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The Studio Ghibli Appreciation Series — Part 1: A Countdown of Miyazaki’s 11 Anime Masterpieces

Hayao Miyazaki is arguably one of the most famous Japanese anime directors of all time, definitely at an international scale, but also in Japan. His films are true works of art and tell deep, complex stories for a wide array of audiences. He doesn’t shy away from important, serious topics and many of his films are about the natural world and are anti-war. His obsession with flight, airplanes, and other aircraft can be found in almost every single one of his films (all except for Princess Mononoke, that is!). He is a living genius and I sincerely hope he doesn’t completely stop directing and creating wonderful and wondrous films. (He’s apparently directing a short film for the Studio Ghibli museum, a project called Boro the Caterpillar that, fun fact, he long ago was considering making into a feature-length film instead of his fantasy epic Princess Mononoke. In a way, thank goodness he made Princess Mononoke, but it’s also sad he never made Boro the Caterpillar in a full-length film.)

This fall I did a Studio Ghibli marathon, watching all 22 of the practically legendary studio’s anime films, and today I am going to talk about the 9 films Hayao Miyazaki directed, plus his two other feature-length films, The Castle of Cagliostro and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, that he directed pre-Ghibli. (Yes, guys, Nausicaa was pre-Ghibli, even though it’s considered canon nowadays.) This is my countdown of his films, where I get to explain why I love them and what makes them so good. So your opinion may differ from mine — and that’s totally awesome. Just a disclaimer so y’all don’t start yelling at me in the comments about why — SPOILER for the countdown! —  *cough* Spirited Away isn’t #1. (Don’t leave! Don’t leave! I’ll explain!)

So without further ado, let’s begin the countdown!

P.S. I’ve watched only the English dubs of all these movies. Someday I’ll watch them in their original Japanese.

P.P.S. I’m keeping this post spoiler-free for those of you who haven’t seen all these movies. I’ll try to be vague in the “Did I Cry?” sections, but don’t read them as a precaution if you haven’t watched those movies because there are some minor spoilers to be found there, since I mention why and where I cried.

#11. Ponyo (2008)

I like Ponyo. I like it a lot. It is a wonderful, heartwarming film full of magic and cuteness, but it’s at the bottom of this countdown because it lacks substance. It lacks a deeper plot, it lacks Miyazaki’s trademark hero’s journey. It’s just about the two little children, five-year-old Sosuke and same-age Ponyo, waiting out a storm and then going out on their own to find Sosuke’s mother. And while that’s great and all, it’s not very intense, and the characters don’t necessarily overcome giant hurdles and grow exponentially as people.

Ponyo was based on The Little Mermaid (fairy tale) and while there are many parallels, this adventure featuring a strong, “aww”-inducing friendship lacks the darkness of the original tale, and that’s both a good and bad thing. Visually it is breathtaking and impressive, with colorful and realistic underwater imagery. The kids are adorable and lovable, the adults caring and stubborn. I really like Ponyo, but it is definitely a “kid’s” movie, though one that adults can enjoy, and that is why it’s #11.

FAVORITE THINGS: Sassy goldfish Ponyo. Ponyo licking Sosuke’s finger and Sosuke’s perfect reaction. Awesome mom Lisa. The gorgeous underwater animation.

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#10. The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)

Before Hayao Miyazaki co-founded Studio Ghibli in 1985, he made his feature-length directorial debut with The Castle of Cagliostro, a film in the Lupin III franchise about a master thief named Arsene Lupin III. This action movie has an awesome mystery at its core, plus it’s freaking hilarious, sweetly romantic, and just plain fascinating. Lupin is a cocky hero, but he’s got a heart of gold and I was always rooting for him. Visually it has an amazing meld of cultures, and it’s so interesting to see how Miyazaki’s art style has changed over the years, although he was limited to a certain extent because of the already existing Lupin III manga and other mediums.

Still, The Castle of Cagliostro is a terrific, fun, fast-paced ride full of impressive stunts, intense chase scenes, fearsome heights, strong characters, and the biggest wedding crash ever. It’s #10 on my list simply because there’s not much character development (all the characters are already established in the franchise; this is just an adventure they’re on) and for the slightly less-gorgeous (but still awesome) animation. I love Cagliostro, but it’s not a movie I feel like watching very often. (Also, as this countdown goes on, you’ll notice my ranking is very dependent on the rewatchability — that’s totally a word! I say so! — factor.)

