The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)

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“Arrietty, you’re a part of me now. I’ll never forget you, ever.” – Sho (Shawn)

I have oh so many thoughts on this movie. Mostly good, but also just… blah. I never saw it in theaters but wanted to. Somehow, I never got around to it. But I bought it anyway, because it’s Miyazaki, right? Actually… no. It’s Studio Ghibli, and Miyazaki did help write it, but he did not direct it. That’s right – this is the first Ghibli movie I own that is NOT directed by the man himself.

I look at this as more of a bridge piece for Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki’s final movie as a director, The Wind Rises, is set for theaters in 2014 (it’s of course already been released in Japan). He’s stepping down from the studio he helped create, but to my understanding will still be helping write and animate movies. Enter Hiromasa Yonebayashi. He has been a key animator at Ghibli for years, and this movie is his directorial debut. I’m seeing this man as the one who will be handed the reins of Ghibli (other than Isao Takahata, who of course is important – he just hasn’t done many movies recently – although he’s doing Kaguya-hime next year, YAY!). I have to say I’m a bit worried, but if Miyazaki has faith in him (Yonebayashi IS set to direct Porco Rosso 2, and we know how personal that movie is for Miyazaki), then I do too. If this movie is all I have to judge him on, I have to say he’s on his way to greatness; He needs to learn a few things, and people are just going to have to get over that he’s not Miyazaki, but I foresee good things in this man’s future.

Arrietty is a movie with characters that, at least to me, were already well known: the borrowers. Originally a children’s novel published in 1952 and written by Mary Norton, it spawned four sequels, the latest being published in the 1980s. The stories all focused around a family of borrowers, or small, 6-inch tall people who live in the walls of houses and “borrow” items from the human beings in the house in which they live.

The movie follows not only the idea of the borrowers, but the general plot. The character names are also the same. Arrietty is a borrower, about 14 years old, who lives in a country house in Japan. Along with her father, Pod, and her mother, Homily, they stay out of sight and go “borrow” things that they need that the humans will not miss. In the movie, Arrietty goes out on her first night borrowing and is seen by Shawn, a human boy who has just arrived at the house (we learn he is there to relax before he undergoes operation for his heart). Arrietty feels strangely drawn to the boy, but her parents warn her that once a human sees a borrower, only trouble can ensue.

This proves to be true, not from Shawn, but from the woman who lives in the house (is she a landlord? housekeeper? I’m still kinda not sure). There are some adventures, Arrietty can’t stay away from Shawn, and a strange friendship begins. But it’s not enough. His curiosity and want to help them bring the lady on a mad dash for the little people, and eventually the family has to move from the house to a different one.

The plot is simple. There’s obviously more details, but you’d be better to just watch the movie than for me to explain them. The big thing with this movie is the characters and this world that the borrowers live in. I think that’s part of the reason the books were so popular and why people are so drawn to fantasy stories like this. It’s fun to see what types of things the borrowers use in their home. It’s fun to see how they get around inside the walls. A mouse or a cricket to them is a huge monster. A patch of grass is a jungle. It’s fun to see our world portrayed from a completely different perspective, and that’s one thing this movie does very well.

I wouldn’t have been done well, though, if the detail weren’t as it is. I have gone on and on about detail in Miyazaki movies. But oh dear sweet lord this movie takes the cake. The detail in this movie is AMAZING. Because everything in our world is essentially blown up, the animators didn’t leave anything to the imagination: we see the grains of the wood. We get that to Arrietty and her father, a harmless, light tissue is incredibly heavy and stiff. Every detail is as you would expect it to be if you took a magnifying glass to the things in your house. It’s incredible.

What’s also incredible is how the borrowers get around in this world. there’s contraptions set up inside the walls, with ropes, pulleys, stairs out of nails, etc. Pieces of wall move ever so slightly to allow them into a room. tiny cracks serve as doorways. Pod has knives that come out of his shoes to help him climb. They use pieces of tape (which look incredibly thick to them) to climb up cabinets. I think a lot of kids and adults can find themselves engrossed in this movie because how cool would it be to be a tiny person in a giant’s house??

