Friday, November 21, 2008

Hayao Miyazaki gets critical of Japanese Prime Minister Taro Asō

by Chris MaGee

It's been mentioned in a number of news sources that Japanese Prime Minister Taro Asō
(the only one above not wearing a fundoshi) is a big manga fan. The 65-year-old conservative politician apparently reads as many as ten manga magazines a week and is a big fan of Takao Saito's assassin-for-hire "Golgo 13". He's also actively promoted manga as equally important to Japanese culture as Kabuki or Noh. At an appearance in otaku central, Akihabara, in October he declared that "Comic books are our subculture power [and] are being read in not only Asia but Europe, the United States and Latin America." He certainly has a valid point, but now Asō is catching criticism for his pro-manga attitude from a very surprising source.

Anime master and Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki has come out in the media as being against Asō's advocacy for manga as a point of national pride. "It's an embarrassment. That's something that should be done in private," Miyazaki was quoted as saying during a recent interview. The 67-year-old creator of such blockbuster anime hits as "My Neighbor Totoro" and "Spirited Away" has even drawn comparison's to the Prime Minister's enthusiasm for manga as a return to the nationalistic fervor that led Japan into WW2. "We learned from the last war that the town we love or the country we love can always turn into something bad to the world. I believe we must not forget what we learned."

Miyazaki may or may not be making a good point here (I lean more towards the may not), but it seems strange that a man who initially gained fame for his 10 million copy-selling manga "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind" should be pointing fingers about whether or not an appreciation of the genre is an appropriate subject to discuss in the news media. I get a feeling that reporters caught the notoriously grumpy animator on a bad day.

Thanks to Anime News Network for the details on this.

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