Anime Book Review: Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation

Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation is a book written by Helen McCarthy, and it was published in 1999. The book contains a preface, a note to readers, captions for the photos on the color pages, nine chapters, a filmography, notes, and a bibliography. Ms. McCarthy mentions in the preface that she had the opportunity to go to Japan to tour Studio Ghibli and to interview Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki.

Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation
Written by: Helen McCarthy
Publisher: Stone Bridge Press
Release Date: September 1, 1999

The first chapter of the book talks about Hayao Miyazaki, and also provides a basic guide about animation techniques. The next seven chapters are devoted to the films that Miyazaki had directed up to the point the book was published: Castle of Cagliostro, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, and Princess Mononoke. The final chapter of the book talks about the merchandising done for Miyazaki’s work, as well as the “On Your Mark” music video he worked on, and other projects he worked on.

For the chapters about the films Miyazaki directed, they are broken up into five sections: Origins, Art and Technique, The Characters, The Story, and Commentary. It should be noted that in the section labeled, “The Story,” Ms. McCarthy includes spoilers about the endings of each of the films that are talked about in the book. Each chapter has images included to help illustrate Ms. McCarthy’s text.

I have to admit that prior to this book, the only previous knowledge I had of Ms. McCarthy was the fact that she was a co-author on The Anime Encyclopedia. And since I really hadn’t cared much for the tone in The Anime Encyclopedia, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect out of this book. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the tone of this book is nothing like what appears in The Anime Encyclopedia. Ms. McCarthy imparts the knowledge she has of Miyazaki and his work with authority, but in a way that doesn’t come across as snarky or talking down to the reader.

Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation is a well-written book, and is easy for a more casual anime fan to follow. I would have to say that if I had to recommend a book for someone to read to learn more about Hayao Miyazaki and his work, I would point someone to this book over The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki. While this book may be missing the films that Miyazaki worked on after Princess Mononoke, this volume still gives you a good feel and understanding for Miyazaki and the themes that he puts forth in his work. Personally, I think this book should be part of any anime fan’s collection.

In wrote this review after reading a copy of Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation that I checked out through the King County Library System.

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