Western values are not universal

Western psychology assumes that people seek cognitive consistency, meaning that they avoid mutually conflicting bits of information. This seems to be less the case in East and Southeast Asian countries.
— Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, 3rd edition. New York: McGraw Hill.
No artist has explored the contradictions of humanity as sympathetically and critically as the Japanese animation legend.


MIYAZAKI’S FATHER WAS not a bystander in the war. He ran a munitions factory that produced wings for the military’s fearsomely acrobatic Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter planes, which in the last months of the war were converted for kamikaze missions. In a 1995 newspaper essay in The Asahi Shimbun, Miyazaki describes his father as something of a grifter, bribing officials to accept defective parts. After Japan’s surrender, when there were no more planes to furnish, his father used leftover duralumin, an aluminum alloy that had helped keep the Zero lightweight and dangerous, to make flimsy spoons, which he pawned off on impoverished customers desperate for household goods. Later, he briefly turned the factory into a dance hall, before bringing the family — Miyazaki is the second of four sons — back to Tokyo.

Although Miyazaki never set foot in his father’s factory, which was off limits as a military site, he was entranced by airplanes and the liberation of flight from an early age. (Ghibli is both the hot, dusty wind that sweeps through the Libyan Desert and the name of an airplane, the Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli, a World War II Italian reconnaissance bomber.) This obsession has manifested in almost every film, in humans who turn into flying creatures or simply walk on air; in fanciful machines like the flaptors in “Castle in the Sky” (1986), propelled by four translucent wings; and in reproductions of real-world aircraft, as in “Porco Rosso,” in which the hero’s wrecked seaplane, inspired by the 1920s-era Italian racer Macchi M.33, is rebuilt by an all-female crew to ready it for a climactic dogfight, and in “The Wind Rises,” which tells the (not entirely) true story of the designer of the Zero, Jiro Horikoshi, who in the film as in life opposed the war and whom Miyazaki portrays as reluctant to see the beautiful machines he’s created deployed as emissaries of death — a stand-in for Miyazaki’s father, or the man he might have been.

As Miyazaki grew older, he found fault with his father both for profiting off the war and for never expressing any shame or guilt. (He shares this troubled inheritance with the writers W.G. Sebald, born in 1944 in the Bavarian Alps, who had to grapple with his father’s past as a soldier in Hitler’s Wehrmacht, and the Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano, born in the suburbs of Paris in 1945 not long after V-E Day, whose own father kept company with collaborators and profiteers.) And yet, Miyazaki wrote in 1995, “I am like him” — a man of contradictions: a filmmaker who condemns the proliferation of images even as he contributes to it; an artist who has devoted his career to children but was rarely home to take care of his own; an environmentalist who can’t bear to give up his cigarettes or wheezing car; a professed Luddite who revels in the mechanics of modern vehicles but tries “not to draw them in a fashion that further feeds an infatuation with power,” as he has written; a pacifist who loves warplanes; a brooder with a dark view of how civilization has squandered the gifts of the planet, who nevertheless makes films that affirm the urgency of human life.
Ligaya Mishan on New York Times Magazine, "Hayao Miyazaki prepares to cast one last spell"
This embrace of contradictions may be why Miyazaki’s movies, although beloved in the West (if not as wildly successful as in Japan, where his last five films combined took in close to 100 billion yen in their first release, or around $873 million), in some ways thwart the Western mind. Absent are the dominating themes of monotheism — a fall from an original state of grace, followed by redemption — and a clear dichotomy of good and evil. “I’m not a god who decides on what is good and bad,” Miyazaki tells me. “We as humans make mistakes.” In his world, there are few outright villains or even truly bad characters, only characters who do bad things.
Ligaya Mishan on New York Times Magazine, "Hayao Miyazaki prepares to cast one last spell"
The world is not the West and liberal values are not universally embraced. — Stan Grant on ABC Online