Hayao Miyazaki, the director and writer of some of the world's most beloved and masterfully imaginative anime films, has a following in and outside of Japan dedicated enough to rival that of Disney. So it was no surprise to see the line for an art show inspired by his sprawling body of work wrapping down the block in San Francisco this past weekend. The queues for "Miyazaki Spirit", as it's called, went in two directions — one for the intimate Sketchpad Gallery, where a handful of Miyazaki-themed illustrations were on display, and one for the neighboring gift shop selling prints. Even the pouring rain was not enough to deter the city's hardcore fans.
The line may have surprised Sketchpad co-owner and artist Chris Koehler, who says he and the other artists were expecting only around 50 people to wander in over the course of four hours, but the overwhelming turnout is not entirely unexpected. From Princess Mononoke and My Neighbor Totoro to Ponyo and Howl's Moving Castle, Miyazaki has spent the better part of four and a half decades pioneering a style of anime that is as transportive as it is grounded in recognizable human struggles. Spirited Away's Chihiro may be trapped in a bathhouse for the spirit world, but it's still a coming of age story that could function flawlessly without the fantastical elements.
The otherworldly elements of Miyazaki films make them both familiar and fresh
But it's exactly those otherworldly elements that makes Miyazaki films feel simultaneously familiar and fresh. The art style's courtesy of Studio Ghibli, the animation house Miyazaki co-founded, also go a long way in differentiating each classic and pegging them to the evolving toolset animators have used since his first film in 1979. Each of the "Miyazaki Spirit" illustrations exist within one of Ghibli's films, but give each one a unique visual flavor. Here's a collection of the show's illustrations, and for more check out Sketchpad Gallery's Facebook page.