So…I Discovered Hayao Miyazaki~ In Which There Will Be Hugs, Unfortunate Haircuts, Umbrellas, Pirates, and Mackerel

Greetings, bloggerly chums!

As you may have noticed, I love animated movies. As you also may have noticed, I have recently developed a love of anime.

I have mentioned anime a few times on this blog by now. My sister and I are slightly obsessed with it at the moment (though still highly selective about what we will watch), so you are probably going to be hearing about anime repeatedly on this blog in the future.

Anyway. Even if you never get into anime TV shows (and honestly I can’t blame you), there are some Japanese animated films that every serious fan of animated movies needs to see, and they are directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

I first heard about Hayao Miyazaki through his Howl’s Moving Castle film. I had read the book of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, and as it is my custom to watch film adaptions of the books I read (even though the vast majority of them are terrible), I proceeded to do just that.

I was not enamored, I confess. The movie was fine, but it wasn’t as good as the book. So that was the end of my exploration into Hayao Miyazaki’s work for the next year or two.

And then

Quite recently, prompted by our growing anime mania, my sister got Spirited Away from the library. Without any preconceived notions about how it should be, I fell in love with it.

I have since consumed several other Hayao Miyazaki films (all through English dub), and they are all varying levels of delightful. Let’s talk about them all, shall we? I will list them in the order that I discovered them (using my new review format which is actually just a thinly disguised version of the excellent and wildly popular format developed by my brilliant sister).

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004, Japan; 2005, USA)

Rating: PG

There is some kind of war going on in the land, but Sophie just wants to make hats. Her simple ambition is rumpled however when an ill-tempered witch places a curse on her for No Good Reason. She feels that the only sensible thing to do is leave home and figure out how to live with her new…um…circumstances.


  • Calcifer. Just everything pertaining to Calcifer.
  • Markl’s disguise (Why is it so pleasing?)
  • Sophie being the best cleaning lady
  • Sophie. Just Sophie.
  • the music (GORGEOUS)
  • the dog
  • the castle


  • Howl (Just…not as good as book-Howl for me: he is so serious, and he looks like a woman?? and he is a bird for some reason?? and…just…no. Sorry.)
  • the plot being super confusing (what was the war even about??)
  • some creepy/unsettling images, usually involving the Witch of the Waste
  • also the creepy shadow children that dance in a circle?? Whatever that was about…
  • the lack of some absolutely hilarious bits of humor from the book
  • Did I mention Howl though (I’m SORRY, I just DIDN’T LIKE HIM)

Verdict: It was okay, but honestly I was too hung up on it not being the book so I think I need to watch it again before I make a fair judgment.

Spirited Away (2001, Japan; 2002, USA)

Rating: PG

On their way to their new house, Chihiro and her parents stop to explore what seems to be an abandoned amusement park…with disastrous results. Her parents end up enchanted and imprisoned, and Chihiro is trapped at night in a world of spirits. A mysterious boy offers to help her, but is he really on her side?


  • Chihiro behaving like an actual child (I love her)
  • the sootballs (darlings)
  • Lin and her Attitude (SUSAN EGAN)
  • Haku (despite his Unfortunate Haircut)
  • the music (’90s Disney movie level nostalgia.)
  • people eating food together (so wholesome)
  • the train sequence
  • the baby as a rodent
  • No-Face eating cake


  • the pigs (actually the ugliest pigs I have ever seen)
  • Haku’s Unfortunate Haircut
  • creepy spirits (some of them are creepy, okay?)
  • the baby when it’s not a rodent
  • No-Face eating anything else

Verdict: Though it’s a little bizarre at parts, this film is magical, sweet and a solid piece of story-telling.

Princess Mononoke (1997, Japan; 1999, USA)

Rating: PG-13

It is an ancient time when humans, gods and beasts’ lives are interwoven, but the harmony that once was is beginning to disappear. After getting cursed by a demon while trying to protect his people, Prince Ashitaka is forced to leave his home and look for a cure. San, meanwhile, was raised by wolves and thinks she is one.

Good grief, why are these movies so hard to describe?


  • the forest (so ancient and immersive and kind of breathtaking)
  • Irontown (and its inhabitants)
  • Lady Eboshi (Minnie Driver, guys)
  • the music (creates the PERFECT mood- downright magical)
  • that one hug (*tears*)
  • Ashitaka+San (wait, I’m supporting a romance??)
  • the moral complexities


  • the excessive gore (I don’t really want to see people’s arms ripping off their bodies)
  • the, um, worm demons (DISGUSTING)
  • the forest spirit’s face (creepy)
  • the somewhat rushed feel of the ending

Verdict: Despite some drawbacks (mainly involving worm demons), I adored watching this movie. The serious, immersive tone of it reminded me a lot of The Lord of the Rings, and the characters are so endearing.