FAVORITE THINGS: The wedding crash. All the twists and turns. Lupin’s bad-assery. Fujiko’s bad-assery. The jokes and the amazingly funny script.

#9. The Wind Rises (2013)

The Wind Rises was Hayao Miyazaki’s last film with Studio Ghibli, and potentially his last feature film ever. 😥

Fun fact: Miyazaki actually considered making Ponyo 2 instead, but ultimately decided on The Wind Rises, which is a fictionalized (and, arguably, romanticized) biopic of Japanese airplane designer Jiro Horikoshi. This film was Miyazaki’s swan song, and as soon as it started and Joe Hisaishi’s gorgeous soundtrack began playing, I was tearing up. The Wind Rises is the ultimate story circling around Miyazaki’s obsession with airplanes, and it is a beautiful and inspiring, yet tragic, period piece about how one man’s love for building planes was used for something so destructive during World War II.

The Wind Rises is both depressing and uplifting, it chronicles the major ups and major downs of one man’s life. It is visually stunning. It is definitely more of an adult movie, as it’s a biopic and therefore slower in pace and without a typical adventure-type plot, but it plays very heavily on emotions, dreams, and more serious themes that could be lost on children if they’re not mature enough. The Wind Rises is definitely a gorgeous, thoughtful film, and I’m quite glad that Miyazaki decided to pour his heart into this as his final project. It’s #9 on my list simply because it’s the most realistic of all of Miyazaki’s films. It’s exceptionally sad and it’s much slower. I love it, I love The Wind Rises, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not a film I’ll be popping on all the time.

FAVORITE THINGS: The dream sequences. The heartbreaking romance. The subtle homages/references to Miyazaki’s other films. The emotional music. The absolutely stunning animation — really, this is one amazing-looking movie.

DID I CRY? I got teary at one part, concerning the romance, which you know almost right from the get-go is going to be tragic. Who knew Miyazaki was a master at romance? (*Cough* From Howl’s Moving Castle, that’s how.)

So from here on out, these films are the ones I can rewatch and have rewatched plenty of times. I also own all the followin movies, so that definitely helps with the rewatching, duh. But I also just love these films, all of which were a major part of my childhood, and are his most famous and best works. I love them all, and #6, #5 and #4 are pretty interchangeable; I swap them around often for different reasons. You’ll see!

Also, can you guess what my top 3 favorites are? 😉

#8. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

This movie is what made Studio Ghibli famous. Totoro became such a huge character in Japanese culture. And no wonder! He’s giant and purple and fuzzy and lovable! My Neighbor Totoro is a really sweet and heartfelt story about two sisters getting used to their new home in the country. Satsuki is the film’s main character, you could say, but little Mei is just as important. Plus, she’s hilarious and charming and so cute! The film is slower in pace but full of wonder and imagination, and it’s really sad and serious towards the end when everyone’s out looking for Mei. The film touches on the fear of losing family members, and it’s very deep in that regard when you realize it. My Neighbor Totoro is such a sweet movie that the entire family can love.

I’ve only seen the original English dub by Fox, not the newer Disney dub with the Fanning sisters. Will I ever watch the Disney dub? I don’t think so, since the 20th Century Fox dub is a classic and absolutely ingrained into my brain, heart, and soul, and I think is perfect. My Neighbor Totoro is #8 on this list simply because it’s not quite as exciting as the rest of the films I’m going to talk about. It’s lovely, it’s nostalgic, but I prefer epic fantasy and daring adventures, and the remaining movies on this list have either lots of fantasy or lots of adventures or both. Totoro, I love you, though. You’re the best.

FAVORITE THINGS: Big Totoro, and the two little Totoros. Catbus. Mei and the soot sprite. The awesome sister relationship. Satsuki and Kanta’s friendship. Totoro’s leaf-umbrella.

