Movies by Hayao Miyazaki
2 Nov 2013
Hayao Miyazaki is a fantastic director. His movies are positive and insightful. I have seen eight of his movies. I enjoyed each one of them. Collectively, they showcase his breadth in creativity.

My Neighbor Totoro is a simple sprightly story of two kids and their beloved Totoro. Ponyo is a lovely story of a goldfish wish supernatural powers who wants to become human. Kiki's Delivery Service is a heart warming movie of a teenage girl becoming independent. Spirited Away features ghosts and spirits but the overall pace is gentle and calm, like placid water. Princess Mononoke is a fast paced drama like Mahabharata with clans, gods and warriors. A precursor to Princess Mononoke is the movie Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. One of his earliest movies is The Castle of Cagliostro, which is a fast paced, James Bond style movie. Finally, there is Laputa Castle in the Sky, which is similarly fantastic. In all of these movies, Miyazaki blends real life with fantasy world smoothly. Each movie is artistic, engaging, different from others.

A Miyazaki movie that I did not understand well is Howl's Moving Castle. It has high ratings at IMDB, Amazon and Rotten Tomatoes. Artwork is stunning. Like most Miyazaki movies, here is a strong female character and promotion of love and peace.

For adults, I would rank these movies as follows: Spirited Away (classy, artistic, symbolic), Princess Mononoke (a meaningful, fast paced epic on a large canvas), My Neighbor Totoro (heart-warming and sprightly), Kiki's Delivery Service (happy, coming-of-age movie for teens).

As kids get older, they are likely to enjoy the movies in this sequence: My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Laputa Castle in the Sky, Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away.

Top ten movies by Miyazake.

My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (1988, Japanese, 86 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (92%), IMDB (8.2), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Watch online: WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: anime, childhood, joyful.

Summary: A lovely movie by Hayao Miyazaki! A father moves with his two young daughters (eight and four) into a house in the woods. The kids spend time with a granny, explore the forest, meet Totoro and eagerly await their mother who is sick in a hospital. Throughout the movie, they are playing around and laughing. There are moments of fear and anxiety too but they are part of routine life. I loved the fearsome looking but benign "Cat Bus". Overall, the more I think of the movie, the happier I feel :)

In both Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, Miyazaki blends real life with fantasy very smoothly. They made me think: what is real and what is imaginary in the experience of a child? Everything is magic!

Roger Ebert's rave review is insightful. He contrasts American anime with Japanese anime. Worth reading.

My Neighbor Totoro is among the 50 Films You Should See By the Age of 14, a list made by British Film Institute in 2005 after consulting 70 experts.


Spirited Away (Sen To Chihiro No Kamikakushi)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (2001, Japanese, 125 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (97%), IMDB (8.6), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Similar movies: anime, childhood.

Summary: Spirited Away won the Oscar for Best Anime Movie in 2002. I was struck by the imagination that crafted the story and the myriad ghostly creatures in it. The cutest character is a walking lamppost that appears for less than a minute :) Miyazaki made this movie specifically for 10-year old girls. Some Western parents find it frightening because ten year old Chihiro is transported into the spirit world when she's awake (not dreaming) and her parents turn into pigs. Roger Ebert wrote a glowing review.

The closing song of the movie is beautiful: Itsumo Nando Demo. Lyrics (with English translation): here. The song has an official English version.

Itsumo Nando Demo by Youmi Kimura

Somewhere, a voice calls, in the depths of my heart.
May I always be dreaming, the dreams that move my heart.

So many tears of sadness, uncountable through and through.
I know on the other side of them, I'll find you.

Everytime we fall down to the ground, we look up to the blue sky above.
We wake to its blueness, as for the first time.

Though the road is long and lonely and the end far away, out of sight.
I can with these two arms embrace the light.

As I bid farewell my heart stops, in tenderness I feel
My silent empty body begins to listen to what is real.

The wonder of living, the wonder of dying,
The wind, town, and flowers, we all dance one unity.

Somewhere a voice calls in the depths of my heart.
"Leep dreaming your dreams, don't ever let them part".

Why speak of all your sadness or of life's painfull woes?
Instead, let the same lips sing a gentle song for you.

The whispering voice, we never want to forget,
in each passing memory always there to guide you.

When a miror has been broken, shattered pieces scattered on the ground,
Glimpses of new life, reflected all around.

Window of beginning, stillness, new light of the dawn,
Let my silent, empty body be filled and reborn.

No need to search outside, nor sail across the sea
Cause here shining inside me, it's right here inside me.

I've found a brightness, it's always with me.


Princess Mononoke (Mononoke-Hime)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (1997, Japanese, 134 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (93%), IMDB (8.4), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Watch online: WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: anime.

Summary: A picturesque epic drawn on a large canvas. Fast paced, action packed drama with battles between gods, humans and animals.

Princess Mononoke has many themes. A prominent theme is the struggle between nature and man as industrialization encroaches upon forests. Another theme is equality between men and women, with women leading industrialization. For me, the loveliest theme was the struggle between hatred and forgiveness. In many movies, if somebody is angry or has caused devastation, a hero wipes them out, so that evil is destroyed. Princess Mononoke has a different flavor. I would say that it is more holistic, that we are all interconnected. Somebody else's misery is ours collectively.

