By: Nimra Khan

Hayao Miyazaki, legendary Japanese animator and co-founder of Studio Ghibli, best known for his work on animated classics like Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro, received an honorary Oscar at the Governor’s Award Ceremony on Nov 8. All I have to say is it’s about time.

Miyazaki has become known as the “Walt Disney of Japan,” who still adheres to the traditional style of animation where one draws out each frame of the movie by hand. This incredible attention to detail is present across the twenty feature films that Studio Ghibli has created since 1986 and resulted in films that rival many works of art. These films have brought considerable success in Japan, especially with the overseas success of Spirited Away, which is also the highest grossing film in Japan.

This success is furthered by the enthusiasm of John Lasseter (chief creative officer at Disney and Pixar), who has worked to show American audiences the beauty of Miyazaki’s work, resulting in the two animators becoming friends over the years. Unfortunately, despite Miyazaki’s efforts and powerful partnerships, he has only received one Oscar back in 2001 for Spirited Away. While he has since been nominated twice for other works, this is only the second Oscar for the filmmaker, making the award that much more important.

Miyazaki took the stage at the ceremony as Lasseter enthusiastically presented him the award. Given to us through a translator, Miyazaki began his acceptance speech with “my wife tells me that I’m a very lucky man,” as he described how happy he was to have been a part of the last era of animated films created with pen and paper. Regardless of the awkwardness that language barriers provide, Miyazaki possessed the decorum of a man with enough experience to rival most people in the room, as he stepped off the stage with an “arigatou gozaimasu” (thank you).

Unfortunately, this award also follows Miyazaki’s official announcement of retirement, making The Wind Rises his final feature film with Studio Ghibli. Like many people all over the world, Miyazaki’s films inspired me when I was a child, and continue to inspire me into adulthood. I’m heartbroken to see him leave, but I will always be thankful for the respect I gained for animation through his work. This Oscar only scratches the surface in terms of appreciating the amount of joy he has brought to children all around the world, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. Like many fans, I have my fingers crossed hoping that this won’t be the last we see of Miyazaki.

Aurora Coltman
Silhouette Intern

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During the summer break, I visited Japan on my own. But this is not another travel story. It’s actually about what happens after the adventure, when the adrenaline and the jet lag bring you straight back to a jarring reality of obstacles, stress and responsibility.

But let me finish my introduction. I visited Japan. Going there, I had a suitcase inside a suitcase, pre-emptively solving the problem of how to bring back an extra ton of souvenirs.

Among these souvenirs was a particularly treasured little item for myself. That item is a Daruma doll. Darumas are symbols of perseverance and good luck. Given as gifts, they are signs of encouragement.

However, there’s a certain trick to working the magic of a Daruma doll: you must paint an eye.

Yes, only one eye. Daruma dolls are typically given with blank eyes – entirely white. It is supposed to be that you make a wish, and when wishing on the Daruma doll, you paint one eye. When you fulfill that wish, you paint the second eye. And here’s a neat little tidbit: if you knock a Daruma doll over, it springs right back up. This is supposed to suggest that no matter where you’re going in life, you are somehow still on track in fulfilling your dream. You fall in life’s lows, but you always stand right back up.

A lot of people will probably scoff at that; label it unrealistic, a romantic notion.

And I sort of agree.

But the romanticism is what makes painting the eye so attractive: fulfilling a dream.

Most of you know by this point that it isn’t always the downs of life that drain the most – it’s recovering from those downs. Most of you out there don’t own your own little Daruma dolls; you don’t have a constant reminder that you’re on track with your dream - that you’re going to stand back up again.

Well, you’re probably most definitely scoffing now, am I right? But how about I share a little secret? I have a dream too, just like most of you. That doesn’t mean it’s a clear dream. It is by no means “I want two and half kids, a happy marriage, and a white picket fence.”

Firstly: heck no.

Secondly: there is so much more to my dream than clear-cut words. Mine’s a hazy little outline. Maybe to someday be not a paying guest at comic-cons and music festivals, but to someday be a guest, to be invited because someone somewhere happened to recognize talent among hard work and effort.

Which seems to me to be a near-impossible dream. But then again, if I don’t give it a shot, and if I don’t recover from the downs, I’ll never know.

So when you step out to pursue your dream, give it your best shot, and remember: always spring back up.

Two years ago, Collin Rusneac was putting up decorations for the impending graduation ceremony of his English students in Higashi Sendai Junior High. That was when the tremors started.

The Mac philosophy and religious studies alumnus, fresh off of getting his bachelor's degree, enrolled in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme and set off for a full year of assisting Japanese teachers in English lessons.

“They let us pick where we wanted to get placed, so I chose a place in the countryside, but they placed me instead in Sendai, a really urban area,” said Rusneac.

Sendai, a mere 12 km from the coast, is where Rusneac spent the next few months of his life, all the while learning the language and becoming immersed in Japanese culture. Then on March 11, 2011, Japan encountered a magnitude 9.0 earthquake which shook Collin's resolve as well the lives of everyone around him.

“I looked outside and the ground was open, dirty water was streaming out from the pipes. It was horrifying. Kids around you are screaming and you don't know what to do,” said Rusneac.

Rusneac made note of how overly prepared the Japanese were for earthquake events as they are fairly commonplace, but they did not expect one of this severity.

“When I first came over, they brought in a truck to prepare us [assistant language tutors] for earthquakes. They strapped us into a bunch of chairs and shook us around while telling us what to expect on a big screen. It was sort of fun at the time but looking back now I would never not take it seriously again,” said Rusneac.

Higashi (West) Sendai Junior High was a brisk 20-minute bicycle ride away from the farthest landing point of the tsunami that demolished the nearby town of Shiromaki, where Rusneac visited after the event.

“The streets were split open, cars were dangling off of trees. It was like something out of movie special effects.”

A month later his students got to attend their long-awaited graduation ceremony as the nation attempted to recover from the catastrophe, while the school continued to serve as an emergency shelter for the injured and homeless.

In the few short days following the ceremony the school got caught in one of many aftershocks that caved in the roof of the school, albeit at a time where students were out of term and safe from harm's way.

Filmmaker Tim Graf is screening a documentary about the disaster recovery effort this Thursday, March 7 at 7 p.m. in CNH 104, to shed light on how the struggle is ongoing, even on this second anniversary of the earthquake.

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