Morality in Storytelling
This is a excerpt from a short documentary, called The Essence of Humanity, which analyzes the storytelling philosophy and craft of legendary filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki. The entire film is posted below if you'd like to view it.
Unlike traditional fantasy, Miyazaki doesn't present morality as a simple binary. The dichotomy of good vs evil isn't present in these films. Everything and everyone displays elements of tenderness as well as elements of savagery. Nothing in the world is either one or the other, is an amalgamation of all emotions within a spectrum. The same way Lady Eboshi wants to destroy the forest yet at the same time houses the sick and gives the inhabitants of iron town a good lifestyle, Miyazaki purposes a theme of morality that’s complex. It's not shown to repress the negative aspects of humanity because they exist all around us; it's part of nature. Brutality and tenderness co-exist without any contradictions in these worlds, as they do in our own.
"The story is never about the protagonist winning, it's about the protagonist adapting and growing within a world that isn't built around their needs."
- Hayao Miyazaki
This realism avoids pandering to an audience to give an unflinching view of our own existence, but the message we see is that the story is never about the protagonist winning, it's about the protagonist adapting and growing within a world that isn't built around their needs. We're confronted with harsh realities, however they're addressed so that something better may arise. Many [American] animations end with everything tied in a neat bow, saved by a deus ex-machina that solved everything. But there hasn't really been any development of the character. They achieve their goal without overcoming any long lasting personal obstacles. On the other hand, Miyazaki characters never end as the audience expected. They begin flawed and remain flawed, but their experiences have helped blossom their outlook. Ashitaka's scar may still remain, and no one may ever understand or believe Chihiro, but the solidarity and connection they've made with their world is an example of a spiritual liberation of the character instead of a material one.