A highly entertaining memoir describing what it was like to work for Japan’s premiere animation studio, Studio Ghibli, and its reigning genius Hayao Miyazaki. A behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like for a gaijin (foreigner) to work in a thoroughly Japanese organization run by four of the most famous and culturally influential people in modern Japan.
This intermittently intriguing memoir offers only limited insight into either its author or the never-ending man of the title, renowned Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki but it does provide a fresh perspective on the experience of Westerners in Japan. Alpert was, for more than a decade, the only non-Japanese employee at Studio Ghibli, acting as head of international sales for the company behind such popular Miyazaki films as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. His account never feels like a fish-out-of-water story, as he begins some 10 years into his time in Japan. He also says less about the nuts and bolts of making movies than about the general experience of doing business as an outsider in Japan, musing, for instance, on how his status as a gaijin, or foreigner, led to him being treated as a kind of status symbol for the company. A few striking characters emerge notably Tokuma chairman Yasuyoshi Tokuma, depicted here as a ruthless, often frightening businessman with a penchant for H agen-Dazs ice cream but Alpert never conveys much of a personal connection with Miyazaki himself. Amounting to an uneven collection of business anecdotes, Alpert's workmanlike book will appeal more to other expatriate Japan residents than to Miyazaki fans.