Hayao Miyazaki the Great

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I have a tendency to watch a lot of anime but as a child, I watched a movie called My Neighbor Totoro and that’s where my love began. The movie was created by an amazing film director, animator, manga artist, and screenwriter. He uses an old school technique of painting directly on to the film. He makes beautiful images and crafts genius stories. Since I own most of his major movies on DVD so I figured I would talk about my top five favorite movies.

1. Howl’s Moving Castle

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Howl’s Moving Castle takes place in a world of magic and wonder. It starts out with the main character Sophie living her boring life working at her father’s hat shop. She is a girl who always does things for other people and never thinks about her own happiness. Well one day when she was on her way to visit her sister’s bakery she ran into some trouble with a couple creepy soldiers and is saved by a blonde wizard. Next thing you know they are being followed by blob men, after their escape and Sophie getting flown into her sister’s balcony, she heads back to her little hat shop thinking of the wizard Howl who eats pretty ladies hearts. Back at home she gets cornered and cursed by the Witch of the Waste , the one who sent the blob men and wants Howl’s heart, and gets turned into and old lady. She then travels to find her and lift the curse but ends up in Howl’s moving castle. The story follows Sophie through learning to love herself with Marco, Calcifer and Howl. Howl learns to stop running away from his problems and to let himself love.

This was when I first learned that Hayao Miyazaki made Totoro and other great films with such a deep meaning. I love the magic and the wonder but the best thing about this movie was the lesson it teaches people. Love yourself, love others and don’t run from you problems face them head on and take control, even if you need some help along the way.

2. Princess Mononoke

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This movie takes place in a time when there were still guardian deities and demons roaming Japan. It begins when a demon attacks a village and their prince Ashitaka slays it but in the process also gets cursed by it. After he is forced to leave his village and find a cure in the west before the curse kills him. During his travels he first comes across a shady monk who tells him that he could find his answers from the Forest Spirit, but the monk was really looking to behead the spirit for payment. Not too far off the city of Iron Town was attacked by the wolf goddess and her clan, which includes a human girl San. While traveling through the forest Ashitaka comes across some wounded warriors and San and her clan. After dragging the wounded to town he learns about the girl and the wolves, the thing that turned the boar into a demon and how the town is destroying the forest. After San tries to infiltrate the village she gets wounded as Ashitaka is trying to stop all the fighting, they then flee for the safety of the forest. After a series of events the movie comes to a close with Ashitaka saving the land and the town.

I think the greatest part about this is the moral of the story. It talks about how people came in with no warning and destroyed the lands that they and the animals need to survive. It also preached to live in harmony with everyone and the world, that people should not always be fighting. Even though Ashitaka didn’t get the girl, in the end, they still found a mutual respect and could become friends, even though it was hard for San to accept that she was human and should not hate them as much.

3.Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

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The story is about Nausicaa, the princess of the Valley of the Wind, and her fight against people trying to eradicate the Toxic Jungle with an ancient weapon. Since Nausicaa has managed to befriend the Toxic Jungle and works with the creatures there to try and find a cure for them and humans. She has even developed a garden where the plants, soil and water are not toxic. One night a cargo plane crashes and as Nausicaa tries to save the princess on board she pleads with Nausicca to blow up the cargo before she dies because it will be the creation of the Great Warrior that is supposed to destroy the jungle. After a series of attacks Nausicaa and a few others are swallowed by quicksand and spit out into an underground world that the jungle has created by purifying the topsoil. In the end after some dastardly deeds Nausicaa fulfills her prophecy and united the people and the jungle.

I loved this movie as much as Princess Mononoke because they both have the same general moral to their story. Live in harmony with the world you live in and that people don’t ever think about the repercussions of their selfish actions. I think this is a great lesson to learn because in the past people were selfish and took what they wanted and didn’t think about what that means.

4. Spirited Away

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Spirited Away begins with Chihiro and her family driving to their new home. While Chihiro was complaining about having to leave her friends and only getting a bouquet when she was leaving they ended up losing their way and run into an old amusement park. Chihiro got all whiny and didn’t want to go in but her made left her so she ran after them. They found some food at an empty stall and Chihiro finds an exquisite bathhouse with a strange boy named Haku who tells her to leave back over the river. She was too late to get back to her parents and they were turned into pigs and the river had turned into a huge ocean. When Haku finds her he sends her to get a job for the boiler man Kamaji, he then sends her to Yubaba who gives her a job and a new name, Sen. Sen goes through the days trying to get her name back and her parents as well as Haku, who turns into a dragon and does Yubaba’s bidding. In the end she gets her name back, her parents back and Haku gets his name back with a surprising twist.

I loved this movie for all of it’s magic and of the creatures and deities that come about. It also had really good music involved in this one they just made the movie that much better. Unlike the rest of the movies I’ve talked about, this one doesn’t have an underlying message it is pretty much just a coming of age story.

5. My Neighbor Totoro

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Last but not least My Neighbor Totoro. This movie is about two girls, Satsuki and Mei, who moved with their father to be closer to their mother who is in the hospital. The house they moved into is inhabited by dust sprites and there are mythical creatures inhabiting the forest around them. One day while Satsuki was at school Mei was playing out in the forest and came across a little creature with bunny ears. After she followed the little guy into the forest and came across an even bigger version. Then one night while waiting for their father to come home at the bus stop the Totoro appears again and boards a giant cat bus. Throughout the story Totoro and the cat bus help the girls deal with their new lives and how to handle having their mother sick in the hospital and not at home.

For me, this movie was just an overall cute film. The big furry creatures with their mythical backgrounds and how they can manipulate the world around them. It is a heart felt family story with some great animation. It really was one of Miyazaki’s ground breaking films that got Japanese animation into public view.

  This was a great tribute post to Hayao Miyazaki’s most well-known films that gave him and Studio Ghibli the credit they deserve. I love his art and Japanese animation as a whole. These movies would be great shows to watch on a lazy day and want a nice little film to watch either in its original language with subtitles or in the English dubbed version.

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~ by Sydney Erickson on March 6, 2013.

One Response to “Hayao Miyazaki the Great”

  1. Sydney, I think you should pursue your reviews as a career. You are really good at this—how in the world do you find the time to do all this reading as a full-time student with numerous jobs? The detail you include is really outstanding (for a classroom blog, anyway)! I think you find a sense of relaxation and peace—at least I hope so!

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