Being stuck inside for months on end, I had an interesting conversation with a fellow hip hop fan discussing new music and she told me she hasn’t really been listening to new stuff while quarantined. The craving during these times of isolation and confusion is comfort – a warm familiarity of classic films, music, and entertainment we remember from better days. This discussion of nostalgia naturally led me back to Hayao Miyazaki, the genius behind Japanese animation powerhouse, Studio Ghibli.
For a lot of Asian kids like me, Miyazaki-san was bigger, cooler, and far less sinister than Walt Disney. During these months of self-isolation and working from home, I was constantly indulging in previously-enjoyed entertainment – not just because it’s easier to have on in the background while scrolling frantically through Twitter like a junkie, but because the nostalgia reassured me that all things may change, but some stuff just stays classic.
Miyazaki-san has an astounding curiosity and way of seeing things. And with all this time of uncertainty, confusion, and anger, his films and interviews have given some wonderful insight into how we should approach animation, work, and our interactions with the environment.
Miyazaki on Flexibility and Understanding
In reflecting on the massive impact of COVID-19, this global shift in consciousness towards the plights of people of colour, women, and the environment – there’s constantly use of the phrase, ‘new normal’. And while it’s a broad idea, the heart of it tells us that the old normal wasn’t working, we were seeing regular failings in our governments, societies, cultures, media, and beyond.
At Synapsis Creative, we’ve already discussed the idea of returning to work and doing so in a very collaborative and flexible way to accommodate everyone’s safety, concerns, and understandings towards creating a better normal. We understand firsthand that work conditions don’t have to remain rigidly confined to office spaces or the nine-to-five structure. The old ways weren’t necessarily the best simply because ‘it’s how we’ve always done it’.
“The man’s dutiful, sad performance of his work is the sadness that we have in our own lives. Our lives do not take on meaning because something we have accomplished. If there are both sunlight and shadows in the world, we are constantly suffering in the cruelty of shadows. The sense of presence that the mountain documents provides is not simply the result of the clever use of prop or lighting; we are moved because the gloomy shadows of the scene pierce the pall hiding in our own souls.” Hayao Miyazaki Iriku laser disc, Toho, 1st October 1993
There is something inherently and universally daunting in literal mounds of work pilling upon a desk. And while digitalisation has gotten rid of the paper mountains, the continued pressure of deadlines, tasks, meetings, and performance all weigh upon workers of all industries and levels. I think this is the different between a job and a craft – one is simply an exchange of time and skill for money while the other is the ongoing development of that skill to create something that provides fulfilment.
Generations Spoiled for Choice
I’ve been guilty of spending so long on Uber Eats deciding what to eat that decisions finally ended on any restaurant still open at 11pm. We live in an era where people are crippled by choice. We spend hours scrolling through Netflix and end up rewatching ‘The Office’ anyway; we take longer deciding on a restaurant than we actually spend time dining there; and we can download any game literally to our consoles, but I’m back playing games I completed years ago.
“A major cultural issue for Japan these days is overabundance. To have too much quantity changes the quality itself. There are people who say the cartoons of yester year were better than those shown now. But what has actually happened is that in the past there were fewer cartoons broadcast, so they were simply more memorable.” Hayao Miyazaki Senden Kaigi, December issue 1995
That was 25 years ago, and things have barely changed. It’s the reason Netflix greenlights any piece of garbage that comes their way – it’s a numbers game now. With ready access to anything we could ever want, we take it for granted how difficult it is to produce any of these films, songs, or programs. As we become inundated with choice, we need to either be more specific in our requirements or be very open minded and willing to research.
Miyazaki’s Focus on Locally Sourced and Made
“In this age of internationalisation, we know that the essentially national is what can become most international. Why, then, don’t we make fun, wonderful films actually set in Japan? In order to respond to this quandary, we need a new approach. This new sort of film needs to be a lively and fresh piece of entertainment, not full of reminiscence and nostalgia. What we have forgotten? Why we don’t notice? What we are convinced we have lost? Believing that we still have these things, I am proposing to make My Neighbour Totoro.” Hayao Miyazaki Project Plan for My Neighbour Totoro, 1st December 1986
The impact of COVID-19 has demonstrated the resilience and delicacy of supply networks. Countries around the world have realised the importance of producing locally as a crisis makes trade far more challenging.
