Review of “Animation and Animism: Thoughts on the Living ‘Forest’” (1998)


Makino Keiichi (moderator), Amino Yoshihiko (participant), Miyazaki Hayao (participant), Kōsaka Seiryū (participant), Umehara Takeshi (participant).

Read in 2021.

Read in Turning Point.

Smart old men for whom “reading manga was considered sinful” complain about young people these days, and also discuss diverse philosophical and historical problems apropos of Princess Mononoke (1997), such as formalism: The inherently different possibilities and effects of comics, film and literature.

Some of the discussion is aimless, but it touches on interesting topics like leprosy—shown in the film but not named—vs Ashitaka’s supernatural bruising. Miyazaki says about the deer-shaped god that he made it all up. He noted in “Forty-four Questions” (1998) that he based the film primarily on Gilgamesh (ca. 2100–1100 BCE), history, and folktales supposedly depicting real ironworkers—deformed by their labour—as monsters. In this big roundtable, Umehara brings up an intermediate inspiration: A play called Gilgamesh that Umehara himself wrote on the theme of “killing the forest spirit”. Umehara sent this play to Miyazaki, who openly refused to adapt it to film but admits here that he “included some impressions” from it into Princess Mononoke. Miyazaki wrote a letter to Umehara to that effect, but the author seems a little bitter about not getting credit, and insists that Tezuka Osamu would have done a great job.

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

text non-fiction Japanese production