Review of “The World of Anime and the Scenario” (1995)


Miyazaki Hayao (writer).

Read in Starting Point.

A transcript of a speech on scenario writing in the era of Japanese animation becoming a hit abroad. Miyazaki believes the distinguishing characteristics of manga, as opposed to animation, to be disposability (“no wonder that manga criticism is such a barren field”); the “infinite deformation of time and space”, as in kōdan, an older style of storytelling; and “to not look at what you don’t want to see”, that is to exclude from the narrative everything the reader does not want to think about, like parents from comics for teenagers. All of those characteristics are inherently difficult to reproduce in live action or realistic writing, which leads into a discussion of text-only scenario writing versus continuity sketches combining storyboards, stage directions and dialogue in three lanes: the main form of scenario at Ghibli. All of this culminates in the idea that once you get started on a production, from “some deep subconscious desire”, the film starts making its maker and the process cannot really be controlled from the medium of text.

More comprehensive than “My Theories on the Popularity of Manga” (1994). In his long aside on international proliferation, Miyazaki is amused by the contemporary misuse of the word “manga” in the English-speaking world to refer to Japanese animation. This was fortunately short-lived; the earlier “Manga” (1994) tried to make the correction. It should not have been so surprising to Miyazaki, who worked on Heidi: A Girl of the Alps (1974) under the banner of a “Manga Theater”, despite there being no manga—in the modern sense—involved in that production.

Miyazaki repeats and extends the metaphor of a Christmas tree for good scenario writing from “What the Scenario Means to Me” (1989). He also describes what he calls “project study meetings” for pitching and refining project proposals. I suppose “Bokkō” (1991) was a product of that process.

The characteristic that manga is so easy to read that it’s identifiable by its disposibility is something Miyazaki consciously went against drawing Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1982). As he said in “Earth’s Environment as Metaphor” (1994), being contrarian, he set out to make “a manga that would be impossible for someone to read casually while slurping noodles”, which means that under his own definition in this speech, that graphic novel isn’t manga.

References here: Starting Point: 1979–1996 (1996/2009), “On Japan’s Animation Culture” (1997), “Forty-four Questions on Princess Mononoke for Director Hayao Miyazaki” (1998), Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma (2015), Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017).

Japanese production non-fiction text