Often-overlooked detail reveals why Studio Ghibli films connect with audiences on such a deep level.

In Japan, where thousands upon thousands of different anime have been created, it takes a true legend to stand out and receive accolades from a global audience. Studio Ghibli director and co-founder Hayao Miyazaki is one such legend, often lauded as the Japanese animation industry’s greatest visionary, not just for his impeccable storytelling but his skills as a hand-drawn anime artist, an art he continues to keep alive to this very day.

▼ There’s a special magic to hand-drawn anime that CG images can’t quite capture.

Loveable characters appear to flow effortlessly from the 80-year-old’s fingertips, but it’s not just innate talent that belies the director’s skill. A lot of Miyazaki’s artistic ability has been nurtured through years of observation, and one of his little-known insights recently went viral online, as it reveals a simple yet often-overlooked tip that can elevate an ordinary artwork from good to anime-professional spectacular. 

The insight was shared online by manga artist Takehito Moriizumi,(@moriizumii) who recalled an old television program that featured Miyazaki, saying:

“A long time ago, there was a program in which director Hayao Miyazaki gave a brief review of pictures drawn by young people. One of the pictures showed a mother feeding kakigori (shaved ice) to a child sitting on her lap. I was impressed by the picture, and thought “they drew that really well”, but Director Miyazaki pointed out that “at times like this, the mother would also open her mouth.” 

Moriizumi went on to say:

“I remember thinking, ‘so that’s what performance direction is’. That was before I became a manga artist, but it stuck with me, and since becoming a manga artist it’s been very useful advice.”

A tiny detail like a mother opening her mouth as she feeds her child is one that can transform a good picture into a moving moment that connects with audiences on a much deeper level. It’s a fascinating nugget of wisdom from the director, and gives us an insight into the way his artistic eye observes the world and funnels it into his art, helping to impart a sense of realism to his magical movies.

▼ Minute details like the glimpse of teeth on this image of Haku from Spirited Away would’ve been overseen by Miyazaki in the director’s chair.

People online were quick to heap praise on the director and his useful advice, saying:

“What a fantastic way to bring action to a static picture!”
“This is so true — I have a photo of my son opening his mouth while feeding his son and I love that image!”
“Wow, his powers of observation are on point!”
“So that’s what it takes to be an artistic genius!”
“Attention to detail is so important when depicting reality on paper.”

Whether you’re a complete novice or an experienced professional, taking the time to observe the world as Miyazaki would is one sure way to help improve your art. As the director has shown us in the past, movement and form is vital to conveying emotion and depicting realism, even when you’re creating a character that embodies the dreaded coronavirus.

Source: Twitter/@moriizumii via Hachima Kikou
Featured image: Studio Ghibli 

Insert images: Studio Ghibli ( 1, 2)
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