In the very first scene, a wild boar attacks a village. The boar has become a demon imbued with anger and hatred. Prince Ashitaka kills the boar. After his death, village folk collect around the boar and offer their prayers so that the spirit of the boar becomes calm and peaceful, so that it stops suffering from anger and hatred. The anger and hatred of the boar is not limited to the boar alone - it spreads to whosoever comes in touch with it -- physically or mentally. For example, with the killing, Prince Ashitaka is now cursed - he shall become a super human warrior but die soon, as his wounds deepen. Later in the movie, it is discovered that the boar had become a demon because a piece of metal was lodged inside it. That piece of metal was a bullet that came from an iron factory made by humans. Overall, the movie has an element of togetherness with everything around us. We are not separate from the boar, the forest and the gods.

This movie reminds me of a wonderful story book for children called The Legend of the Bluebonnets.


Kiki's Delivery Service (Majo No Takkyûbin)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (1989, Japanese, 103 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (25%), IMDB (7.9), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: anime, childhood, joyful.

Summary: A heartwarming movie by Hayao Miyazaki. There are no villains. Everybody is kind hearted. The story is centered around Kiki, a witch with a broom. She also has a companion: a black cat named Jiji.

At age 13, tradition demands that Kiki become independent and get settled in another town. She is excited! She flies afar to a town that looks like San Francisco. Soon, she is accepted by good people and given a room to stay in a bakery shop. There she takes up the job of package delivery. Her job is well suited for her; she leverages her flying skills! Package delivery leads to adventures and encounters with interesting people. She also starts developing a friendship with Tombo, a teenage boy who likes her.

As the movie progresses, Kiki's spirit goes through highs and lows. At one point, when her spirit is sagging, she loses her power to fly! Her skills are revived through help by Ursula, an artist friend who happily lives in the woods by herself. Ursula explains her that ups and downs are normal. She mentions techniques that she employs to revive herself when she is feeling low and cannot paint any more. The final scene shows a recharged Kiki saving Tombo in mid-air in a dramatic closing sequence.

On the whole, a lovely movie. Highly recommended for kids.


Ponyo (Gake no ue no Ponyo)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (2010, Japanese, 101 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (92%), IMDB (7.7), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: anime, joyful.

Summary: A cute story of a goldfish who wants to become a human. Nicely done. Good movie for young kids.

Storyline: A goldfish escapes the ocean and is saved by a five year old boy named Sōsuke, who names her Ponyo. The scenes in which Sōsuke takes care of the goldfish are moving. They fall in love with each other (not romantic love but innocent child-like love). Ponyo is endowed with supernatural powers. She decides that she wants to be a human and turns into a five year old girl. Her father sweeps her back into the ocean because he is afraid that Ponyo could upset the balance of nature with her abilities by becoming human. Ponyo escapes again to be with Sōsuke.

On the whole, I loved the movie for its creativity and the screenplay. Worth watching!


Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Kaze No Tani No Naushika)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (1984, Japanese, 117 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (83%), IMDB (8.1), Amazon.

Similar movies: anime.

Summary: A movie with a message: humans must stop fighting and polluting the environment. We must live in harmony with each other and with the elements of nature. Miyazaki has strong female characters in most of his movies. In this movie, it is Princess Nausicaa, who is compassionate, brave and skillful. She represents peace. Good movie for kids, with hundreds of positive Amazon reviews.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1985) is a precursor to Princess Mononoke (1997). Both movies are fast paced, with warlike scenes and concern for the environment. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is for younger kids. Princess Mononoke is for older kids.


Howl's Moving Castle (Hauru No Ugoku Shiro)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (2004, Japanese, 119 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (87%), IMDB (8.2), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: anime.

Summary: A dreamy movie. It confused my logical mind. I have to see it again. Like all Miyazaki movies, there is a strong female character, anti-war sentiments, and magic! The first scene shows a clunky, battleship style "castle" that barely holds itself together. It walks on chicken legs. Inside the castle, there is a normal looking house with many doors. I loved that different doors leads to totally different worlds! :) One door opens to a world of fighter planes, bombs and war. Another door opens to a street in a quaint town. Another door opens to expansive landscapes with mountains, rivers and valleys with abundant flowers. Yet another door opens to a dreary, cold environment.

The visuals are rich, most of which are hand drawn. I was delighted to enter a world of magic, spells and wizards! Totally awesome! Very liberating

This movie has a weak storyline. I understood the movie better with two insightful comments on Amazon: First commentSecond comment.


Porco Rosso (Kurenai No Buta)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (1992, Japanese, 94 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (100%), IMDB (7.8), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: adventure, anime, joyful.

Summary: Awesome movie! Like a Tintin comic :) Porco is an ace fighter pilot who lives life with gay abandon. He has the face of a pig. He rides a bright red plane and fights sea pirates. He doesn't realize that he's genuinely loved by many, including a long time woman friend of hers, and a young girl engineer who idolizes him. Lovely movie with fighter planes, pirates and comic gangsters.


The Castle of Cagliostro (Rupan Sansei: Kariosutoro No Shiro)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (1979, Japanese, 102 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (90%), IMDB (7.8), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: Hulu, WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: anime, joyful.

Summary: A James Bond style movie! Fast paced, dramatic, creative and comical. A unique movie by Miyazaki.


Laputa Castle In The Sky (Tenkû No Shiro Rapyuta)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (1986, Japanese, 124 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (94%), IMDB (8.1), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: anime, joyful.

Summary: An engaging movie by Miyazaki. A thriller that reminds me of his earlier movie The Castle of Cagliostro, which was a James Bond style movie.


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