TOKYO (AP) _ Academy Award-winning animation filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki said Thursday that he is merely embarrassed by Japan's comic-loving prime minister. But he was far more upbeat about investing in the nation's children.
Miyazaki's latest film "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea," now playing in Japan, is a story of a goldfish who forms a friendship with a little boy and longs to become a girl in the human world. It was shown at the Venice Film Festival in August, and is expected to open in the U.S. next year.
Miyazaki, 67, scoffs at the idea that is being pushed by Prime Minister Taro Aso that Japanese animation, comic books and other creative content can be its strength, rather than the usual historical exports of autos, electronics and other more tangible products. Aso, who became prime minister in September, is a connoisseur of Japanese "manga" comic books, and he has tried to boost his popularity by wooing comic-lovers.
But some of that tactic appears to be backfiring as his support ratings plunge and some local magazines have started criticizing him as shallow and overly pop. "It's so embarrassing," Miyazaki said at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, in answer to a question about Aso's publicly asserting his love for manga.
"That should be more private." He also joked that perhaps Japan has spent too much time producing animation as well as cars.
"That's why our food self-sufficiency is so low, and our underwear is almost all made in China," the white-haired bespectacled animator said. Miyazaki, who won the Oscar in 2003 for his "Spirited Away," acknowledged he was worried about the world's children getting too obsessed with video games, TV, e-mail and comic books.
But he said he was sure children were Japan's best investment if it hoped to turn its economy around from a slowdown. "Rather than looking at how to stimulate domestic demand by building bridges or roads, we should have a proper environment and place for our future generation," Miyazaki said.