My Neighbor Totoro (1988, Japan; 1993, USA)

Rating: G

Satsuki and Mei Kusakabe are ecstatic about moving into their new house by the edge of the forest with their father, and the two of them begin exploring at once. There seems to be something alive in the house, and creatures lurking just out of sight. What magical delights await them in their new home?


  • Sisters (gotta love them)
  • hugs (always)
  • predecessors to the sootballs (YES)
  • Totoro being Awkward
  • Kanta being Extremely Awkward
  • the umbrella scene
  • the other umbrella scene


  • the cat bus (that thing is TERRIFYING)
  • the general modern/real world vibe + children meeting friendly spirits in their backyards (just…slightly unsettling)
  • the meandering, slow pace (not a bad thing, just not my favorite)

Verdict: This film is sweet and soft and sleepy, not to mention surprisingly heartfelt at parts. It is quite enjoyable, despite how horrifying I find that cat bus.

Castle in the Sky (1986, Japan; 1989, USA)

Rating: PG

Pazu is an orphan who works in a mine and dreams of finding the legendary city of Laputa, the castle in the sky. His life takes a turn for the adventurous when he catches a mysterious girl one night who seems to have fallen from the heavens. The girl, Sheeta, has multiple pursuers- none of them overly friendly.


  • Pazu (what a kid)
  • Sheeta (what a sweetheart)
  • Pazu’s trumpet solo
  • Pazu being Protective of Sheeta (these precious children)
  • people eating together (we need more of this)
  • Laputa (so mysterious and magical)
  • the sky pirates (I was surprised by how endeared I was to them by the end)
  • the wacky flying contraptions
  • the Pazu/Sheeta Radio Drama
  • hugs (bring on the hugs, people)
  • the music (bring on the choirs)


  • Sheeta’s grandmother teaching her spells (just not my favorite thing)
  • the pink leggings (most unfortunate uniform choice)

Verdict: This movie reminded me of Atlantis: The Lost Empire (in the best way), with glimmers of Stardust, The Neverending Story, and (strangely enough) Looney Tunes. I loved it.

The Wind Rises (2013, Japan; 2014, USA)

Rating: PG-13

Jiro has a fascination with planes. He can’t fly one due to his poor eyesight, so he becomes an engineer and puts his heart and soul into designing them. He does it purely for the love of airplanes, but war is on the horizon, and he knows what his designs will be used for. Without government funding, however, he cannot possibly see his dreams come to life. Does that make it right?


  • Jiro (what a great guy)
  • Honjo (the sarcasm though)
  • Nahoko (SO SWEET and also Emily Blunt, so)
  • Kayo (siblings all the way)
  • Kurokawa (he grew on me, to my surprise)
  • I guess all the characters were pretty great
  • Kurokawa’s hair (impressively active, that’s all I’m going to say about that)
  • the moral questions
  • the rain
  • the wind (obviously)
  • the tears (MY HEART)
  • the romance (I LOVE THEM SO MUCH, WHO EVEN AM I??)
  • the human tacos (even though in reality it’s terribly sad…)
  • the mackerel
  • the spongecake (Jiro being so kind and so clueless, love him)
  • the music (once again Joe delivers a breathtaking myriad of feelings)


  • Nahoko’s final decision (WHY though???)
  • a tad on the slow side, but I’m not really complaining

Verdict: It’s beautiful. I don’t know what else to say.


I had no idea that these films would be so wholesome, but that’s the best word I can think of to encompass them all. I hope that at least one of them piques your interest. If nothing else, listen to the soundtracks because they are all GORGEOUS.

Have you seen any Hayao Miyazaki films? What are some of your favorite animated movies? Do you geek out about movie soundtracks? What is the most wholesome movie you have seen recently?

4 thoughts on “So…I Discovered Hayao Miyazaki~ In Which There Will Be Hugs, Unfortunate Haircuts, Umbrellas, Pirates, and Mackerel

  1. Yesss, Studio Ghibli movies are my childhood! Something about them are so whimsical and charming in Miyazaki’s signature style. And the animation is breathtaking. If you haven’t watched these ones yet, I’d highly recommend Nausicaa, Ponyo, Porco Rosso, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and From Up On Poppy Hill.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, so whimsical and charming! I love Miyazaki’s style. And the animation is BEAUTIFUL. I forgot to mention that in the post, but it truly is. Thanks for the recommendations, I look forward to watching more Ghibli movies!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, I really want to see Howl’s Moving Castle! I loved the book so much! I’m sure I’ll agree with you that the movie won’t be AS good, but it still looks so enjoyable. 🙂 My Neighbor Totoro sounds lovely, too! I also want to see Studio Ghibli’s Kiki’s Delivery Service.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, just resign yourself to the fact that it’s not the book and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the movie. 🙂 I know people who like the movie better actually, so you never know. My Neighbor Totoro is lovely. They are ALL lovely. Kiki’s Delivery Service is on my TBW list. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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