Why are they considered all-time anime favorites? It is because the themes of the movies embrace either the value of family, or the importance of taking care of nature. Sometimes both are interlaced together with perfect balance. It takes a lot of effort and skills to incorporate these kinds of themes in an animation. And that is what Miyazaki has and has done to many of his films, causing most of his films to become beloved motion pictures throughout the world.
The most popular of Miyazaki’s many animations is Spirited Away. In this film Miyazaki skillfully incorporates the importance of family as well as friends. The movie is about a young girl whose parents turns into pigs, after they have eaten food from a mysterious “theme park.” She must work in a bath house for spirits, to convince the head of the bathhouse to turn her parents back. While doing so, she reunites with an old friend whom she forget where or when they’ve met, and makes some new friends. In the end, she passes the head of the bathhouse’s test and her parents turned back into humans.
Miyazaki’s movies with similar themes to Spirited Away include, Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky, and The Cat Returns. In KiKi’s Delivery Service, a young witch leaves her family to improve her witch powers at a town near the sea. There she helps her new community, makes new friends, and finds secrets about her magic. She never forgets about her family, for she writes to them all the time. In this film, Miyazaki also incorporates how essential your friends and family are.
My Neighbor Totoro is about the adventures two sisters who move to a wooded village with their father (their mother is in the hospital, sick). They have their adventures with Totoro, a forest spirit, their father, their mother, friends at school, neighbors, with other forest spirits, or just by themselves. Here, in My Neighbor Totoro, Miyazaki expertly includes the true meaning of family and friends.
Castle in the Sky concerns a young girl who is the princess of Laputa, a castle in the sky. It starts off when she is captured and trapped in an airship, but escapes by jumping off. She is rescued by a young boy. The kidnappers continue to pursue them, until she is captured again. The young boy rescues her again but with the help of sky pirates. They learn that her kidnapper is also like the young girly, a ruler of Laputa. When the young boy and girl, and the pirates reach Laputa along with the kidnapper, they learn that Laputa will be destroyed. The young girl destroys Laputa by chanting a spell her grandmother told her. Laputa is destroyed and peace is restored. In this movie, Miyazaki shows how important it is to remember your family and also to make new friends.
The Cat Returns begins with a high-school girl who is late for school (the Japanese anime classic) and has a lot of bad luck on the way to school. She has trouble with her crush, just as any high-school girl. But at the end of the day, she rescues a cat who happens to be prince of the Cat Kingdom, who also talks. At home her mother told her that she had asked if cats could talk when she was young. Because of she saved the Prince, she is showered with gifts (unwanted) by the cats of the Cat Kingdom. Lastly she finds out she has to marry the Prince, who is a cat. Seeking the solution to the problem, a voice told her to go to a certain place, where she meets a fat cat, a cat named Baron, and a crow. From then on her adventure begins and she goes off to the Cat Kingdom, unwillingly. At the end of the story, everything is solved and she has more confidence in herself. Miyazaki gracefully adds the power of friendship, and the love of a mother, as well as believing in you.
Other films that Miyazaki features trusting yourself and the such are Porco Rosso, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Whisper of the Heart. In Porco Rosso, an seaplane pilot was cursed of becoming a pig when he went to war. He has no effort to break the curse until he meets a mechanic’s granddaughter, and has to challenge an American pilot who wants the hand of the mechanic’s granddaughter. The movie concludes when Proco Rosso won the challenge and broke the curse. Miyazaki proficiently slip in his theme of finding one’s true self.
Howl’s Moving Castle is about a young girl named Sophie who gets rescued by a wizard named Howl. A witch, who is jealous that Sophie got rescued by Howl, curses her and turns her into an old woman. Sophie is now on a journey to turn her back. She now finds herself in Howl’s castle with a fire and a boy, and in the middle of a huge war. With Sophie’s help, Howl is able to get back his heart and break away from a curse that was put one him. Sophie was able to become young again. In this story, Miyazaki glides in the subject of believing in the ones you truly love.
“Whisper of the Heart” starts off when a high school girl finds a certain name in a library catalogue that keeps reappearing. She finds out whom the name belong to (a boy in her school), and they fall in love with each other. In the middle of the story, the boy has to travel somewhere become a master violin craftsman. But first he must pass the one-month trail period. Learning this, the high school girl decides she must write a book within the one-month trail period. She does, and she bases the book on a cat statue she saw in store, which belongs to her sweetheart’s grandfather. (The cat looks very much like Baron from The Cat Returns, and the story the girl writes is quite similar to the adventure the high school girl from The Cat Returns embarks, thus the name) The high-school boy fails the train period, but the girl has her book published. Here, Miyazaki mixes in the theme of following you heart into the story.
Another popular theme of Miyazaki is respecting nature, as shown in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and Princess Mononoke. Nausicaa begins with an old in a polluted city, and the scene quickly changes to show Nausicaa in a poison forest after an omu shell. In this world, the forests are polluted and the cities are in fear of giant insects invading where they live. The valley of the wind, which Nausicaa is the princess of, is supposedly safe from the insects because of the wind. That is, until a neighboring city invades The Valley of the Wind. Nausicaa must find a way to for the cities of her world and the giant insects of the poison forests to live in harmony. By calming the omus, she finds a bond between he cities and poison forests, thus saving humanity. Miyazaki clearly shows that we must value our environment in this animation.
Princess Mononoke is about San, a wolf-girl, who lives in the forests of the west where the giant gods (basically giant animals, such as wolves and boars), and Prince Ashitaka, who is trying to find a way to break a curse the was done by a giant boar god. These two must work together to stop Lady Eboshi and the rest of the town from burning down the forest to get the iron. They are successful and Prince Ashitaka’s curse breaks. In this epic film, Miyazaki states that we must respect nature.
Hayoa Miyazaki is definitely a master of anime. He had made many motion pictures that touch the heart of many. He is now 68 years old. His newest is Ponyo, and let us hope that this master of anime will be able to make many more.
(Remarks – This article is written by 12 year old, 7th grade Burmese girl by the request from the MoeMaKa Team to introduce Japanese AnimeMovies)