Bravely, Confronting a Tough Reality” (2006)


Miyazaki Hayao (interviewee), Yamashita Takashi (interviewer).

Read in 2021.

Read in Turning Point.

Robert Westall.

This interview seems to have been conducted apropos of an eight-volume set of Japanese reprints of Westall’s work, not just Miyazaki’s “random thoughts” version (“Proposal for a Book”). In it, Miyazaki praises Westall for maintaining a nuanced hope after a perceived 1960s downturn in British children’s literature. He wrote mostly supernatural mysteries about teenagers on the outskirts of WW2. I haven’t read any Westall, so for my interest in Miyazaki, the most interesting part of this interview is the director’s discussion of range.

The range of activity of Japanese children today, and their perspective, has really narrowed. And at the same time, the world depicted for children by adults has relentlessly been narrowed to fit that downsized child’s perspective. People writing the stories say they are doing it for the sake of the children, but that really irritates me. It’s no use for me to tell adults this, but I really believe, for example, that telling children that they should be antiwar and so forth is an absolute mistake.

The war thing is important. Miyazaki emphasizes that Westall—unlike Japanese children’s authors—acknowledges “the intrinsic ‘loyality of boys’”, a psychological phenomenon associated with defeat in WW2 as well as the teenage Byakkotai of the Boshin War etc. Miyazaki doesn’t explicitly bridge these concepts or go anywhere near the Little Boy hypothesis, but the implication is that Westall presents to children a sufficiently broad picture of human nature that the horrors of aggression in WW2 are made comprehensible. That is in contrast to Japanese authors on WW2, whom Miyazaki read in his own childhood: “I could tell when the authors were lying, when they were bragging, or when they were trying to simply defend their actions.”

References here: Turning Point: 1997–2008 (2008/2014).

text non-fiction Japanese production