Why does the animation in Hayao Miyazaki’s films feel so rich and vibrant? It’s not just the visuals! That’s the focus of a new video essay from YouTuber Kristain Williams, aka kaptainkristian, in which he explores the detail and design of Miyazaki’s work.
The answer to the question that Williams raises is found in the particular details in Miyazaki’s animated films, particularly in the elements that aren’t animation. Miyazaki expertly used sound and sound design to establish the space and environment in a film, Williams reveals, whether that was a natural or mechanical landscape. Sound is embedded so deeply within Miyazaki’s worlds, that altering the soundscape can change the film entirely, a phenomenon that Williams demonstrates by juxtaposing a scene from Castle in the Sky between the Japanese and American releases.
This detail extends beyond the soundscape — he looks at the detail in the animation itself, looking at the wonderful landscapes and purposeful detail that gives viewers the sense that they’re looking at a vibrant and lived-in world.
This is also a particularly exciting moment: the video is the first from kaptainkristian in over a year, and it’s good to see that he’s returned to YouTube after an extended absence. If you haven’t checked out his work before, you’re in for a treat. Over the last couple of years, he’s released a series of excellent video essays covering everything from the innovations in Calvin & Hobbes, the history of Adult Swim, the art of Watchmen, how Niantic created Pokémon to foster an incredible gaming community, the sound design of Star Wars, and quite a bit more.
If there’s an overlying theme to kaptainkristian’s videos, it’s that the artistic design of a film, TV series, or celebrity contains multitudes of detail, and that if you understand what you’re looking at, you gain a greater understanding of the work in question. Almost every time I watch one of these videos (and I go back and rewatch them a lot), I feel like I come away with a greater understanding of what the creators intended, and a better appreciation for the detail that they put into their work.
His video on Pokémon opened my eyes to something that I’d dismissed as a teenager as a dumb fad, while his Watchmen essay unveiled some key points that I’d missed the first couple of times that I’d read it.
That’s the case with this latest video, “Why Hayao Miyazaki’s Animation Feels Alive.” I’ve only caught a handful of Miyazaki’s films, but after watching, I’m making it a point to. With the sound turned up.