The world of the borrowers is the real draw to this movie. The characters are… ok. The only one that is really developed is Arrietty, and honestly, she is so good it almost makes me sad that more characters didn’t get more developed in this movie. If they made her so awesome, it was in their ability to make the others awesome as well.

Arrietty is, to put it simply, a confident teenage girl who just wants to be treated like an adult, but at the same time respects her parents and understands the rules of their lives. At the same time, she’s incredibly curious. She’s just starting to experience this world that she lives in, and everything about it that she’s not seen before is so exciting she has to experience it NOW. She almost reminds me a bit of Kiki, but not so gung ho about work. She enjoys her life, and is fine with remaining a kid, but wants to go on the adventures with her father because that just seems to be her personality.

Her dealings with Shawn are very confusing, but at the same time, they are very real. She first realizes he saw her when she’s with her father getting a tissue, and she sees him in his bed with his eyes open and trained on her. She paralyzes with fear and drops the sugar cubes she had in her bag. The next day, he returns them on a stoop by where she enters and exits into the yard. You can feel the conflict within her whether to take them or not. She’s curious, but taking them would mean she’s admitting her existence as well as her trust in him. Her family tells her not taking them is what to do, and she doesn’t. It could have ended there. But Arrietty is so curious and drawn to this boy that she ends up scaling the house to his bedroom window to talk to him. A crow attacks, and he intervenes to save her.

This is almost when she understands that he’s not like the others. But it doesn’t mean that she’ll go full on into friendship with him. The entire movie, it’s still very stand-offish. They have this connection but you can’t get too close, because it’s a rule, and she respects that. Shawn does prove his worth, though, when he rescues her mother after getting caught, and allows them to travel to safety.

Arrietty is such a good, charming character that it makes me sad that Shawn isn’t. I understand why they didn’t develop him a ton: he’s sick, doesn’t have much energy, and is about to undergo an operation to his heart. He’s a kid that’s almost lost everything, and maybe i’m reading “lack of character” wrong. Maybe he’s depressed. Being in a new place with no friends going through what he’s about to go through can’t be easy, and meeting Arrietty almost gives him hope, as well as makes him realize that he can be important and helpful. I think the thing that bugs me about him is that his character is almost left up to the viewer’s ideas. We don’t really know much about him except for what I just said. He’s an ok character, but I feel as if there’s a lot to him we don’t know; the he could have been a bigger character and a better character and still not taken anything away from the focus of Arrietty. I almost would have liked them to get closer. We feel a connection, but it’s not as realized as I feel it could have been. It’s not the connection you get with other Ghibli movies.

the only other characters we get to know are Arrietty’s parents, Pod and Homily, the crazy woman who lives in the house, Hara, and another “savage” borrower who helps them escape, Spiller. Arrietty’s parents are pretty good. Voiced by Will Arnett and Amy Poehler, they’re secondary characters and work well. Pod is strong and silent, and Homily is a bit more animated and worried about safety and the human beings. As a couple, they balance each other out nicely. Hara is the woman who goes to all lengths to prove the borrower’s existence. She acts as our antagonist, and she is a bit crazy. It’s fun to watch them outsmart her. Spiller is a borrower that lives in the “wilds” and not in a house. He’s a man of few words, and acts as sort of?? a love interest? I don’t know, it’s almost as if he’s who Arrietty’s parents wish she’d spend time with. He’s barely in the movie so it’s a bit weird, but maybe they’re planning on making more of these. Dunno.

