Master Miyazaki Hajao, one of the founders of Studio Ghibli and his best-known face, who announced his retirement from filmmaking at the Venice Film Festival in 2013, is still 80 years old: he is currently directing a new animated film. During his exciting career, he directed a total of 11 films, 10 of which he spent his years at Studio Ghibli, and perhaps we wouldn’t be exaggerating to say all of his work was amazing.
A good year ago, Netflix offered much anime, which we remembered in a three-part series ( I., II., III. ). Now, we’ve compiled a compilation of these articles for Chihiro’s 20th birthday, so here’s Miyazaki Hajao’s 10 Best Movies:
10. (Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea / Gake no Ue no Ponyo, 2008)
Ponyo is a sea fish which, after meeting a little boy, Sousuke, decides he wants to become human. However, this is not so easy to implement because it comes at a price, plus the father of Wizard Ponyo, who was once a human, does not support the idea at all.
This is perhaps the least enthusiastically mentioned film of Miyazaki’s career. It’s pretty clear why this is due to it: Ponyo was made primarily for young children, and that’s why the director’s themes that adult viewers tend to praise his creations for are not so prominent. This particular interpretation of the little mermaid also strongly suggests how harmful human activity is to nature but depicts the waves flooding the coastal city with childish imagination rather than a terrible catastrophe.
For many, it can also be alienating to draw wallpapers that, with their curved lines and vibrant colours, are most reminiscent of chalk drawings scribbled on concrete. At the same time, other Ghibli films strive for lifelike detail. But it would be a shame to be prejudiced because Ponyo is technically a complete miracle: although the studio routinely used CG techniques even before making this film, this anime consists solely of hand-drawn images, which is inconceivably large considering the quality of the animation. Performance (not surprisingly, 170,000 frames were added to it). And by the way, the story itself holds its place, telling the cute story that children should also be allowed to go their own way.
9. Laputa – The Sky Palace (Castle in the Sky / Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta, 1986)
Pazu is a young guy working in a mine who one night literally falls into the arms of an unknown girl from the sky. Sheeta carries as a family heirloom a stone that shows her way to Laputa, a floating city that many people want to get to for one reason or another. Because of this, pirates and government agents also follow in the footsteps of the puppies who want to find the legendary plaque themselves.
Technically, Laputa counts as Ghibli’s first film (Nausicaa was made before their formation), but that only shows in its execution. His characters aren’t as elaborate, his animation isn’t a parade, and his plot isn’t as original as later films, but you don’t have to be afraid. That doesn’t detract much from his quality. Here, too, Miyazaki was preoccupied with the opposition of technology and nature. In representing the pirate gang, some characters cannot be clearly called good or bad.
At the same time, Muska, who heads government agents, is one of the most extreme bastards Ghibli has ever invented, and the two protagonist puppies change almost nothing in more than two hours of playtime, making it one of the studio’s least thought-provoking films. But that’s still a lot of fun because the three interest groups are chasing each other almost non-stop, and the action scenes that unfold in this way are distinctly creative and spectacular. The world depicted in it feels huge as the deep mines and above the clouds alternate.
8. Porco Rosso – The mester-pilot (Porco Rosso/Kurenai no Buta, 1992)
The Crimson Pig (literally, that’s what the film title means) is a World War I Italian fighter pilot veteran who hunts air pirates in the Adriatic after the World War. One day, however, he is shot in the sky by an American rival, forcing him to patch up his plane, including with the help of a young engineer.
Porco Rosso features several elements accompanying the artist’s career (endless admiration for flying, strong and young female character, transformed hero). However, still, this is perhaps the easiest piece to enjoy. It is essentially an action-adventure film that similarly finds romance in the stormy XX. in the first half of the century as earlier parts of the Indiana Jones. Miyazaki rarely uses a definite circumscribed historical era, and Porco Rosso doesn’t really deal with the political and social background either – the Adriatic archipelago here serves as more of an exciting scene, but perfect for it. The film isn’t particularly excited about why the main character turned into a pig, and his inhuman appearance is more about expressing his seclusion. Porco Rosso is a particularly light and funny film about
7. Kiki, the Witch Courier (Kiki’s Delivery Service / Majo no Takkyūbin, 1989)
Kiki, the young witch, is at the age of thirteen, so according to tradition, she leaves home to stand on her own in the world. Although, at first, it fills you with great enthusiasm, you soon realize that it is not easy to thrive on your own.
Since the protagonist of Kiki is a witch, the viewer might think it’s a fantastic movie that can be admired in all sorts of spells – but the truth is, this is perhaps Miyazaki’s most mundane film. There is nothing special about anyone other than being able to fly on a broom and talk to his black cat (Jiji is one of the most memorable supporting characters in Ghibli’s works), moreover, the XX. in a world reminiscent of our century, witchcraft is more of an endangered tradition than a formidable exotic. Throughout this film, he focuses on the protagonist’s spirit and struggles with incredible sensitivity.