#7. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

Kiki is a cute and spunky teenage witch with the most cynical and sarcastic black cat, Jiji. (JIJI IS LIFE.) This film is about growing up and moving away from childish whimsies, and it’s really fascinating to see the exact parallels between Kiki and Jiji when she begins to lose her magic powers. Kiki’s Delivery Service is a story about finding your own way in life and accepting yourself, and the adventures she and Jiji go on are absolutely wonderful to watch.

Kiki may have been my very first Studio Ghibli film ever — it was either Kiki or Spirited Away, I can’t remember which. But, in any case, Kiki’s Delivery Service is a treasure, and perfect for little girls (or little boys!) who wish they could fly on a broom and have snarky conversations with their even snarkier cat. This movie is so much fun, though a bit unrealistic in terms of more practical matters. (I still always scratch my head at the deal of washing floors in exchange for sewing together the cat toy. That just seems a tad bit unfair.) Kiki is adorable, but she’s so innocent and naive, even though she really grows over the course of the film. Kiki’s Delivery Service takes the #7 position on my countdown. I love it, I love it exponentially, but it’s not as dark and serious as I like my Miyazaki movies to be.

FAVORITE THINGS: JIJI! Smitten adorkable Tombo. Kiki’s dress, shoes, and hair-bow. The cake from Madam and Barsa. Ursula’s absolutely gorgeous painting.

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#6. Spirited Away (2001)

This is the only Studio Ghibli film to win an Academy Award, not that the Oscars amount to much anyway (but Frozen over The Wind Rises?! Big Hero 6 over Princess Kaguya?! Gah!). You may be wondering why Spirited Away, the general fan favorite, is sitting at #6 on my list. There are a few reasons, and none of them mean I love Spirited Away any less than the other movies on this list. It is a damn fine film — a DAMN FINE FILM — and it was incredibly hard having to rank all these amazing movies. (As I said earlier, #6, #5, and #4 are really interchangeable for me, and whenever I rewatch one of them it kind of automatically jumps to #4 until I rewatch one of the other two.)

Spirited Away was one of the first Studio Ghibli films I saw (it was either this or Kiki, as I mentioned previously). I watched it countless times as a kid, enthralled and terrified. (Mostly terrified, but still very enthralled.) A lot of things went over my head as a young’un, but now that I am older and revisited the movie, really wrecked me emotionally or made me go “aaaah, I get it now”. The more adult themes are so much sadder and darker now that I understand them. This is a kid’s film unlike any other, and that’s why it became such an international phenomenon.

A bathhouse for spirits. A human girl having to work for the greedy owner in order to find a way to save her parents who have been turned into pigs. Absolute chaos when a customer eats some staff members. Immense character growth… Chihiro starts off as a whiny brat with absolutely no self-confidence, but she matures so much over the course of the story that she is completely unrecognizable by its end. Chihiro is the one Studio Ghibli heroine who undergoes the most radical transformation, I think. She becomes brave and loyal, smart and kind, and the very end of the movie is absolutely heart-wrenching. I cried twice in this film as well as grinned like a fool and gasped in terror. Spirited Away has everything in it, and I could write an entire thesis if I wanted to, it’s that complex. And amazing. I love Spirited Away. But there are a few more of Miyazaki’s films I like even better, hard to believe… (Namely my top 3.)

FAVORITE THINGS: Haku! The radish spirit. The hilarious soot sprites. Lin and her attitude. Baby mouse and the bird-fly. Baby mouse mimicking Chihiro squashing the black slug. All the delicious food I WANNA EAT. Swamp Bottom. That sad, sad music I can listen to for days and days straight.

DID I CRY? Yes, I cried at two parts. The first, where Chihiro is in the garden after seeing her parents. That wrecked me, no help from the heartbreaking music. The second, at the end when Chihiro is leaving and finally looks back. After everything that happened and the uncertainty of if she’ll see Haku again just killed my heart.

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#5. Castle in the Sky (1986)

Castle in the Sky was Studio Ghibli’s first film, and man, this one is epic. It’s about the search for a legendary floating city called Laputa (yeah, the Japanese didn’t think about how that would translate into other languages, like Spanish, for instance, ahem) and focuses on two young people, Pazu and Sheeta, who are racing against the evil government and military to find it first.