I know that this is just a movie that’s mainly for kids, and mainly just about showing us the world and showing us what happens to borrowers when they’re seen. I know it’s about that all human’s aren’t evil, but some are. But I don’t know… I finish watching this movie and I just feel…. eh. I feel like nothing happened. It was fun watching it, but I wanted more. I wanted more of the characters. I wanted more of Arrietty and Shawn. It ends, and it’s meant to be this sad goodbye between the two, and you just don’t feel it. I know she taught him not to be afraid, but I want to feel that he learned that. I want to feel that he’s going to miss her. You feel so much in other Ghibli movies. This one has the workings of one, but it’s missing the emotion. It’s missing something with the connection. And it kills me. Because this movie IS good… but it could have been great.

I have one more thing that REALLY bugs me. I don’t know why, but the US version randomly changed the names of some of the characters. Arrietty, Pod, Homily, and Spiller are fine. They’re from the book. But it’s almost like with the US dub, they wanted to try and set this in europe, NOT in Japan, when clearly, this is Japan. They changed the name of the boy from Sho to Shawn and Haru into Hara. WHY????? This is something that really bugs me. This is a JAPANESE movie. It’s SET IN JAPAN. WHY DID YOU CHANGE THE NAMES???? It’s not like people aren’t used to Japanese names from Ghibli: we have Chihiro, Haku, Sosuke, Ponyo, Satsuki, Ashitaka, etc. Seriously. Why the need to change the names Disney?? I actually get mad over this, because I feel like it’s not giving the movie the respect it deserves. It comes from an animation studio that rivals Disney itself and even Pixar. They know that these movies are great. Why mess with it and change something so trivial as names? just to make it more marketable? those aren’t even major characters. they (meaning those at Ghibli as well as Disney) didn’t touch the names of the major characters. Why change random supporting characters to more western sounding names? ugh. I’ll never understand. I think it’s stupid and pointless.

My rant is over, and I apologize. Arrietty is a movie I would say that is worth watching. Is it perfect? no. But you also have to remember it’s not Miyazaki. It’s hard not to compare, but different directors bring different things to movies. It’s still incredibly charming and introduces us to a world familiar but at the same time foreign. I hate to say it, but I almost hope we see more of the borrowers from Ghibli. I would love to see more of her and get more from her family. Definitely a good kid movie.

I give The Secret World of Arrietty (2010) a 3.2 out of 5. Charming, but has its flaws.

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This review wraps up my Ghibli/Miyazaki movies. I really had a blast watching these all again, and reviewing these were among my favorites to write about because they all have so much going for them. I’m hoping this is what my reviews will be like when I do Disney or Pixar. I’m an animation nerd and I’m not afraid to flaunt it.

At the beginning of my Miyazaki movies I ranked them how I thought I would with the reviews. I’m now going to rank them based on what I actually gave them score wise. This should be interesting.

1. Princess Mononoke & My Neighbor Totoro (5 out of 5)
2. Spirited Away (4.8 out of 5)
3. Porco Rosso (4.2 out of 5)
4. Castle in the Sky & Howl’s Moving Castle (4 out of 5)
5. Ponyo & Kiki’s Delivery Service (3.5 out of 5)
6. The Secret World of Arrietty & Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (3.2 out of 5)

Not gonna lie, I’m surprised. Apparently I give the same score to lots of movies, but based on them, I actually agree with this, movie wise. Below is how I ranked them before I reviewed them, strictly on how I, personally, like them:

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)

Watch them if you haven’t. If you’ve never watched any Miyazaki movies or hate the idea of watching “anime,” please reconsider. I am not, by any means, an anime person. These movies are SO different. every one of them is worth watching the same way every pixar movie is worth watching.

Next I’ll be delving into my Christmas/Holiday movies for the season. And what better way to start than with a transitional movie!

Next up: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

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Spirited Away (2001)

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Zeniba: Now, try to remember as much as you can about your old life.

Chihiro: For some reason, I can remember Haku… from a long time ago… but I thought I never met him before!

Zeniba: Oh, that’s a wonderful place to start! Once you meet someone, you never really forget them.

We’ve all been there at some point in our lifetimes. that moment when we have to leave the place we call home and travel somewhere new. For many of us, this uprooting first happens as a child. we’re taken away from our school and our friends and thrust into a new situation where nothing is familiar and we know absolutely no one. Whatever confidence we might have said is taken away, and the fear of the unknown becomes the only thing we think about. At least, that’s how it was for me.

