ghibli mudmen inspiration top

It’s no secret that Hayao Miyazaki and his team of animators find inspiration for Studio Ghibli’s movies all over the place. Ponyo’s setting was inspired by a harbor town in Japan, Spirited Away’s world was based on a location in Taiwan, and Princess Mononoke’s forest came from Japan’s Yakushima Island.

But it was recently brought to light that a lot of inspiration for Ghibli’s movies came from a more innocuous place: a manga. The title is Mudmen, named after the Asaro Mudmen of Papua New Guinea, where the manga takes place.

Who are these “mudmen” and where do their inspirations crop up in Ghibli films? Read on to find out!

Mudmen is a manga written and illustrated by manga artist Daijiro Morohoshi. It takes place in Papua New Guinea and features fictional members of the real-life Asaro Mudmen tribe, known for their masks and body-paint.

▼ The cover of one of the issues of Mudmen along with an inside sneak peek.

But what does any of this Mudmen stuff have to do with Ghibli? Well, it all started when Kentaro Takekuma, a manga artist and writer, tweeted this image:

▼ “This is where ‘balse,’ the magic word in Castle in the Sky, comes from. It’s Daijiro Morohoshi’s Mudmen.

For those unaware, “balse” is the magic word used to destroy the flying castle in Castle in the Sky. It is a strange word to use in the film, but according to what the guy is saying in the panel above, “balse” is the word for both “plane” and “pigeon/dove” in the native’s language. I suppose it makes a little more sense now, with the magic word to destroy the flying castle having to do with flight.

Still, some may brush that off as a mere coincidence. After all, isn’t it just as likely that Miyazaki chose a random word and it just so happened to appear in this manga too?

That could be possible, if it weren’t for the fact that Miyazaki himself said that Mudmen was a big influence on his films. Takekuma-san, the one who tweeted the above image, interviewed Miyazaki for a book about Mudmen’s author, and Miyazaki ended up talking for over two hours about Mudmen and the effect it had on him.

But you don’t have to take Takekuma-san’s word for it; you can just look at Miyazaki’s films. There are several images from the Mudmen manga that look like direct inspirations for Ghibli characters. Take a look at these comparisons between Mudmen scenes and their counterparts in Princess Mononoke: (Click to enlarge.)

And here’s a photo of Mudmen’s author hanging out with the mudmen themselves:

mudmen authorHatena Blog

Hmm, those big-headed white-colored masks kind of remind me of something….

It’s always fun to catch a glimpse of the inspiration behind an artist’s work. Sometimes the influences can be extremely obvious, whereas other times, such as with Mudmen and Ghibli, it can be much more subtle.

If you happen to be searching for a bit of inspiration yourself, this is a good reminder to always keep your eyes open wide and your mind open wider. You might find it in the unlikeliest, and sometimes the muddiest, of places.

Source: Twitter/@kentaro666 via NetLab and Hachima Kikou
Featured/top image: Twitter/@kentaro666 (Edited by RocketNews24)