Plots Animated by Kindness

Robin Sloan in his July 2022 newsletter writes about watching every movie ever made by the beloved Japanese anime director Hayao Miyazaki. Scroll to the end to read his observations. Here’s what he says about Kiki’s Delivery Service:

There is so much kindness in so many of Miyazaki’s movies. Plots animated by kindness. If people were not kind and open: nothing would happen!

The great twists in Miyazaki movies are that people and creatures turn out to be friendlier than you expect. The dog in the big house in Kiki.

Plots animated by kindness: not saccharine or dull, but soaring and magnetic. Stories about kindness that draw potent chemicals into your blood just as surely as the thrillers do! That make your heart thrum, pull your cheeks tight. That tell you about the world, and what’s possible in it.

This kind of art is just as deadly serious as the baddest, saddest streaming TV series you have ever seen. Believe it.

I love this and couldn’t agree more—and not just because I happen to think Miyazaki is one of the greatest artists of our time. It is of course unfair and subjective of me to say this, but I get the sense that many modern artists believe that you have to be cynical about human nature, that you can only tell a good story if there is grotesque violence and injustice, and that any humor involved must be dark and crude. To make room for anything else, such as a quasi-villain who performs a major unexpected act of kindness, is at best naive and at worst a dishonest construct appropriate only for children’s stories. Granted, evil and suffering and selfishness are fundamental features of the human experience but they are not the only ones, and it’s entirely possible—and, in my view, often more desirable—to narrate horrendous evil as a way to “illustrate the good“. Perhaps the failure to grasp this is one reason we live in such a tiresome, lame commercial culture right now.

Osono in ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ kindly offers Kiki a room and a job. Source: Deviant Art