The “New Miyazaki”: Design and Imitation

A “new Hayao Miyazaki” is an interesting description.

Artists have always stood the test of time as outward thinkers, innovators, and contributors to the expanding mind of the human imagination. Hayao Miyazaki, director of Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away, is in regard as one of these artists. As his filmmaking years come to a close (I pray he directs many more films), people have often questioned who will rise up to take the bar he has set.

Hayao Miyazaki is not the kind of person to want a “new Hayao Miyazaki”. In fact, he detests imitation as a dependent design method. What he does want and encourages is imagination, ingenuity, and self-discovery that part ways from direct imitation. Imitation is not inherently wrong, and is a need to gain inspiration. A younger Miyazaki was once an avid fan of Osamu Tezuka, the late creator of Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy), so much that his early drawings were too reminiscent of Tezuka’s famed style. [1]

Why does Miyazaki’s style look so different now?

Miyazaki ended up throwing those drawings away, because he wanted to develop his own style: “When I was finally forced to admit that my drawings actually did look like Tezuka’s, I took out the sketches I had stored in the drawer of our dresser and burned them all. I burned them and resolved to start over from scratch, and in the belief that I needed to study the basics first…” [2]

Now media is naming Makoto Shinkai as the possible next “new Miyazaki”. Shinkai does not agree with the description. Shinkai affirms this by stating, “You don’t want to be imitating [Miyazaki’s] style. You’ve got to create something different, something that he hasn’t done. But I do want to trigger emotions like his movies triggered our emotions.” [3]

If anything, Shinkai is his own artist. Compare Shinkai’s background and character arts to the designs that Miyazaki has done by hand. Their styles are completely different. Their ways of storytelling – well, Shinkai was never part of the Studio Ghibli staff, although he did gain inspiration from watching their films. [4]

Emerging studios such as Studio Ponoc and Studio Colorido also use aesthetics that remind us of Studio Ghibli’s style, and that is because former Studio Ghibli staff are part of these new teams. Instead of the incredibly stylistic Ghibli characters we are supposed to see from Studio Ghibli alone, I would like to see distancing and something more from Ponoc and Colorido as their works progress. Their beautiful art, I believe, will be revolutionary alongside Shinkai. Anime is a difficult subject to speak about in terms of imitation. However, Studio Ghibli has always stood apart as something more original.

What then differentiates Hayao Miyazaki, Makoto Shinkai, and these emerging studios? Do we really want another Miyazaki, or to continue with something different? The characters, background design, storytelling, and the unconsciousness of the artist all speak volumes about the creativity. As artists, we unconsciously derive influences from our favorite media, and that in turn affects the creation of our characters and stories. [5]

We must always strive to invent something different.

By Adam Lewis LaValley


[1] Solomon, C. (2009, Aug 29). ‘Starting Point’ by Hayao Miyazaki. Retrieved from

[2] Solomon, C. (2009, Aug 29).

[3] Rose, S. (2016, Nov 9). Makoto Shinkai: Could the anime director be cinema’s ‘new Miyazaki’? Retrieved from

[4] Rose, S. (2016, Nov 9).

[5] SciArt Center. (2017). The New Unconscious. Retrieved from

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