Academy Awards: Double Win Shows Japan’s Fundamental Strength in Filmmaking

Japanese films received high praise at the top movie awards in the United States, marking a new page in the history of Japanese cinema. This great accomplishment should be celebrated and used as an opportunity to further develop Japanese culture and arts.

The 96th Academy Awards ceremony has been held. “Kimitachi wa Do Ikiruka” (“The Boy and the Heron”), directed by Hayao Miyazaki, took home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film, and “Godzilla Minus One,” directed by Takashi Yamazaki, won Best Visual Effects.

This is the first time since 2009 for two Japanese films to win Oscars in the same year, showing the strong potential of Japanese film. Anime and special effects are fields that Japan has nurtured over time. Both works were likely recognized for their elaborate, beautiful, and realistic visual expression.

Miyazaki is a master filmmaker who has led the Japanese anime industry for a long time. In 2003, he won an Academy Award for “Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi” (“Spirited Away”).

For several years, a film distribution company that serves the North American market has shown Miyazaki’s past works at movie theaters across the United States, taking the time to develop a fan base.

“The Boy and the Heron” is a philosophical film that seems to ask viewers to question how they live their lives. Some people said it was difficult to understand, but the movie was well received by many fans and topped the weekend box office in North America. The steady efforts of local staff may also have contributed to its Oscar win.

As for Godzilla, the first film in the series was released in Japan in 1954. The latest movie fully utilized computer graphics to create a powerful picture, and although its budget was lower than that of American blockbusters, the filmmakers’ creativity and ingenuity was evident throughout the film.

There is a contrast between the two films in that “The Boy and the Heron” utilized traditional hand-drawn techniques, while “Godzilla Minus One” made use of the latest computer graphics technology. Both techniques are symbolic of Japanese cinema, and it is hoped that the quality of both will further be improved.

“Perfect Days,” starring Koji Yakusho, was also nominated for an Academy Award this year. Although it did not win, Yakusho received the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival, showing that Japanese films also have a significant presence outside of animation and special effects categories.

Japanese manga is also loved all over the globe. The news that Akira Toriyama, the creator of “Dragon Ball,” had passed away caused grief around the world. The French news agency AFP praised Toriyama’s achievements in helping boost the popularity of Japanese manga and anime.

For the future development of Japanese culture and arts, it is essential for young artists to play an active role. However, little progress is said to have been made in improving the work conditions at production sites and fostering human resources. The government and the industry should strive to create an environment in which young people can continue to produce works that impress the world.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 12, 2024)