Japan's top filmmaker takes swipe at comic-mad PM

Thu Nov 20, 2008 3:40am EST
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By Isabel Reynolds

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Oscar-winning filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki criticized Prime Minister Taro Aso's penchant for "manga" comic books Thursday and said children should spend more time experiencing nature than getting engrossed in video games and TV.

The 67-year-old director of a string of animated blockbusters including this year's "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" was asked what he thought about 68-year-old Aso's much-touted penchant for reading comics, which has gained the premier a following among fellow manga fans.

"It's an embarrassment," Miyazaki said in a rare news conference. "That's something that should be done in private."

A maverick who has stuck to hand-drawn artwork despite the burgeoning digital animation industry, Miyazaki harks back to a more natural, pre-industrial Japan in works such as "Spirited Away," for which he won an Academy Award in 2003.

Miyazaki distanced himself from the "soft power" of video, game and manga content that Aso and other Japanese politicians have tried to harness to boost the country's image.

Aso even launched an international manga award to promote the genre -- a 500 billion yen ($5.2 billion) industry in Japan alone -- around the world.

"This environment surrounding our children is full of virtual reality: television, video games, e-mail, mobile phones and manga," the white-haired Miyazaki said.

"I think this saps children of their strength," he said, adding that he realized his viewpoint was paradoxical, given his choice of vocation.   Continued...

<p>Japan's animation movie director Hayao Miyazaki speaks at a news conference in Tokyo November 20, 2008. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon</p>