Did Hayao Miyazaki really say "anime was a mistake"? Meme explained

Filmmaker and animator Hayao Miyazaki is an icon in the anime world, making it difficult to believe he would say this highly meme'd quote.
Hayao Miyazaki Retirement Press Conference
Hayao Miyazaki Retirement Press Conference / Jun Sato/GettyImages

As one of the most prominent names in anime, Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki is an incredibly respected filmmaker with a creative touch like no other. Because of his undeniable talent and experience in the world of animation, it's no surprise that fans devour any interview he gives and analyze every quote that goes viral. The 83-year-old Japanese artist has been working in animation since the early '60s, and most notably co-founded the iconic Studio Ghibli in 1985.

Through Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki has directed nine incredible films, and the studio itself has produced some of the highest-grossing anime movies made in Japan. Spirited Away (2001) might be the most well-known film by Miyazaki, but all nine of his movies are widely regarded as masterpieces. Given Miyazaki is such a force in the world of anime, many have been shocked over the years by a viral "quote" allegedly said by the filmmaker that's been turned into a meme. I'm sure you've seen it and have wondered: Did Miyazaki actually say "anime was a mistake"?

Well, the short answer is no, Miyazaki didn't actually say the words "anime was a mistake." The long answer? It's complicated. Let's get into it. (For reference, here's a GIF of that misquoted moment.)

Japan - Animation movie director Hayao Miyazaki
Japan - Animation movie director Hayao Miyazaki / noboru hashimoto/GettyImages

As explained by GQ, this misunderstanding began after Miyazaki gave an interview in 2014, where he discussed the state of anime and his criticisms of the genre. The filmmaker expressed what he believes is wrong with many Japanese animators and how they depict humans, particularly women. Here's the actual quote he shared, which in no part calls anime as a genre "a mistake":

"You see, whether you can draw like this or not, being able to think up this kind of design, it depends on whether or not you can say to yourself, 'Oh, yeah, girls like this exist in real life.' If you don’t spend time watching real people, you can’t do this, because you’ve never seen it. Some people spend their lives interested only in themselves. Almost all Japanese animation is produced with hardly any basis taken from observing real people, you know? It’s produced by humans who can’t stand looking at other humans. And that’s why the industry is full of otaku!"

Hayao Miyazaki

So, what is "otaku"? According to Dictionary.com, this term is a slang word referring to "a person who is obsessed with manga, anime, and other forms of Japanese or East Asian popular culture." The site goes on the clarify that "otaku" is similar to the English slang words "geek" or "nerd." So what Miyazaki is likely saying here is that the anime genre is full of artists who depict their characters based on unrealistic portrayals already seen within anime, instead of basing them off of real-life humans. Because they are so obsessed with anime and not the real world, they don't create accurate portrayals of people.

At least, that's what I think Miyazaki means. In whatever way you interpret that quote, there's no way he straight-up says "anime was a mistake." Although he is critiquing animators in the space, I'm certain he's not trying to say the genre should have never happened. So how did this misquote become so popular? Well, it is the internet... Fake quotes and reports spread like wildfire on social media. Someone might've created the fake quote purposefully to troll anime fans, and apparently it worked!

Whatever the case may be, I hope anime lovers can rest assured that their favorite creator, Hayao Miyazaki, has never said such a thing — at least, not in public, anyway.

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