The movie focuses on greed and power and the corruption it causes. Castle in the Sky is an incredibly thoughtful and complex story, and while I don’t rewatch it very often, when I do I’m always floored by the sheer scope of it. Castle in the Sky’s musical score is one of my favorites, and it perfectly suits every given situation. (I cry when I listen to it if it’s been a while. *Sob.*) Dola’s pirate gang is absolutely hilarious, although I at first didn’t like her when I was a kid, she kind of scared me!

It’s also really cool to see a few similarities between Castle in the Sky and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the epic film Miyazaki made before Castle in the Sky. Of course, they’re completely different movies, but there are some awesome theories out there about how all the Ghibli films take place in the same universe, but at (vastly) different points in time. I like to think Castle in the Sky takes place after Nausicaa; you’d probably agree if you’ve seen both those movies.

This is definitely one of Miyazaki’s more underrated films, weirdly enough. Not many people say Castle in the Sky is their favorite, or just seem to forget about it entirely in favor of the fan favorites. While it’s not my personal absolute favorite, it’s definitely one of my most highly esteemed fantasy films ever ever and has definitely influenced me in many ways.

FAVORITE THINGS: Dola and her pirate crew. The street brawl between Pazu’s neighbors and Dola’s sons. Pazu’s incredible determination and faith. Sheeta looking way better with short hair (sorry you had to get your pigtails shot off). THE FOX SQUIRRELS! The incredibly fitting music (the chorus toward the end and Pazu’s trumpet are the best).

DID I CRY? Heck yes, I did. I always cry at the part at the ending when Sheeta and Pazu decide to sacrifice everything in order to stop Muska. Their extremely mature decision mixed with the incredibly dramatic music and the stunning animation just kills me every time.

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#4. Porco Rosso (1992)

Porco Rosso isn’t a huge fan favorite, surprisingly, but I love it and rewatch it all the time because of its humor and great sweeping adventure and action. (Of all the Ghibli films, I watch Porco the most!) Marco Rosso was cursed with a pig’s face, thus earning him the name Porco, and while he’s not a typical hero, he’s a good person underneath all his flaws. Porco Rosso has a great cast of strong supporting female characters like Fio and Gina, and the larger than life characters of Curtis and Boss are absolutely hilarious.

Porco Rosso deals with gender stereotypes, political intrigue, the after effects of war, and survivor’s guilt. It’s mostly funny, but at times very deep and poignant. Porco Rosso is one of my favorites despite what other people say. I love Porco and his shiny red plane, and I love Fio for being a super-spunky, super-smart redheaded seaplane designer and engineer.

FAVORITE THINGS: Boss and his pirate crew. The little school girls who belong to a swimming club. Fio’s spunk. All the women who build Porco’s plane. The dogfight between Porco and Curtis.

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EDIT: Now that I’ve had some time away from the Studio Ghibli marathon, I think I’m going to place Porco Rosso behind Castle in the Sky and Spirited Away. Porco Rosso is my favorite of the three due to its rewatchability, but I do think that Castle in the Sky and Spirited Away are better in the sense that they are amazing fantasy epics that tackle some very complicated and serious themes.

#3. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

Nausicaa is considered Ghibli canon, even though it’s not — it was a film Miyazaki directed that really enabled him, Isao Takahata, Toshi Suzuki, and Yasuyoshi Tokuma launch the studio the next year in 1985. That being said, Nausicaa is definitely one of my favorites of Miyazaki’s, despite it not being strictly a Studio Ghibli film.

It’s an epic sci-fi post-apocalyptic masterpiece about a princess trying to save her kingdom. It deals with the topics of war against nature and what constitutes as villainry and heroism. There may be villains in this story, but you could argue convincingly that they don’t see themselves as villains, they see themselves as people who are doing what they can to ensure the human race can continue. Yes, you kind of hate Kushana and the Pejite mayor, but you can see where they’re coming from, and you know they’re not entirely bad.

