Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman
Starting Point 1979-1996 is a book by Hayao Miyazaki that was translated by Beth Cary and Frederik L. Schodt. The translation was first published by Viz Media in August 2009, and it had a second printing in January 2010.
The book opens with a Foreward by John Lasseter from Pixar Animation. Then, the main contents of the book are essays and pieces written by Miyazaki and interviews done with Miyazaki. These are divided into six sections: "On Creating Animation," "On the Periphery of the Work," "People," "My Favorite Things," "Planning Notes; Directorial Memoranda," and "Works."
In the middle of the book there is a section called "A Story in Color," which is a piece that Miyazaki illustrated and wrote for the June 1994 edition of Japan Airlines' in-flight magazine. The book closes with a biographical chronology and an Afterword written by Isao Takahata.
The first section of the book is "On Creating Animation." It includes 12 pieces Miyazaki wrote that talk about his thoughts on what animation is, how animation is created, how to draw movements, his thoughts on scenarios, and his thoughts on the workplace for animators.
Next is "On the Periphery of the Work," which includes 17 different pieces. Here, Miyazaki talks about his thoughts on Dave Fleischer, his thoughts on Fantastic Planet, his thoughts on two student shorts that he viewed, his thoughts on period dramas, his thoughts on The Man Who Planted Trees, his thoughts on the first war in Iraq, the type of film he'd like to create, his theories on the popularity of manga, and his thoughts on environmental issues.
The next section is "People," in which Miyazaki shares anecdotes and thoughts about a woman finish inspector that he knew, Yasuo Otsuka, Osamu Tezuka, Makiko Futaki, his middle school art teacher, Isao Takahata, his wife and sons, Yasuji Mori, Yoshie Hotta, Ryotaro Shiba, and his father. This is followed by "A Story in Color," which is eight pages of a kind of manga telling of the history of in-flight meals.
"My Favorite Things" includes a few drawings from Miyazaki's scrapbook. The first few pages have been translated into English; however, there is a second copy of two of the pieces that include Miyazaki's original text in his handwriting. I personally thought this was a nice touch. This is followed by a couple of pieces by Miyazaki about his car and the Takei Sanseido stationary store.
"Planning Notes; Directorial Memoranda" includes a proposal to acquire the film rights to Richard Corben's Rowlf, press release material for Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the original proposal for Castle in the Sky, the project plan and a directorial memo for My Neighbor Totoro, a piece about Kiki's Delivery Service, a couple of proposals for projects that were never produced, a directorial memo for Porco Rosso, a piece about Whisper of the Heart, and a planning memo for Princess Mononoke.
The next section is "Works," and it includes Miyazaki talking about some of the projects he had worked on: Lupin III, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Future Boy Conan, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Panda! Go Panda!, and "On Your Mark." The biographical chronology starts with Miyazaki's birth in 1941, and ends with the opening of the Ponyo exhibit at the Ghibli Museum in 2009.
I personally found this book to be rather fascinating; however, it is not something I would consider to be "light reading." I really enjoyed being able to see a bit of who Hayao Miyazaki is through the pieces and interviews included in the book. I also liked getting to see some of the production notes for Miyazaki's works that I have seen.
Probably the hardest part of the book for me to get through was the section talking about Future Boy Conan, because it's one of the few Miyazaki works addressed in this book that I have not personally had a chance to see.
I think the readers who would get the most out of this book are those who like Hayao Miyazaki and his works. If you're a fan of Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli, this book would be worth adding to your anime book library.
I wrote this review after reading a copy of this book that my husband gave to me as a gift.