The bloggers and Twitter users and whatnot are up in arms about an affront to their 2010 sensibilities: Hayao Miyazaki Compares iPad Use To Masturbation. Kotaku delivers the goods in an article that covers a wildly popular animator, a wildly popular bit of new tech, and a wildly popular activity. Think of the page impressions, man!
Now Kotaku is a tech blog, so of course its writers will focus on the tech aspect of the story being told—here the iPad comments from a well-known animator. To its credit, though, it includes a solid paragraph presenting some of the additional nuance provided in the Japanese article it references:
He might seem like an eccentric technophobe, but he is coming from an “All I need are pencil and paper” point-of-view. That might be all he needs. He’s Hayao Miyazaki! And with those simple tools, he can create brilliance. Not everyone is talented as Miyazaki. Later in the article, however, he encourages people to become creators, and not simply consumers. With all today’s information overload, it is easy for people to lose sight of what they need to focus on to advance society.
I thought the following quote, included in that Japanese article, was far more illuminating than the “masturbatory iPad use” one. The interviewer asks whether technology like the iPad could be useful in research, offering a way to view information or even to order printed material for delivery. Miyazaki replies (my translation, which suffers from my not knowing what they were talking about up to this point):
Now look. This is going to come across as harsh, but there are some things you just can’t look up on this gadget. It’s because you totally lack an interest in the atmosphere aboard an atake warship, say, or compassion for the men who toiled sweating at its oars. You aren’t going out into the real world and pouring your creativity into something; you’re just skimming its surface, gripping your iWhatever tightly in your hand and stroking away.
I’m sure there are plenty of people who want to put their hands on the latest iWhatever as soon as possible and gain that feeling of omnipotence. Let me tell you something: In the 1960s there were people who went mad for these things called boom boxes—they were huge!—and carried them proudly wherever they went. These people must all be pensioners today, but they were exactly like you. They went crazy for a new product and felt smugly satisfied once they got it. They were nothing more than consumers.
You mustn’t be a consumer. Be a creator instead.
I’m glad Kotaku did include some of this in its English-language presentation of Miyazaki’s views. It’s disappointing, although hardly surprising, that many of the reactions I’m seeing to it on the English-language web is along the lines of “what a goddamn Luddite” instead.
The publication that carried this interview is a Studio Ghibli in-house monthly mag called 『熱風』 (Neppū). The July 2010 issue with Miyazaki’s comments actually dedicated its special feature pages to five articles on the iPad, which makes it hard to view the studio as a rabid den of technophobes.
Looks like an interesting read, and at just ¥2,000 for 12 issues, delivered, I think I’ll be subscribing soon. But here’s where I suddenly shift course and agree that Ghibli is entirely too technophobic for my tastes: to subscribe, you need one of the postal remittance slips included with each issue of the magazine, or, if you don’t have one, you need to send an SASE to the Ghibli folks so they can send you one of the slips. Meh. I’ll stop by one of the bookstores listed on that page to get a copy myself, or maybe just swing by the studio on my way home to cram my sweaty thousand-yen notes into their hands directly.
(Bonus postscript: It looks like there was a similar flap when Gundam creator Tomino Yoshiyuki addressed a video game developers’ conference and told them to stop creating wasteful, “evil” things. There’s coverage of that in English and Japanese, and, of course, plenty of responses from people who ignore the “strive instead to do something meaningful” sentiment in favor of pointing out various hypocrisies in his stance.)