Review of “It’s a Tough Era, But It May Be the Most Interesting of All: A Conversation with Tetsuya Chikushi” (2002)


Miyazaki Hayao (participant), Chikushi Tetsuya (participant).

Read in 2021.

Read in Turning Point.

The experience of watching Spirited Away (2001) after the September 11 attacks against the USA.

Probably the most eclectic conversation in the hardback collections of Miyazaki’s minor writings and appearances. It recalls the chaotic time period well. Very briefly, Miyazaki even repeats the rumour that Islamist suicide bombings “started after”, meaning they were inspired by, the Lod Airport massacre of 1972, in which the Japanese Red Army’s Okudaira Tsuyoshi was killed with his own grenade, though whether Okudaira actually meant to kill himself isn’t known, and I doubt whether Ruhollah Khomeini drew any conclusions from the possibility.

As he often does, Miyazaki here anticipates a century of chaos and revolution, “the start of something new”. He’s clearly excited, comparing the aftermath of the attacks to the Japanese bubble economy bursting: “We now know how fragile it all really was. And I think this idea might energize young people.” He follows this up by saying that all those thousands of people who died at the World Trade Center had “totally weird” lives “just staring at computers and thinking about how to make money”, and then he goes on to say that the world population might drop to 2 billion instead of rising to 10. In other words, he gets his giddy apocalyptic fantasies and anti-capitalist animus mixed up in the historic terrorist attack.

On a more mundane note, but equally harsh and cynical, Miyazaki also says that Spirited Away could be “a movie about the inner workings of Studio Ghibli itself”, where, he says, “I never go out of my way to help someone unless I think there’s some benefit in doing so.” He doesn’t reference “Ghiblies” (2000), instead comparing the working environment to that of WW2 dogfighters where the new recruits suffered such high attrition that veterans wouldn’t bother talking to them at first.

References here: “Once Again, a World Where People Believe Everything Is Alive: A Dialogue with Tetsuo Yamaori” (2002), Ponyo (2008), Turning Point: 1997–2008 (2008/2014).

text non-fiction Japanese production