Says being unable to sleep is “a matter of course” and “people who can easily forgive themselves don’t do very good work.”
At this point, it’s pretty safe to say that Hayao Miyazaki’s dedication to the art of animation is unquestionable. The director of renowned anime such as My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away has come out of retirement multiple times, after all, and even the whole existence of his nominal second retirement is debatable, considering that during it he still showed up at Studio Ghibli, the animation house he founded, every day.
So you might expect Miyazaki to be a vocal advocate of the value of effort and hard work. But as is often the case with Japan’s most respected anime creator, his thoughts are not nearly so simple, as shown in this series of video clips shared by Japanese Twitter user @YuyaKaji.
“Working hard should be a matter of course. Our line of work is filled with people who work hard but are no good as human beings. Placing value on the act of working hard is an incredible mistake.
Working hard, it’s just something you do. If you don’t, nothing worthwhile will come about.
Thinking about that, some people can’t sleep at night. But that’s a matter of course too. At times like that, I know that encouragement from other people, or comfort and consolidation, aren’t any help at all. It’s all on you. In those moments, can you forgive yourself? Some people can forgive themselves easily, and some people can’t.
That’s a difference that separates the fates of those two types of people. People who can easily forgive themselves don’t do very good work.”
As someone who’s climbed to the very top of his chosen profession, Miyazaki’s words carry a significant weight, and Twitter users who see wisdom in them have commented:
“If you don’t have vision and intelligence, no matter how hard you work you won’t be able to create the sort of thing anyone would value. If you don’t know the right place to direct that effort, all your hard work will be absolutely meaningless.”
“I’m a salaryman, with no connection to media creative fields, but I think Miyazaki’s words are totally applicable to my work too.”
“So basically he’s saying: 1. Everyone is making an effort to do something, so it’s a mistake to evaluate people based on their effort. 2. What you should evaluate them on is the results of their effort. 3. When things don’t go well, or other people don’t appreciate the results of your effort, some people will give up, and some people will improve themselves. Those are important things to remember, regardless of the field you work in.”
However, some felt that the famous director’s opinion could use a bit more fine-tuning:
“It’s important to not confuse ‘not forgiving yourself’ with ‘thinking you’re no good.’ If you look around, you can see lots of people who place too much blame on themselves, then wind up hating themselves and psychologically collapsing.”
“I get what he’s trying to say, but the words he’s choosing are the words of someone who’s already achieved success. I think people who are working in companies with horrible working conditions would go crazy hearing what he said. Many people want to achieve success through the results of their hard work, or to have their efforts be recognized. Please try to understand them, Mr. Miyazaki.”
“’Not forgiving yourself’ isn’t the right way of handling things. Sometimes, if people don’t ever forgive themselves, it ends up costing them their lives. I have a friend who worked as a sub-director in the anime industry, and was involved in some big-name projects, but he died before he turned 30. Anime is really a job that shaves years off your life,”
“I don’t feel like Old Man Miyazaki has any consideration for the feelings of other people. And yet, the anime he makes are overflowing with human emotion. Maybe that’s a sign that other people’s emotions had to be crushed in order for him to achieve greatness.”
Making things even more complicated is that, according to @YuyaKaji, the clips were filmed around the time that Studio Ghibli’s Tales from Earthsea, the first anime directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s son Goro, debuted in Japanese theaters. Tales from Earthsea was immediately dismissed as being Ghibli’s worst film, a stigma it retains today, and the elder Miyazaki wasn’t any easier on it for being his son’s work, famously walking out in the middle of an advance screening of the finished film and disappointedly saying “[My son] hasn’t grown up.”
It’s possible that Miyazaki’s stance has softened just a bit in the decade-plus since Earthsea’s2006 release. Still, it’s unlikely he’s going to be satisfied with anything other than his personal vision of cinematic excellence in the finished version of his still-in-production film How Do You Live?