Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2014

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Film Studies

First Advisor

Melinda Barlow

Second Advisor

Ernesto Acevdeo-Munoz

Third Advisor

Paul Strom

Abstract

Though Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki is best known for creating imaginative fantasy and adventure features, he has also, on multiple occasions, directly engaged with realistic, contemporary, or historical settings in films that examine everyday human issues and present reflexive musings on the nature of creativity. This study explores how Miyazaki represents creativity in relation to fundamental aspects of the human condition through close analysis of three of these films: Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), Whisper of the Heart (1995, Dir. Yoshifumi Kondo, written by Hayao Miyazaki), and The Wind Rises (2013). Each of these works explores creativity as a dynamic and multifaceted force, and gives way to larger discussions of how individuals find, define, and maintain their personal voice or talent in a world that is complex, demanding, and imbalanced. This study examines how Miyazaki intertwines creative or artistic expression with the trials of adolescence and the harsh realities of adulthood, while also focusing on the political, social, and philosophical implications of how these works represent the creative spirit. Several thematic through-lines are traced between the three films, starting with Kiki’s Delivery Service, which, while not focused on creativity directly, nevertheless draws connections between talent, identity, and self-sufficiency to explore how our passions define and empower us. Whisper of the Heart then applies these themes to contemporary Japanese society, and tells its story about an individual finding her voice and place in the world through the specific lens of artistic expression. The Wind Rises, finally, explores these ideas on a much more intense and challenging historical scale, set in the years leading up to World War II and telling a fictionalized narrative about the life of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of Japan’s deadly Zero Fighter. Exploring creativity and compromise in the real world, the film is also about the dualities of life and art, and ties together the themes of these three works – as well as the major recurring ideas of all Miyazaki’s films – in a highly emotional conclusion centered around the beauty and melancholy of transience. Taken together, these three films not only illustrate an insightful and inspiring theory of creativity, but illuminate the overall arc of Miyazaki’s career, with each work signifying a major evolution in his thematic development, and, in the case of Kiki and Whisper, directly anticipating his most successful and acclaimed films.

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