The idea of moving is the frame in the story of Spirited Away. Set in present day Japan, it centers around a young girl named Chihiro, who is moving from one town to another with her parents, and is not too happy about it. On the way to their new house, they get lost, go through a tunnel, and find themselves in what they think is an abandoned amusement park. They snoop around and find food cooking, and her parents begin to eat, thinking the park is still open and they can just pay when the cook gets back. Chihiro goes off to look around, finds a bath house, and watches as the sun sets. This suddenly transforms the place from abandoned to teaming with life, although not the life that Chihiro and her parents are used to. This is a place for the spirits of Japan to gather. It is a place to eat the food and visit the bath house, stay, and refresh after a hard day. She returns to tell her parents to go, only to find pigs in their place. After a few strange encounters, she makes a deal with the witch who runs the bath house, Yubaba, and gets a job at the bath house so she can keep an eye on her parents and figure out how to change them back. She gets to know the bath house’s employees, patrons, and has very strange adventures, all leading up to a test that Yubaba gives her in order to return home and turn her parents back into humans.

I will be honest. This is one strange movie. that being said, it’s also so engaging in its uniqueness that you can’t help but be drawn into this world and what this little girl is going through. Every individual looks different. Every spirit and its design is unique; some are noticeably based on real Japanese spirits, while others I couldn’t place. The animation is amazing. The characters are strange and wonderful at the same time. They are memorable not only for their personalities but their designs. This is another thing that Miyazaki does well: he is so creative that sometimes it makes my head hurt. The fact that this man can come up with so many movies that are so different is something that I can’t wrap my head around. I’ve heard that everyone has at least one story in them worth telling. Well… Miyzaki has like twenty of them. This one definitely takes the cake for the MOST original. As such, it is the most unique and most strange.

It is also the most Japanese of his movies. Princess Mononoke and Totoro are as well, but this one… i dunno, it almost feels more Japanese. Each spirit represents something, whether it be a river, vegetable, or belief. The idea of the bath house in general is very Japanese. The clothes are Japanese. The animation is very Japanese. I think maybe that’s why westerners like this movie: It gives an idea of Japanese culture and beliefs through this strange story that they may not understand, but love it because it’s unique and has characters that are so mezmerising and deep and they are immersed into this world that is so unbelievable but so engaging at the same time.

Let’s start talking about some of these great characters. Our protagonist is a young girl named Chihiro. I have to admit, I’m actually not a fan of her. At least at the beginning. I think that’s actually the point, but oh my goodness is she a whiny little brat. She needs help with everything. She whines whenever she opens her mouth. She has no confidence whatsoever. You can tell she’s smart, and she has it in her to be confident, but she for whatever reason cannot access it. Essentially that is what this movie about. It’s about a girl discovering what she’s capable of and pushing herself to the brink for those she cares about.

She is, as Miyazaki does so well, a wonderful representation of a child. She’s innocent and naive. She almost assumes the best out of everyone (the character of No Face as well as Haku are a good examples of that). She’s not drawn into such “adult” matters as believing rumors or greed. Instead, she knows that some people are trying to help her, and that is enough reason for her to trust them and love them. She sees a character standing out in the rain and assumes the best of him and leaves a door open. She’s a kid. There is no reason for her to think ill of anyone unless they do her harm.

She is also a strong female character. If anything, she shows the progression so well INTO a strong character that in some aspects, she might be the best one Miyazaki’s ever written. The transformation she goes through is amazing. She goes from a whining little brat who has issues asking anyone for help or telling anyone what she needs (instead of asking) to being a girl who can stand up to a monster that everyone else is afraid of, and going on a journey to an “evil” witch’s house to save the person she cares about. She grows and changes so much during her time in the bath house that at the end of the movie she is almost unrecognizable.

