Few filmmakers succeed in making me think beyond the surface of a movie, past the fancy effects and stellar sound track. Most I can enjoy on some level, though most are gone from my thoughts the instant the credits roll.
There is one, however, no matter how many of his films I devour, they linger in my mind long after I’ve turned off the idiot box or stepped out of the theatre.
Hayao Miyazaki has always captivated me with his stories. It wasn’t clear to me why, at first. They’re cartoons, for goodness sake, not some deep drama or documentary.
What is it about his work? Why do I ponder the relationship between Chihiro and Bunta Sugawara in Spirited Away? Why does Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle make me want to know more about him beyond what’s told in the story? Why don’t I want to strangle Ponyo’s father when he takes her back to the sea?
The answer is most obvious in Princess Mononoke (picture above).
There are no villains in Miyazaki’s work. Yes, there is an antagonist in Princess Mononoke, but Miyazaki makes it difficult to hate her, because she’s not purely, cut and dried, evil.
Yes, Lady Eboshi is destroying the forest and killing innocent creatures to get at the ore in the mountain, but she also buys out the contracts of brothel girls and tends the ills of a colony of lepers. She’s hard to hate, because I can see both sides of her story. She does what she must, even though the cost is high.
I began to wonder if I could create an antagonist who readers would be conflicted about, maybe even understand his or her motivations for whatever nasty roadblock he or she erects in the way of my protagonist.
Out of that thought, a new novel idea came to life, where I will attempt to adopt Miyazaki’s ideals that no one person is entirely good, or entirely bad, but some complex mixture of the two.
The story, THE LONG ROAD, is the next in line to be written after the next Lila Gray novel, and I hope to share it with you some time in the future.