August 18, 2013

Miyazaki Films: "It's good to be alive."

"I would like to make films that tell children, it's good to be alive." 
- Hayao Miyazaki
And that's exactly what he does. I'm not sure if I can be included in his definition of children, but I'm certain that I always feel positive about life and the world after watching his films. Perhaps, this is why Hayao Miyazaki is the 2nd person I admire the most in this lifetime (the 1st being my father.) He made possible the likes of Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Lupin III, My Neighbor Totoro, and a lot of other noteworthy films. Just recently, I found out that a new title, under his wing, was released - The Wind Rises.

But this post is not a review for The Wind Rises, rather this post is a review of all Hayao Miyazaki films that I've watched - or at least remember (from the ones I like the most to the ones I like the least.)

1. Spirited Away

Spirited Away's Chihiro and No Face

Spirited Away is actually my favorite film of all time. I watched this film at a period when I was living on caffeine and energy drinks alone. I was worried-sick for my future, but I cannot talk about it with my friends, because I know they were experiencing the same dilemmas. That's when I started the habit of watching feel-good movies (whenever I'm depressed). And that's when I started watching all of Hayao Miyazaki's films.

I like the fact that there is conflict in the movie, yet the characters are not the types that you would hate. They are not the typical one dimension (either pure evil or all good) character. In fact, we'll see this theme in most of Miyazaki's films.

Watch out for: spirits, absence of good vs evil, love, pigs, girl power, magic

2. Princess Mononoke

Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke and Deer god

Princess Mononoke is not as lighthearted as Spirited Away. It tackles different concepts from ignorance and arrogance of humanity to hierarchies and deceptions in society. But just the same, you'd feel admiration towards the characters, even if they are the "supposed villains". It is because Hayao is able to give these characters depth and reason for their actions.

"Even in the middle of hatred and killings, there are things worth living for" 
"In the past, humans hesitated when they took lives (for food?), but society had changed and they no longer feel that way. As humans grew stronger, we became quite arrogant, losing the sorrow of -we have no other choice- I think that in the essence of human civilization, we have the desire to become rich without limit, by taking the lives of other creatures (just for mere fur coat/etc?)"
Watch out for: spirits, absence of good vs evil, nature, civilization, other creatures, love, pigs, girl power

3. Ponyo

Hayao Miyazaki's weird characters from Totoro, Howl's, Spirited Away, and Mononoke

Watching Ponyo made me realize that I should embrace mystery, and the idea that we may not be alone in this world. Humans should not be so self-centered as to think that the world exists solely for his/her specie. Also, it made me entertain the idea of being more trusting, since not trusting others is also a sign of arrogance.

I like Ponyo, it's a lighthearted love story of a young fish-girl and a young human-boy.

Watch out for: absence of purely good vs evil, other creatures, love, girl power, magic

4. Whisper of the heart

This is awkward but, I admit it - I like Whisper of the Heart. HAHAHA It's a love story but, it's not cheesy, and it's cute. And both of the characters wanted to prove something to themselves. I think this is one of the few films of Miyazaki that is pretty much normal - no spirits/aliens/etc

Watch out for: cats, pursuing your dreams, love, girl power

5. Howl's Moving Castle 

Another refreshing love story from Miyazaki. He depicts love in its simplest and most powerful form - to hold dear each other. The way he portrays love stories can make you believe that love may possibly be an amazing thing - and not something that people engage in out of necessity, convenience, or show.

Watch out for: magic, absence of purely good vs evil, other creatures, love, flying objects, girl power

6. Porco Rosso

I prefer watching movies with human protagonists - simply because I can relate to them better. Hence, I expected to not like this movie, but I was mistaken. The movie was enchanting even in the absence of a gorgeous-looking protagonist to root for. Cheers to a good man!

Trivia: Hayao Miyazaki was born into an affluent family that owned a company which made wingtips for Zero fighters during the war. Miyazaki felt guilty growing up comfortable under parents who made money from the war, while others suffered from it. This seems to have affected his ambivalent feelings towards war and weapons (needs citation.)

In the film, Porco actually said that, "if you made money from a war, you're a scum." At the time, I didn't know that Miyazaki's family then made a living out of war.

Watch out for: absence of purely good vs evil, other creatures, love, flying objects, pigs

7. Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind

Watch out for: other creatures, love, flying objects, environmentalism

8. My Neighbor Totoro

Along with Ponyo, My Neighbor Totoro probably has the most adorable characters among all of Miyazaki films.

Watch out for: spirits, absence of purely good vs evil, other creatures, cats, girl power

9. Kiki's Delivery Service

Watch out for: absence of purely good vs evil, other creatures, girl power, flying objects, love, pursuing your dreams, cats

10. Laputa: Castle in the Sky

Watch out for: other creatures, girl power, flying objects, love

11. The Cat Returns

Watch out for: spirits, absence of purely good vs evil, cats, girl power, love

12. The Secret World of Arietty

I didn't like Arietty that much since most themes presented in the film were already presented in Miyazaki's previous films. Hence, making me feel like there's nothing new to it. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed because I really liked Ponyo- Arietty looks like an older version of Ponyo. Probably if I have watched it without knowledge of Miyazaki's previous films, then I might have liked it a lot too.

The animation and music were fantastic nonetheless.
Watch out for: absence of good vs evil, other creatures, cats, girl power, ponyo!

13. Lupin the III: Castle of Cagliostro

This is my least favorite of all Miyazaki films.  I felt that the film was too long and kind of uninteresting. In fact, I fell asleep while my little sister and I were watching the movie. I love the Lupin III series but I don't know, I just wasn't hooked in Castle of Cagliostro.

By the way, I didn't know that Miyazaki directed Lupin III, it is so unlike his other films, don't you think?

Bonus: From up a Poppy Hill

Just recently, I watched From up a Poppy Hill, which was directed by Goro Miyazaki with screenplay supervision from Hayao Miyazaki. The father and son factor must have played a major role in the story's patriarchal theme (but not in a negative aspect.) I am keeping my eye on Goro's films especially now that Hayao is "semi-retiring."

If Professor Farnsworth meme makes me not want to live in this world anymore, Miyazaki's films restore my faith in humanity at large, and ultimately makes me look forward to the future. HAHAHA

It's good to be alive :)


  1. Oh Boy, you've had a wonderful childhood. ;)

    1. I did, and it was partly because you were in it :)) HAHAHAH hi meguru!

  2. Love Miyazaki, I am one weekend away from finishing watching all these movies. Oh I wish they could create more <3

    Kisses, Michi

    1. That's great! You'll feel a bit happier after watching all those. I really do wish that as well!


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