There are a lot of characters in this movie. Most have smaller parts, but many help Chihiro on her path. One of these, possibly the most important, is Haku. He is a spirit (he can shape shift from a man to a dragon – his dragon is beautiful) who forgets his real name and can’t find his way home. He explains to Chihiro that this is part of the way the witch Yubaba controls you – she takes your name. She does to Chihiro, turning her into Sen. The longer you’re at the bath house, the more you forget. He almost acts as her friend, confidant and mentor through the movie. he saves her from disappearing into nothingness when she first arrives, and he’s the one who tells her what to do to keep herself from getting in trouble with Yubaba. He looks out for her, and as a result their bond is very strong. It’s one that is remarked on having existed since before she got there (“I’ve known you since you were very young” he says to her at one point). 

At the same time, Haku is also Yubaba’s “henchman.” Sen (I’ll refer to her as that from now on considering she goes through most of the movie being called that) even at one point asks another character if there’s two Hakus. He’s charged with doing Yubaba’s dirty work, according the the other characters, and he’s someone you can’t trust.

This is kinda who I was talking about when I mentioned rumors up above. Whether they are true or not (they kinda are – Haku does end up in trouble because of a mission he was on for Yubaba), Sen doesn’t care. She knows he helped her, and she’s willing to look past all that because she knows deep down he’s a good person. If someone asked her why, could she explain? I have no idea – probably not, but she doesn’t care. She knows he’s good, and is willing to do anything for him. That’s more than a lot of us could do. Because you’re following Sen during this, you almost get the feeling from Haku that he does these things because he has to – because Yubaba essentially owns him. He doesn’t remember his name or his home. What else could he do?

The most trying part of Sen and Haku’s relationship comes when she finds him hurt, having been the recipient of a curse from Yubaba’s sister, Zaniba. He was sent there by Yubaba to steal her magic seal, and as a result she cursed him. To save him, Sen journeys out to Zaniba’s to return the seal and finds that her love of him cured Haku of his curse. It’s pure love. It’s the love of a child, and it is unbelievable to watch.

Let’s talk about our “antagonist” for a moment – the witch Yubaba. First of all, her character design is nothing like you’ve ever seen. She’s got an amazingly huge head, giant eyes, and you can see literally every wrinkle on her face. She is unbelievable. Put that awesome design aside, you have a strange, zany, almost crazy witch who runs the bath house. She cares about making her patrons happy, is upset that Sen’s parents ate the spirits’ food, and acted accordingly. She has no reason to view humans as her friends, and is incredibly smart and tricky. Like Lady Eboshi in Mononoke, I have a real problem calling her a “villain.” Yeah, she’s causing trouble for our main character because of what she did to her parents, but you can see why. We hear about what she’s doing/done to Haku, and as a character she does seem a bit “shifty,” (she leaves on strange missions and has her accomplices patrol the bath house area), but you never actually find out why she’s going out, why she’s patrolling, or even why she wanted her sister’s magic seal. You kinda get the feeling when Sen gets to Zaniba’s that it’s literally just a sibling fight. Nothing more. So while some of the characters (and certainly our main one) view her as a villain, I don’t know if calling her one is fair to her. She’s running a business, wants to protect it and the other spirits, and has an extreme weak spot when it comes to her gigantic infant child (yeah… that kid is just.. yeah.). I do think she has it in her to be evil, but in the amount of time we have with her and in her dealings with Sen, we don’t really see too much.

There’s three more sort of important characters I want to touch on. The first is Lin, who acts almost as Sen mother/friend in the bath house. She’s her partner on jobs they have to do, and is in charge with showing her the ropes. As a character she’s very abrasive, opinionated, but at the same time does feel sorry for Sen and does show a bit of compassion when she’s missing her parents and dealing with Haku. She also acts as our entrance to the bath house life, which is like a whole ecosystem in itself. We learn how things work through her, and Sen learns a lot through her.