Regularly depressing, the way Kiki arrives in the city. He looks out doesn’t know what to do with himself, and later that, after he launches a flying courier service, he doubts a lot of it makes any sense at all. He speaks very effectively about finding a way out of his youth and how vulnerable a lonely person is. But we don’t have to worry because this story is ultimately about how much kindness from strangers can impact our happiness.
6. The Wind Rises (The Wind Rises / Kaze Tachinu, 2013)
Born in Japan in the early 1900s, Horikoshi Jiro dreams that he will one-day design aeroplanes to no longer stand as a pilot due to poor eyesight. Eventually, they are hired to Mitsubishi, where they work to build state-of-the-art military aircraft in the 1920s and 1930s. The film shows scenes from the life of Jiro, who is forced to face serious challenges not only in his work but also in his private life if he wants to make his dreams come true.
This is Miyazaki’s (previous) film and stylistically the most unusual piece of his oeuvre. The Wind attacks not only that it takes place in particular historical age, but also a biographical drama about the engineer’s life who created the infamous Mitsubishi A6M fighter, known more as Zero than posterity. There is no need to be scared. This time, the director did not stay completely on the ground of reality either. Half of the plot, which depicts Hirokosi’s private life, is largely fiction, and the great earthquake of 1928 is depicted as the wrath of a mighty deity pulling the ground out from under people’s feet like a sheet.
But even so, this is Miyazaki’s most adult film, which shows how disadvantaged the Japanese were in trying to mature the armed Western powers and raises the question of whether the investor bears the responsibility for what his works are used for. The director gives a decidedly negative answer and portrays his hero as a pioneer looking beyond his own historical early age who just wanted to create something beautiful. Hiroko would thus still seem like an obsessed pioneer, but as their relationship with the other great love of his life (who is a flesh-and-blood woman) is shown, it makes him a truly lovable man in the eyes of the viewer.
5. Totoro – The Secret of the Magic Forest (My Neighbor Totoro / Tonari no Totoro, 1988)
Two little girls, Satsuki and Mei, move into an old country house with their father to be closer to their sick mother in the hospital. They soon realize that tiny little ghosts inhabit the building and that a large and friendly creature has beaten the farm in the nearby forest.
Following the success of Laputa, the Ghibli cut his axe into a fairly large tree: they stood at the tomb of the Fireflies and the Totoro at the same time, but then in 1988, both were completed. And that’s a particularly amazing performance when you consider how to parade both films have been. One of Totoro Mijazaki’s best productions was the film that made the studio, and its own name is known worldwide. Like Kiki, compared to his later really famous films, this is quite subdued: although it contains dust ghosts, a bear-rabbit-owl mix, and a bus that is really a cat, these can be attributed to the runaway fantasies of babies (this does not clarify the film, but it is not needed either), and there is not much conflict, except for the last third of the film.
But the characters are animated with such infinite energy that the viewer drops his chin even when the girls are simply running up and down their new home at the beginning of the film. It has already been revealed here that Miyazaki can present the spaces so accurately that even a week after watching the film, you can tell us where he is in the house (he developed this technique to perfection in Chihiro), so he managed to portray and make it believable. in rural Japan. Tororo is a beautiful film about childhood daydreams and a masterpiece in terms of character design. No wonder the blue furs became the mascot of Ghibli, and the toys made from it brought a lot of money to the studio.
4. Nausica – Warriors of the Wind (Nausica of the Valley of the Wind / Kaze no Tani no Naushika, 1984)
In the film’s post-apocalyptic world, life is not easy as the Sea of Destruction gradually expands, i.e., a forest whose spores are deadly to humans. Nausika is the leader of a community living in a valley, marched one day by soldiers from an aggressive empire who want to repress a forest that is blowing toxic air by restarting an ancient weapon. But Nausika suspects that the Sea of Destruction and the giant insects that guard it are not as evil as others believe.
Nausika is not technically a Ghibli work because it was completed the year before the studio was founded. But no one really tries to separate it from the later films of Miyazaki’s team because it yells that they put it together. In this came the characteristics of the director’s oeuvre, such as the young female protagonist, the passion for flying, and the conflict between man and nature. XXI. it is visible to the eyes of the 16th century that it is an older work of the director because the character design is not so clear yet, and its scenery is not so thoroughly elaborated. Yet, he still became more cultic than Miyazaki’s few later films, suspiciously due to his atmosphere and protagonist.