At Synapsis Creative, we’ve always been avid supporters of self-learning and development. As our industry scope widens and we begin exploring the changing nature of the environment in which we operate, we are putting greater value on pushing our creative skills and finding new ways to provide our clients with solutions for their content and design needs.
We saw live presentations shift towards webinar platforms and quickly adapted to this change internally. With COVID-19 restrictions easing up, we will continue looking at how our clients can continue communicating in effective ways and under new and exciting circumstances.
Miyazaki on End of Days
“Put quite simply, that ‘no matter how messy things get, we have no choice but to go on living’. In other words, up until 1980s I think there was this view of the future hat included an End Times. Japan would continue as is, get bigger and bigger, and then one day something would burst with a loud noise, and civilisation would suddenly collapse. Or there might be a repeat of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake of Tokyo, or everything might be turned into burned-out ruins. Of course, if this really happened, I think everyone also had this hope that they would feel cleansed. We were thinking a bit too naively and sweetly, in other words, even in the way we imagined things might all end.” Hayao Miyazaki Animage August 1992
Considering Australia went through the most widespread and destructive bushfire in history a few months before COVID-19 graced our shores, we haven’t had a real moment to reflect on the impact of it all. Worse still, I’m fearful we’ll make the same mistakes the next time a crisis hits us. It’s one thing to be tested by shock events, it’s an entirely different thing to learn nothing from that test. Humans are often arrogant because of our dominance over other species and technology. But if this crisis has shown us anything, it’s how fragile our society can be and just how reliant we are on the technology we use yet scarcely understand.
“Humans makes machines as extensions of their own hands, but at the same time we make something that will give us unlimited devotion. It’s too simplistic to consider them living beings, but I feel that we are making things that could be prototypes for living creatures. This means what is most noble in people’s hearts – devotion, self-sacrifice, things that aren’t so popular these days – is extremely simple. These machines aren’t born from something complex, but rather they consist of something much closer to the prototype, like a stone or other object has in this world. Music is the same. People have been giving form to what exists in space. People have merely turned into music the radio waves and vibrations that the stars and the wind possess and continue to emit even when there is no one to hear them.” Ichiko No. 33, No. 34, Japan Belier Art Centre, 20th October 1994; 20th January 1995 issues
We need to be more thorough in understanding our needs, our motivations, and our goals. Technology shouldn’t be created simply for the sake of advancement, but to also resolve the challenges we all face. If you’ve ever watched a truly gifted artist, their tools are often an extension of themselves and their ideas are almost something that passed through them rather than from them. Inspiration is often drawn from letting an idea develop naturally rather than trying to force genius.
“And it’s important then not to fall for some cheap nihilism or for living for the moment. Be willing to take a certain amount of risk to preserve the environment. But don’t spend too much money, or even time, on it. And make sure you do crazy things once in a while. While inhaling lots of smog, drive a two-seater convertible to work. Show them how you can drive around the filthy streets of Tokyo, collecting dust and dirt, in a car with no heart and no air conditioner, with only the clothes on your back to ward off the freezing temperatures. You must be prepared to do this. If I can do this, I think I can probably live through the next ten years feeling good.” Hayao Miyazaki Animage August 1992
It has been a wild and weird time for everyone. From the bushfires, to COVID-19, to the global #BlackLivesMatter protests, things are changing more rapidly than ever, so we need to be more expressive and direct in how we communicate with one another, because the old ways of working and connecting have been broken, leaving space for creative solutions to our everyday struggles.
Wanna animate like Miyazaki-san? It all starts with a storyboard, which we’ve pre-designed for your convenience, or check out some animation templates we’ve designed and delivered in PowerPoint so you can animate with ease.