This is the 12th in a series on influential figures in the Heisei Era, which began in 1989 and will end when Emperor Akihito abdicates on April 30. In Heisei, Japan was roiled by economic excess and stagnation, as well as a struggle for political and social reform. This series explores those who left their imprint along the way.

He is by far Japan's most famous animator — in fact, he's one of the country's most recognizable living people. Animators and live-action filmmakers around the world acknowledge his influence. His talents have even been described by fans as "godlike."

But as Japan entered the Heisei Era, which is slated to end with the abdication of Emperor Akihito, Hayao Miyazaki's upward trajectory was anything but certain.