The Poetics of Hayao Miyazaki

An Admiration of the Man and the Art Form

By Jeremiah Reyes

Experiencing Studio Ghibli films from my youth has almost been a fever dream. While revisiting those I have seen and those I have not seen before, to relish in a childhood wonder has somewhat remained. The sounds of trees brushing against the wind and the sight of blue skies filled with white clouds. One can think of poetry in a form of animated art. To enter these films for the first time or by revisiting, the immersion to simply being in the film will always be the same. By seeing any of these films, you enter the world Miyazaki created.

After visiting the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, the amazement of seeing Hayao Miyazaki’s concept art in the exhibit was quite surreal and an emotional experience. In some sense, one may seem to be entering his own mind. Entering the mind of Hayao Miyazaki is both a blessing and an undeserving privilege through the concept art, images of maps, miniature models, and projections of the films. Everything in the exhibit was something new as most of these creations I have not seen before. This exhibit offered so much more, yet I wanted more. For the man himself, his complexity would only want me to wonder more about Miyazaki himself. Yet again, I wouldn’t want to be that person to intrude on such a mind.

As someone who is just a student of poetry, I don’t consider myself a professional. Merely, it is the willingness to create art from the art that inspires. I have chosen to write haikus for all his films: Nausicaä of the Valley of the WindCastle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, and The Wind Rises.

For Porco Rosso and The Wind Rises, I especially focused on these haikus to be allegories for Hayao Miyazaki.

Lastly, I leave this poem as a tribute to the man himself:

“It is not hard to imagine…the inner turmoil as a fifty-one-year-old man looking back at his life and forward to what will come” (Napier 153).

Susan Napier describing Miyazaki in Porco Rosso

Feel free to comment and share your thoughts on your favorite poem and your experience of any Miyazaki film.

  • Napier, Susan. Miyazakiworld: A Life in Art. Yale University Press, 2018.

11 thoughts on “The Poetics of Hayao Miyazaki”

  1. Hey Jeremiah,

    I especially liked your haiku for Kiki’s Delivery Service. Ironically, despite the film being about a young girl finding her way in the world, I discovered that my enjoyment and love for the film grew exponentially as I got older. While before I found it fun just because of the intertwining of witchcraft and a coming-of-age story, it feels closer to my heart now because I feel like I can empathize with Kiki on a more personal level than any other Miyazaki film protagonist. She is positive young woman, but not infallible. At one point she does lose her passion (and her magic), and the steps she takes to get it back feel similar to the ways in which people recover from creative burnout. The peaks and valleys of her growth as a character over the course of the story feel so grounded and real that watching the film never fails to make me smile. I appreciate that it conveys a more realistic view of growth rather than a relentlessly positive one. All of this to say, while all of your haikus are wonderful, the one for Kiki’s Delivery Service stood out to me the most because I feel that it perfectly encapsulates what I find so captivating and charming about that particular film. Thank you for putting into words what I never could.

    1. Thanks Rachel. I never would have thought a simple haiku would have a strong response. I am glad that I was able to convey the most simplest of words into a captivated connection in the way you see Kiki’s Delivery Service. Thanks for the response 🙂

    2. I dig both the haiku and this response! It’s all about PURPOSE.

      One thing I love about Kiki’s Delivery Service is that it deals with the downside of making your art into your career, and the (as you say, Rachel) creative burnout that can happen then. Ursula, the painter who lives in the cottage in the woods, seems like such a perfect mentor for Kiki: a creative inspiration. But also Osono, the baker, whose art is in making things for people to eat, and who maybe represents a less purely “artistic” but greater communal presence (in contrast to Ursula)?

    1. Can’t say if that was intentional. It may have been unconscious decision without me realizing. Regardless of that, the aspect of flight has been a primary focus for Miyazaki in his personal life as a storyteller.

  2. Hey Jeremiah!
    I was so touched by your collection of poems, choosing this form of poetry is very relatable to the emphasis on nature in Ghibli films. I was wondering, which poem you found the most challenging in crafting? Which poem was the most fun? I’ve always admired haikus and have always found them to be like a puzzle. In my own process I tend to focus on the last line as the final message; I’ve heard other writers emphasize their message in the second line instead. I’m curious what your process was when creating meaning in your haikus. I also loved that you included an ode at the end of this collection, your word choices in the final poem give us a sense of admiration and introspection. I think your writing style lends very well to the sense of freedom and joy we take away from Ghibli movies, for that I applaud you on capturing that feeling, great work!

    1. Thanks Monica. I am glad you appreciated my poems. Honestly, trying to do every poem I have done was a perhaps a challenge; almost like a puzzle. The grandeur of a message in just a small amount of words was the tough part. Then again, trying to find the right rhythm with what we learned then became easier for me. Afterwards, it was just my own spin on the message/meaning of the haikus in parallel with the movies. Thinking about it now, I do believe I emphasize the 2nd line in order to weave into the 3rd line. Then again, I do believe my 2nd and 3rd lines offer a conjoined emphasis in the overall message. The 2nd lines offer impact, while the 3rd lines offer resolution in the message. Thanks for the comment and well appreciated words 🙂

  3. Jeremiah—

    As a fellow “student of poetry”—I must say these haikus are the bees knee! I am a huge fan of haikus and these brought me through all the films without watching them. I am completely in awe of how whimsical and beautiful they are! My favorites are the Porco Rosso, Laputa and Howl’s poem—they just fit so well!!! Please never stop writing, especially about Miyazaki because you are very good at it! Very unique and well done project, Cheers!!

    1. Thanks Taylor. Glad you enjoyed them. After doing these haikus, I do think less is more. With that, there is bound to be a bigger connection to the reader. Again, thanks for the words of encouragement. Will likely do more poetry on my own time in the future.

  4. Wow Jeremiah! These poems are truly artistic. I love the way you capture the ambiance of each of the films in such a powerful yet subtle way. I also agree that the museum offered a lot but it still didn’t feel like enough. The two that especially stood out to me were Kiki’s and My Neighbor Totoro as they truly captured what you stated, that you are creating art from the art that inspires.

  5. Hello Jeremiah!

    To say your not a professional is a flat out lie, because these were amazing! You have managed to capture the nostalgia and emotions I have felt watching and revisiting each film. This may be a biased opinion as happens to be my favorite, the Haiku for Kiki’s was my absolute favorite. The thing I appreciate so much about the film, is the way I have been able to watch it in so many different stages of my life, yet it never fails to reflect what I’m feeling at that exact stage of growing up. You have manages to capture that exact emotion with your poem. I also have to mention the Haiku for Castle in the Sky for the way it’s so thoughtfully constructed! I absolutely love the parallelism between the first an last lines of the poem, and I think the poem as a whole captures exactly what the film was trying to say! I also appreciate the way you highlight the two poems for The Wind Rises and Porco Rosso as a reflection of Miyazaki, because I feel the two really did express how I’ve come to view Miyazaki as a film creator, but as a person in general as well. Wonderful poems that were so thoughtfully crafted, I loved this post!

    The other Jeremiah! 🙂

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