Miyazaki Madness – a commercial break

Alright, I’m taking a break because I feel like before I get into my next little set of reviews, I need to explain the man that is Hayao Miyazaki to anyone who may not know. A little background is important considering the fact that my next 10 reviews are all movies this man either wrote, co-wrote, directed, or any combination of the three. A lot of the time, if you mention one of his movies, people either go “oh of course! hey, have you also seen _____ (insert another of his movies here)”, or “right… isn’t that the guy whose movie won the animation oscar over Pixar that one year?” or “who??” So I am going to put it all to rest. Here’s a bit about the amazing man that is Hayao Miyazaki.

Long story short, he’s a Japanese Animator who is as famous in Japan as Walt Disney is here (arguably more so). His movies, animation, and characters are as popular as winnie the Pooh, the little mermaid, or any other pop culture thing here in the US. Pretty much, he’s an animation God. 

Miyazaki, born in 1941, got into the animation game in 1961, where he was an animator for a few random japanese tv shows. It wasn’t until 1979 that he was able to direct his first picture, Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. From here he was able to gather more freedom, wrote his first original movie (the first one on my list to be posted tomorrow), and eventually formed his own animation studio, Studio Ghibli. 

The movies he creates are unique, dreamlike, sometimes scary, and almost always completely individual, yet somehow they almost always contain many similar elements. How this man has come up with this many stories is beyond me, especially when they are all so different and you sit there and go “how did he even think of something like this??” Everyone I know of who has watched at least one of his better known movies has been a fan. Once you’re hooked, you’re hooked, and you have to go out and find and watch every one of his movies.

 I count myself as one of the lucky ones. Miyazaki has really only become more recognizable in the US for the past decade or so. I have known about him since I was 4 years old. I spent random chunks of my childhood in Japan due to my father having a sabbatical there every seven years to work for Hitachi and the Tokyo Institute. I remember first watching My Neighbor Totoro (we’ll get to that one in a few reviews) on VHS when we returned home, and it seemed as if that movie was always on for a period in our house. As I grew older, I honestly forgot a bit about him and about Totoro. When we were in Japan again in 1996, I was 12 and remember seeing posters for his next movie, Princess Mononoke, and remember being intrigued, but we left before I got a chance to see it, and in all honesty I wouldn’t have been able to find a theater that had it in subtitles anyway. This was before Disney bought all the rights to Studio Ghibli, so again Miyazaki dropped off the map. It wasn’t until Spirited Away that I remembered the amazing man and animation, because at this point the USA was finally ready for him. That year Spirited away won best animated picture at the oscars, and Disney bought the rights to Studio Ghibli movies and rereleased them all in the US. YAY!

 Now he isn’t the only animator/director at Studio Ghibli, but he is the one I know the best. His son, Goro Miyazaki, has also started writing and directing (with mixed results… Dad has to help him out for it to be any good), and the other more famous director at Ghibli is Isao Takahata. Now I don’t own any of his movies, but they’re on my list to watch. I’ve heard he’s very different than Miyazaki’s fantasy/crazy stuff, but he’s still good. I’ll get there eventually.

So we have 9 movies to watch. I’ve decided I’m going to start by ranking them how I think I’m going to with my reviews. This is before I’ve watched them, and we’ll see if i’m right or if my minds get changed (btw, this is as hard for me as ranking pixar movies…)

1. Princess Mononoke (1997)

2. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

3. Castle in the Sky (1986)

4. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

5. Spirited Away (2001)

6. Porco Rosso (1992)

7. Ponyo (2008)

8. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984 – technically not Studio Ghibli)

9. The Secret World of Arriety (2010)

10. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

Gah that was hard!! seriously. It’s like rating the Pixar movies. They’re all so good figuring out the order in the middle is like torture. So yes. That’s a bit about Miyazaki. We will be going Chronologically, so my first review will be Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)