(1941- ) Japanese animator, Manga writer/artist, Japan's foremost living fantasy moviemaker. As well as being influenced by national fantasy authors such as Kenji Miyazawa, HM also has a lifelong passion for Western writers including J R R Tolkien and Ursula Le Guin. His first movie projects included Gulliver's Travels Beyond the Moon (ot Gariba no Uchu Ryokou; 1966; > Gulliver Movies).
Through the 1960s and 1970s, HM worked on numerous Anime productions, producing layouts for acclaimed tv versions of Heidi (1880-1881) by Johanna Spyri (1829-1901) and Anne of Green Gables (1908)by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942). He also directed episodes of Lupin III, a long-running comedy-action series about a globetrotting master thief. His cinema directorial debut was Castle of Cagliostro (ot Cagliostro no Shiro; 1979), a Lupin spinoff involving a fairytale princess and much swashbuckling adventure. Of more genre interest is Future Boy Conan (ot Mirai Shonen Conan; 1978), an expertly plotted tv post-Holocaust serial with a telepathic heroine, set on a world where nature has regenerated after a continent-shattering war.
The ecology theme was expanded in Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind (ot Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa; graph 1982-1994), HM's most important work. Originally a manga in the Japanese magazine Animage – with artwork reminiscent of Moebius – Nausicaa is set centuries after civilization's destruction by manmade titans. The poisoned Earth is covered by a great forest of fungus, the Sea of Corruption: though lethal to humans, the forest is crystallizing Earth's poisons to allow its rebirth (shades of Lovelock's Gaia theory). Nausicaa, leading one of the few surviving human communities, is an impossibly courageous, gentle teenage girl (loosely based on Homer's princess), with an empathy for the great insects who guard the toxic forest.
The complex story chronicles Nausicaa's unwilling involvement in human wars (fought with retro-technology: airships fill the sky, ground battles are conducted by grenade-throwing cavalry mounted on horse/bird hybrids) and her search for the world's secrets. The story takes a consciously mythical turn when, guilt-ridden and suicidal, Nausicaa is swallowed by an insect and traverses a personal Underworld/rebirth.
By the time HM wrote the last chapters of the manga Nausicaa he had changed his worldview: in a Technofantasy twist he reveals that the tale's ecology – and all its lifeforms, including the humans – were engineered by the scientists of the pre-holocaust world to secure their Resurrection. However, Nausicaa argues these ancient saviours are actually holdfasts, trapping life in a cycle of slavery and suffering. In a devastating, iconoclastic climax, Nausicaa uses a revived titan to destroy humanity's racebank, wiping out its past but perhaps giving it a better (if always imperfect) future.
Nausicaa is among the best Comic-strips ever written: with elements of post-holocaust adventure, Planetary Romance, ecofantasy and messianic epic, it is also a staunchly Revisionist Fantasy, not least because it has no true villain. The strip was sensitively translated by the US publisher Viz Comics, and released in the West as a series of Graphic Novels.
While creating the strip, HM was also writing/directing a sequence of high-quality anime fantasies, beginning with Nausicaa (1984; rev vt Warriors of the Wind), which reworked the first quarter of the manga story. The movie's success led to the establishment of Studio Ghibli, specializing in theatrical feature animation. It was Ghibli which produced HM's Laputa: The Flying Island (ot Tenku no Shiro Laputa; 1986; vt Castle in the Sky), a Playground retro-world fantasy partly modelled on South Wales, with Nausicaa's mishmash of technology; and My Neighbour Totoro (ot Tonari No Totoro; 1988), an idyllic tale of two girls finding a friendly nature spirit.
However, HM's borderline fantasies were more commercially successful: Kiki's Delivery Service (ot Majo No Takkyubin; 1989; newly voiced in English 1998), about a pubescent trainee Witch whose sole special ability is flight but who nonetheless inspires those around her; and Porco Rosso (ot Kurenai no Buta; 1992), about a 1920s ace pilot who happens to be a pig. (It's notable that nearly all HM's heroes fly: for example, Nausicaa surfs the winds on a jet-powered glider.) HM then produced Pom Poko (1994; vt War of the Raccoons), written/dir by his longtime colleague Isao Takahata (Shapeshifting raccoons battle human developers), before himself writing/producing Whisper of the Heart (ot Mimi o Sumaseba; 1995), a delightful, borderline Magic Realist tale of a girl creating her own fantasy, with spectacular dream sequences. All four movies were tremendously successful at the Japanese cinema, defeating such Disney rivals as Beauty and the Beast (1991).
HM made his long-awaited return to direction with the blockbuster Princess Mononoke (ot Mononoke Hime; 1997). A national phenomenon, the movie broke the 15-year record held by Steven Spielberg's E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and is to date Japan's highest-grossing domestic movie. A thematic sequel to Nausicaa, it has as its title character a feral, wolf-raised girl who fights human invaders on the side of animal Gods, though the Nausicaa role is taken by a boy trying to mediate between both sides. A deal with Disney means Mononoke will be among the first of HM's movies to get an overdue Western release, introducing new audiences to his remarkable work. [AO]