Why I Have My Kids Watch Hayao Miyazaki Films

The Bible can be a very difficult book to read. I believe this is why it is often misinterpreted, misunderstood, and misrepresented.

That is not to say that I have all the correct interpretations, understanding, or that I best represent what it teaches. I am still learning. But I have learned a lot. Some of my students think too much.

However, one of the most defining sections of the Old Testament is the History books, Joshua through Esther, in the Protestant Bible. These books are wonderfully scripted, expertly crafted, painfully detailed, and, above all, not at all western literature.

Yes. They are not western literature. This is eastern history telling. Middle-eastern history telling. That is why there are sections that sound like other Middle-eastern writings also from that time: they shared a same literary identity. This is no different than modern day literary styles and techniques: literature, though not necessarily the content of that literature, is a product of its time.

And the history books of the Old Testament are Middle-eastern historical literature.

So, what does this have to do with why I have my kids watch Hayao Miyazaki films?

Simple: they aren’t western literature either.

Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese animator, often called the Disney of Japanese animation ( a title he abhors). He has made some of the greatest animated films of all time (yes, even compared to Disney). We study him in my filmmaking class (or will, depending on when you are reading this), especially how he uses plot to serve the characters and his depiction of evil (of any of his characters could be that).

For clarification, Japan is not Middle-east, it is far-east. Nevertheless, it still shares a great distinction of not being the west.

In my own life, I have fallen in love with Miyazaki’s imagery over and over again. From my first viewing of KiKi’s Delivery Service in my grandparents lake house to rewatching The Wind Rises in my own house with my wife (Ashlie), watching Miyazaki’s work has done something that not many other films have, at least for me:

They have helped me understand an  eastern form of story structure that is almost completely absent in the west, and by doing so, helped be better pick up the varying literary styles and shapes of the Historical Books of the Old Testament.

Disney is western visual literature; Miyazaki is eastern visual literature – the cinematic language used by both master is only distinct by how they format a story.

The Old Testament is not western; it is eastern.

This is why  I have my kids watch Hayao Miyazaki films, so that they will hopefully have a better understanding of how eastern story telling works.

I hope that ‘s what they get out of it.

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