Former Ghibli Producer: Women Too 'Realistic' to Direct Fantasy Films

posted on by Eric Stimson
Comment received derisively overseas

Hiromasa Yonebayashi, director of the Studio Ghibli film When Marnie Was There, and Yoshiaki Nishimura, Marnie's producer, gave an interview to the British newspaper The Guardian to promote their film's release in the United Kingdom this weekend. The two discussed Anna's appeal for a Japanese audience and Ghibli's financial troubles, but their comments on gender earned the most attention online.

[Yonebayashi] describes Anna as “an androgynous character, in the transition between child to adulthood, a very sensitive age” but offers up an intriguing reason for choosing another female-led story: “I'm male myself, and if I had a central character who was male, I'd probably put too much emotion into it, and that would lead to difficulty in telling the story.”

Will Ghibli ever employ a female director? Nishimura fields this question. “It depends on what kind of a film it would be. Unlike live action, with animation we have to simplify the real world. Women tend to be more realistic and manage day-to-day lives very well. Men on the other hand tend to be more idealistic – and fantasy films need that idealistic approach. I don't think it's a coincidence men are picked.”

Yoshiaki Nishimura

Twitter reaction to Nishimura's statements was fierce. ”Gonna have to punch my Totoro doll for a while," wrote @ThatRebecca. @Fergtron "was looking forward to rewatching Princess Mononoke next week but reading stuff like this is sort of a mega downer." Several media sources also joined in the criticism: The Independent's Jess Denham wrote, "Perhaps it's time that Miyazaki's successors, including Nishimura and director Hiromasa Yonebayashi, had similar faith in women working in film." Bryan Bishop, writing for The Verge, called it "profoundly offensive" and "bullshit." Isha Aran at Fusion found it "disappointing," "pretty absurd and sexist" and provided a list of six female anime directors to counter Nishimura, including Sayo Yamamoto (Michiko & Hatchin) and Ai Yoshimura (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU).

In a statement to BuzzFeed Japan, Ghibli emphasized that Nishimura is no longer associated with the studio and his comments should be taken as personal opinion.

Ghibli has released five films based on fantasy novels written by women (Kiki's Delivery Service, Howl's Moving Castle, Tales from Earthsea, The Secret World of Arrietty, When Marnie Was There) as well as two films based on manga drawn by women (Only Yesterday and Whisper of the Heart). Two women (Keiko Niwa and Riko Sakaguchi) have also contributed to four out of the studio's last five scripts.

Sources: The Guardian: Chris Michael, Hachima Kikō, Netlab Enter: Machine Shirokawa, The Independent: Jess Dunham, The Verge: Bryan Bishop, Fusion: Isha Aran, BuzzFeed: Tatsunori Tokushige and Rocket News 24: Casey Baseel; Image from Model Press

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