The worlds so thoroughly imagined by the French comic artist Jean Giraud, better known as Moebius, and the Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, immediately recognized the world over by his family name alone, could have arisen from no other artistic minds. It stands to reason not only that appreciators of one would appreciate the other, but that the two men would hold each other’s work in high regard. “Japanese animation is impressive,” Moebius once said to Miyazaki as the two expressed their mutual appreciation. “I really think it is the best in the world, and Miyazaki’s work is top in Japan.”
“Moebius first discovered Miyazaki’s work in 1986, when his son Julien (then a schoolboy) showed him a pirate copy of a video containing a titleless, authorless, and undubbed animated feature,” writes Dani Cavallaro in The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki. “The French artist was instantly seduced by the film’s graphic vigor and technical inventiveness but took it to be the one-off accomplishment of an unfamed animator. When he eventually discovered that the film’s name was Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and that its creator’s name was Hayao Miyazaki, Moebius endeavored to delve deeper into the Japanese animator’s oeuvre and to publicly voice his admiration.”
And Miyazaki turns out to have drawn inspiration from Moebius when he focused on animation. Miyazaki, who began as a comic artist himself, remembers discovering Moebius through Arzach, his series of wordless visual stories of a hero who rides a pterodactyl through otherwordly and forbiddingly sublime landscapes. “It was a big shock,” says Miyazaki. “Not only for me. All manga authors were shaken by this work. Unfortunately when I discovered it, I already had a consolidated style. So I couldn’t use his influence to enrich my drawing. Though, even today, I think he has an awesome sense of space. I directed Nausicaä under Moebius’ influence.”
In 2004, the exhibition Miyazaki/Moebius presented brought them together in Paris. Cavallaro describes it as “a panoramic survey of the two artists’ careers through 300 works including watercolors storyboards, cels and concept designs, thematically arranged, drawn from their personal collections,” including a drawing of Nausicaä by Moebius and one of Arzach by Miyazaki. They also sat down there for the conversation recorded in the video above. “The 21st century is a tricky time,” says Miyazaki. “Our future isn’t clear. We need to re-examine many things we’ve taken for granted, whether it’s our common sense or our way of thinking.” The sheer imaginative power of artists like the both of them continues to show us the way forward.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.