It’s a huge feat that the Forest of Destruction has been so stiflingly beautiful with its skyscraper killer mushrooms and nightmarish arthropods while portraying humanity’s technological cutting-edge weapon as a two-legged, organic nuclear catastrophe animator who hated the most influential anime TV series, Neon Genesis Evangelion). And Nausicika is an extremely sympathetic and determined character who treats all living things with infinite empathy in a world in which humanity is trying to destroy nature and itself with raging rage.
3. A vándorló palota (Howl’s Moving Castle / Hauru no Ugoku Shiro, 2004)
As a hat maker, Sophie lives her grey everyday life in a world mostly in our early XX. reminiscent of our century. The girl is cursed one day by the Witch of the Steppes, which turns her into an older woman. Our hero sets out to then randomly find the legendary home of the famous wizard, Howl, where he appoints herself a housewife.
This is Miyazaki’s third film that is most often considered next to The Princess of the Wild and Chihiro in Ghostland. No wonder, because The Wandering Palace also has several positives for which we love the other two works: its animation is amazing, its wallpapers are very detailed, it features many memorable characters, and it sensitively presents several important themes. It could even be called a best-of collection by the director. Miyazaki’s film is particularly anti-war (he was greatly affected by the Iraq war), embodied in Howl’s activities, which can even be perceived as a terrorist.
But still, this story is more about respecting the elderly and accepting others. Even though Sophie gets so old that she suddenly has a hard time walking, she immediately becomes the most determined member of the band that clashes in Howl’s viscose, taking it for granted that she should try to make the lives of others better. And it is especially touching how infinite empathy he has for the suffering of others. Be it a vain mage, a scarecrow, a fire demon, a spy dog, or the witch cursing Sophie herself. Miyazaki is known to consider himself a pacifist, and this film commemorates this belief forever.
2. The Princess of the Wild (Princess Mononoke / 1997)
In a fantastic version of feudal Japan, Asitaka, the prince of the Emisi tribe, defeats a demon-possessed wild boar attacking his people, causing a curse to move into one of his arms. While this gives him a superpower, it also constantly digests his vitality, so he heads west to find a solution to his problem. Not long after, he gets involved in a rather complicated conflict between a firearms-producing village, largely in the hands of women, and the animal deities of the nearby forest. The latter faction includes San, the young girl raised by wolves.
Miyazaki’s filmography features three really popular all-night animes, one of which is called his best work by a larger percentage of critics. One is The Princess of the Wild, which is the director’s strongest work in storytelling. The title is a bit misleading, as the film’s focus is not on San, but on Asitaka in many more scenes, who tries to look at the events with an outsider, mostly neutral eyes. But even he couldn’t really be called a protagonist because that’s not so great here: the film’s greatest feat is his ability to present each of the half-dozen human and animal factions in a way that the viewer can’t decide who to give truth to. Thanks to the Princess of the Wildcano speak of an awkward reconciliation between the expansion of human civilization and attempts to preserve nature with the impartiality that only very few succeed in. But she also disseminates similar impartiality about female emancipation and the desire for revenge so often found in anime that sometimes literally engulfs the characters here. What’s more, the film is superbly arranged, its music is catchy epic, and it uses early 3D not very conspicuously but effectively to depict a curse in the form of oily worms. By the way, this is Ghibli’s bloodiest film: sometimes one or two limbs fly off smoothly.
1. Chihiro in Ghostland (Spirited Away / Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, 2001)
Chihiro moves to a new town with his parents, but before they arrive, despite the 10-year-old girl’s protest, they enter a seemingly deserted amusement park. It soon turns out that when they went there through a tunnel, they entered the world of ghosts, and Chihiro’s parents turned into pigs after they started eating at one of the stands without permission. Chihiro is forced to work in an afterlife bathhouse and then free himself and his parents before they are finally stuck there.
It would be easy to say that Chihiro is considered Ghibli’s most successful film in Ghostland only because it is the only anime that has ever won an Oscar, or because it has been the world’s highest-income all-night anime for years (this title 2016- took away from him Shinkai Makoto’s sensation, Your Name / Ki mi no Nawa). But the truth is that here quality is proportional to popularity (or vice versa). The visual world of Chihiro is a huge step up from Ghibli’s previous work, mainly because the locations have already been worked out in manic detail. The high-rise bathroom was invented so accurately, and Miyazaki presents it with such brilliant sequences that it wouldn’t be surprising if the viewer were able to orient themselves more effectively in it than in his own staircase.
His animation is so striking that almost only Totoro rivals it in this field, and each of its scenes is so memorably creative (slicing down the “stink demon” or the train after the rain) that they deserve an Oscar in themselves. But the real wonder is how coherent it all comes together: the more snappy and melancholy moments flawlessly alternate, and the story of Chihiro’s growth is intimately painted throughout. True, the latter is not so much due to the script but rather to the directing. But that’s why we love anime: even in the absence of words and tremendous deeds, they can depict fully lived, pinpoint characters.