Reel Reviews

Film Reviews by a Real Person, Not a Critic

Hayao Miyazaki Week(s)


Miyazaki image is created by Tarnas.

Hayao Miyazaki is a legend. One of the most famous and highly respected creators of Japanese animated films, Miyazaki is sometimes called the Walt Disney of Japan*. Although Miyazaki does credit Mr. Disney as an influence in his work, Miyazaki’s own creations differ significantly from anything generated by the Mouse House.


Unlike most Disney animated films, Miyazaki doesn’t need to rely on gimmicks like flashy dance numbers with singing animals in his films to get the audience’s attention. Instead he weaves a breathtaking, colorful world replete with multidimensional characters and a provocative but engaging plot. He often uses his films to tackle difficult topics such as the balance between nature and technology, the ravages of war, or how children can deal with a severely ill parent.

An avid feminist, Miyazaki’s films often feature strong female main characters. They’re often younger so they aren’t sexy, and they don’t exude alluring feminine charms like the “Disney Princesses”, but in my opinion they are far more interesting characters than Snow White, Ariel, and Jasmine.

Nature plays a big role in many of Miyazaki’s films. Many scenes focus on calm fields with a gentle breeze blowing, or of a dense forest, full of life. Fantasy creatures are another common element in Miyazaki films, ranging from the cute and cuddly to the grotesque.

Since some characters in Miyazaki’s films are based on Japanese life, culture, and folklore, one might assume that non-Japanese audiences may not be able to relate to them. In fact, one can say this about Miyazaki films overall. On the contrary, highly positive praises from critics, the dozens awards earned, and the popularity of these films have demonstrated that they have indeed, been wildly accepted by foreign audiences.

Here is a listing of Miyazaki’s films via Wikipedia. As you can see, it’s not a very long list; however, what he lacks in quantity he far makes up for in quality.

* The Castle of Cagliostro (Lupin III) – (ルパン三世カリオストロ?城 Rupan Sansei: Kariosutoro no Shiro), 1979
* Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind – (風?谷?ナウシカ Kaze no Tani no Naushika), 1984
* Castle in the Sky – Laputa: The Castle in the Sky (天空?城ラピュタ Tenkuu no Shiro Rapyuta), 1986
* My Neighbor Totoro – (??り?トトロ Tonari no Totoro), 1988
* Kiki’s Delivery Service – (魔女?宅急便 Majo no Takkyuubin), 1989
* Porco Rosso – (紅?豚 Kurenai no Buta), 1992
* Princess Mononoke – (も???姫 Mononoke Hime), 1997
* Spirited Away – (???尋?神隠? Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi), 2001
* Howl’s Moving Castle – (?ウル?動??城 Hauru no Ugoku Shiro), 2004

I had originally planned to do mini reviews of the Miyazaki films I’ve seen, with two reviews at a time. However, when I finished writing them, they were so long that I couldn’t really consider them to be “mini” reviews anymore. I tried editing them, but I felt that making them too short was a disservice to the review. So instead, I’m going to spread them out over the course of TWO weeks. I hope you don’t get sick of reading anime reviews over the next two weeks 🙂

I’ll be referring to them by their Japanese titles because I feel that it’s more appropriate, though I will indicate the American title.

I recommend to watch these films with subtitles rather than dubbed. Although you won’t understand what the characters are saying, you’ll be able to hear what the characters are feeling through the inflection and tone of the actors’ voices. It just seems artificial and flat to watch these films with American actors’ voices. At the same time, it has been said that Miyazaki urges audiences to watch his films in their respective languages so that they can focus on the art and not get distracted by the subtitles at the bottom of the screen. Whatever floats your boat.

*(Which he hates, apparently.)


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February 6, 2006 - Posted by | Miyazaki Films

2 Comments »

  1. I’m so glad you’re doing this! I’ve seen both Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away in the last six months and loved both, and I’ve been meaning to look into Miyazaki’s other films. I loved Spirited Away the most; I can’t put my finger on why, but it really resonated with me in a way that Princess Mononoke didn’t. Looking forward to the reviews!

    Comment by Brooke | February 6, 2006 | Reply

  2. Excellent, am also looking forward to your reviews. We’ve seen them all except for Lupin III, and my wife and I also prefer the Japanese language track with subtitles—which of course means they need to be watched multiple times so that you can give the artwork more time to sink in. Our favorites are Nausicaa and Kiki’s, but were disappointed with Howl’s.

    cheers

    Comment by jeffu | February 6, 2006 | Reply


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