The second character is Kamaji, the boiler man. Again, super cool character design. He’s a skinny human-like character that has four pairs of arms with three fingers each, and a giant bushy mustache and huge sunglasses. He’s the person Sen first goes to to ask for a job before he sends her to Yubaba. But he gets her back, lying and saying its his granddaughter and that she’s tough. He understands the love she feels for Haku. He’s an interesting character, even if there’s not much to him. He heats the water for the bath house. (I do have to say though that his little soot sprites that throw the coal into the fire are so freaking cute/hilarious).

My last character that I want to talk about is No Face. This guy, again, could i guess technically be called a “villain,” but again I don’t know if that would be fair to him. He’s a strange black see through spirit wearing a white mask that is first seen outside the bath house by Sen. She sees him again when its raining and leaves the door open so he can come in out of the rain. Once in the bath house, though, he sees what happens when a rich patron pays a generous tip, and decides that gold is the way to get people to like him. He produces gold out of his hands to Sen, who does not want it. However everyone else goes into a frenzy. No sooner do they appease him, though, then he starts eating people, crying out that he wants Sen. I think her actions confuse him. Everyone else is crazy over gold, and here’s this girl who won’t have anything to do with it.

Anyway, Sen manages to get No Face out of the bath house, and he calms down, even regurgitating the people he had eaten and changing back from a monster to his original design. Sen exclaims that the bath house is bad for him, and he goes with her on their adventure to Zaniba’s, eventually staying there with her.

I’m not going to lie – I still don’t know if I know exactly what No Face is or what he’s supposed to represent. I’ll give it my best shot though, at least right now. What I think is that he represents are the embodiment of certain feelings we’re all prone to having: in the beginning, he’s the innate fear of being disliked. He’s shy, doesn’t talk, hangs outside the bath house. Once he learns what gets people excited and what gets people to like him, he acts upon it. But then once he is well liked, it goes to his head and he turns into a monster. We can’t all get exactly what we want all the time – it will always get to us and turn us into monsters. It’s only when we can distance ourselves form the things that are toxic that we can get back to ourselves and then be ok with ourselves. He’s the embodiment of fears that are so personal yet so universal to us all. Sen confuses him because she doesn’t appease his greed and monstrous personality. She, like most children, see him (and all of us) only for the good. It reminds him of what was good, and meeting Zaniba reaffirms that everyone has a place, and you’re ok being yourself. You don’t have to appease everyone all the time. Nor should you want to.

I dunno. Just my thoughts. I still haven’t figured it out. But then again, I dunno if we’re supposed to.

This animation is some of Studio Ghibli’s best. The bath house is beautiful. The detail in Yubaba’s office and rooms is incredible. I mentioned the character designs already. I don’t think anyone else in the world could have come up with this stuff. Miyazaki is truly one of a kind, and his attention to detail in every little thing, even landscapes, is unbelievable.

There is one scene in this movie that always makes me cry. Not because it’s sad, or even overly happy, but simply because of the animation. It is beautiful. It happens when Sen is going back to the bath house from Zaniba’s and she’s riding on top of Haku as a dragon. She wanted during the movie to help him with his problem (his name and his home), when it comes to her. she tells him that she remembered a time when she was little and lost her shoe in a river. she went in after it and almost drowned, but the river carried her to safety. Since then the river has been paved over, but she remembered the name of it: the Kohaku river. It is at this moment that Haku remembers. his scales give way and suddenly he’s a man again and the two of them are falling through the sky. IT. IS. BEAUTIFUL.

I don’t really know what else to say about this movie. It’s the movie that introduced the world to Miyazaki, and went on to beat out Pixar and Monsters, Inc at the Oscars for Best Animated Feature (an honor I still completely agree with despite loving Monsters). Suddenly, Studio Ghibli was on the radar. And it’s been awesome ever since.

I give Spirited Away (2001) a 4.8 out of 5. I’m deducting a few bits of points because I’m still not sure about some of the stuff that happens. That might be the point, but I don’t know. It bugs me that I can’t figure parts of this movie out.

Next up: Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

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)