Review: Every Miyazaki Movie I Own

I own every Miyazaki film I have seen, and I’ve only seen the ones I have because I own them. Feel free to clutter up the comments with statements of disbelief that I don’t own/haven’t seen My Neighbor Totoro or Porco Rosso.

Howl’s Moving Castle
This is the story about a young girl being cursed and turned into an old woman, then getting a job working in a fantastic mechanical house.
I remember it being packed with wonderful imagery but having a kind of bland story. (Girl falls in love with handsome wizard, has to rescue him from some grand cataclysm with the power of friendship, etc. etc. etc. Been there, done that.)

Kiki’s Delivery Service
My personal favorite. A young witch, accompanied by the late Phil Hartman in the body of a black cat, sets out into the big wide world to try and make a life for herself. Very much a coming-of-age story, Kiki deals with a variety of troubles and tribulations, from common things like being a social outcast among other kids her age to more specific ones like losing her magic when the banality of existence comes crashing down on her.

Kiki’s also stands alone, at least amongst the films I’ve seen,  in that it’s setting isn’t some quasi-spiritual realm of indescribable wonder and mystique. Rather, it’s more or less just our world (albeit a much friendlier, more ideal version of it). I’m more prone to appreciate the concept of our world having wondrous things in it, like cute witches who ride broomsticks, than I am to a setting where everything is alien and therefore the extraordinary becomes mundane.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
I only watched this once, and it was years ago. I remember it being enjoyable despite being a bit on the preachy side with its pro-environmentalism message. I also remember having difficulty telling whether the title character was bottomless or simply wearing skin-tight flesh-colored pants.

Very much a kid’s movie. Which is fine, just… not what I was expecting given the rest of my Miyazaki library is a little more nuanced. Cute kids do cute things, save the day, become best friends, the end. No real development or conflict. The basic story outline is based on The Little Mermaid, though only very loosely. I wish they had taken one cue more and made Ponyo a mute; I got tired of listening to her scream everything at the top of her lungs. Yes, I know this is how five-year-olds communicate. This is why I don’t socialize with very many five-year-olds.

Princess Mononoke
Violent, bloody, and maybe a touch too long. It beats the same environmentalist drum Nausicaa does, but the message isn’t quite as overbearing. The natural world is primal and vicious, while the industrialized world is depicted as having virtue and compassion. It’s more a story of two opposing shades of grey. It also features a guy with a magic evil arm fighting a giant spaghetti monster. Oh, and a reindeer.

Spirited Away
Essentially the pinnacle of the “weird, alien, spiritual world” I mentioned earlier… except the story focuses on one perfectly normal little girl’s interactions
with it. I like that the protagonist has a clear goal to work towards through the whole movie. At the outset this goal looks absolutely unobtainable, and so the story becomes about how the girl removes the obstacles in her way while also carving out a place for herself in a world which neither needs nor nurtures her.

I think all six of these movies are terrific and I would recommend all of them to anyone who loves animation.

I am also reminded of the bilious contempt for Disney which I observed during some of my earliest interactions with anime enthusiasts. The perceived irony of Disney distributing some of the most beloved anime movies ever created in the North American market makes me chuckle.

10 comments to Review: Every Miyazaki Movie I Own

  • Nich

    The one I’d recommend you see is Hear the Wind Sing.

  • Lys

    Porco Rosso is indeed quite good, even though it slants a bit young as it goes onward. Totoro starts young and stays that way — very cute, though!

  • Well, Totoro IS his best film, and my favorite movie period, so I am afraid there will be NO FORGIVENESS. Porco Rosso is pretty fucking great too. AND LET US NOT FORGET ABOUT LAPUTA. Or Cagliostro, for that matter. I’m actually sort of jealous of you if you still get to have the experience of watching these for the first time.

  • …which is not in fact a Murakami novel rather than a Miyazaki film. Pretty sure you’re thinking of I Can Hear the Sea, which is ALSO not a Miyazaki film.

  • Comments that go up rather than down? What manner of madness is this?

  • Neither do I. I’m FREAKING OUT.

  • Nicola Nomali

    Porco Rosso and The Castle of Cagliostro are Miyazaki’s best films. You owe it to yourself to watch these.

  • Adrenaline

    Re: Nausicaa’s legs, Definitely mildly-flesh colored pants. You can see them when she isn’t wearing the boots when she’s in her village before it’s attacked.

  • Raven

    Porco Rosso is a ridiculous movie about a guy who turns into a pig man and flys a plane.
    It wasn’t set in a magical world, I just couldn’t buy the guy being a pig man.
    I’ve always believed it to be a personal whim creation on part of Miyazaki, due to
    his love of classic aircrafts.

    There’s nothing wrong with not having seen Totoro, though I’m surprised you didn’t but if you felt drawn to watch it you would. It’s cute but very childish, a bit too much for me. I however saw it first as an adult so that magical childhood nostalgia will never be there for it. I just watched it because I decided to watch all Studio Ghibli films including the one with the raccoon dogs Pompoko-whatever and Grave of Fireflies both of which scared me for life and I will never watch either again for different reasons.

    I will suggest that you watch Whispers of the Heart if you haven’t, that one is has a really sweet story.

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