I had my eureka moment the other day when I saw the cover of the August issue of "Neppu" (Hot wind), a booklet published by Studio Ghibli, an animation film studio co-founded by director Hayao Miyazaki.
The cover showed Miyazaki doing a one-man street demonstration near his studio in the western Tokyo suburb of Higashi Koganei. He is wearing an apron, and a signboard hangs from his neck. The signboard says, "NO! Genpatsu (nuclear power generation)."
I just said a one-man demonstration, but actually he's not alone. Walking behind him are a woman and a man, the former carrying an umbrella and the latter accompanied by a dog on a leash and his right hand holding a signboard that says, "Stop."
Except for the signboards, the trio (plus the dog) could just as well be enjoying a leisurely stroll in the neighborhood.
The scene somehow reminded me of the popular "Mito Komon" TV samurai drama series, in which the protagonist, Komon-sama, is always accompanied by his two loyal sidekicks, Suke-san and Kaku-san.
Just ahead of the trio is a man on a bicycle coming their way. The expression on his face seems to say, "Huh? This goofball is the Hayao Miyazaki?! Well, I never."
The picture was so funny, and I loved it. And it made me think.
It was funny and yet profoundly thought-provoking because of its "softness." By "softness" here, I mean you can read just about anything into this picture and react to it in any number of ways. For instance, you might be simply impressed by Miyazaki's determination to oppose nuclear power generation. Or, you might sense the loneliness of someone who has chosen to crusade for a cause, and remind yourself that no crusade should be divorced from your day-to-day life. You might also realize, with a sigh, that there is something sadly comical about someone who wears his social conscience on his sleeve.