Nausicaa herself is an extremely strong heroine. She starts out bad-ass and becomes even more bad-ass through the story. She’s smart, she’s determined, she’s brave, she’s talented, she’s sweet, she’s thoughtful — but she’s also human. She’s a born leader in all the right ways and it’s no wonder why her people — and even her enemies — can’t help but admire her. Heck, even the insects respect her.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a gorgeous and serious film about humanity and nature with an incredibly haunting score by Joe Hisaishi. There are dark, dark moments but also ones of wonder and awe. Plus, there’s Tato the fox squirrel and the epicly badass Lord Yupa who make the film even more lovable. Nausicaa is #3 on my list. And every time I watch it I notice new and different things about it. It never ceases to amaze me, and I am continually amazed at this stellar movie Miyazaki created.

FAVORITE THINGS: Tato! Kai and Kwi! Baby Omh #1. Baby Omh #2. Nausicaa’s glider. Nausicaa’s secret garden. The forest underneath the toxic jungle. The afternoon spores that look like snow. That one insect Nausicaa encouraged and helped fly back home. The three old men steering the cargo barge and that tank together. That haunting, gorgeous music.

DID I CRY? Mm-hmm. At the part when Nausicaa realizes that the Tolmekians are after her father the king. During the flashback when a child Nausicaa is trying to protect the baby Omh. At the end when the Omh heal Nausicaa with that gorgeous music behind it. Just, GAH. I was a mess, okay?

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#2. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Howl’s Moving Castle is the most romantic of Hayao Miyazaki’s films. It’s based on Diana Wynne Jones’ famous book of the same name (which is amazing, by the way — you need to read it). The film differs very much from the original story, but in a way that is spectacular. (Both the book and movie are terrific and practically flawless. Maybe actually flawless.)

Howl’s Moving Castle is a story about self-confidence and self-worth, about overcoming fears and standing up to people. It plays with old age and youth. It features curses, demons, witches, and wizards. The world of Howl’s Moving Castle is simply marvelous and magical, but it’s not all fun magic. Howl’s Moving Castle is definitely very anti-war, as are most of Miyazaki’s movies. And, again, there aren’t any “true” villains to be found. The “villains” are gray, but they are cold and unseeing before they view things differently. It doesn’t make you like them, but you can understand their thinking.

Howl, oh my goodness — Howl is to die for! Of all the Ghibli hunks, Howl is my favorite (although Haku from Spirited Away is also a cutie). He’s smooth, he’s mysterious, he’s a total playboy (much more so in the book), he’s gorgeous, but he’s also terrified inside and afraid to let anyone get too close to him. He changes radically over the course of the story as he befriends Sophie. AND IT’S THE GREATEST, MOST ROMANTIC THING EVER.

Now, Sophie is awesome. She’s probably (for me) ranked second in terms of characters who grow the most through their stories, of all the Ghibli heroines. At the beginning she’s meek, she’s quiet, she defaults to what is expected of her versus what she might really want to do. The Witch of the Waste curses her into the body of a shriveled old lady, and Sophie, who eventually finds herself working as Howl’s new cleaning lady, decides to embrace the wonders of life and make the best of her situation.

SPOILER ALERT! Don’t read this paragraph unless you know the story! When rewatching the movie this fall, I paid especially close attention to the moments when Sophie’s self-confidence and determination start to weaken her curse — and for the exact moment she completely breaks the spell herself. It’s quite satisfying to see her break the witch’s curse without any help. Sophie is an amazing girl who goes through hell and back all to keep her new-found friends (really, though, her new family) safe. Plus, she gets the guy in the end, and it’s so awesome when Howl finally realizes he wants to protect her, too. END OF SPOILER.

This movie. Is awesome. And it’s everything. It’s my #2 favorite, but now that we’re at the best of the best it’s really unnecessary to rank these films. Howl’s Moving Castle is definitely family-friendly and slightly less dark and serious than some of Miyazaki’s other movies. It’s a great one to start out with if you’re new to Ghibli. Honestly, Howl’s Moving Castle really bounces from #2 and #1 sometimes, and I’ve watched it more times than I can even remember. It’s perfect. Calcifer slays and I just want to scoop up Markl and, uh, marry Howl. ❤

FAVORITE THINGS: Sophie’s character growth. Calcifer! (“Here’s another curse: May all your bacon burn.”) Adorable Markl being adorable. Heen and his sneezing. Howl’s melodramatic tantrum over his hair dye going wrong. (“I give up. I see no point in living if I can’t be beautiful.”) The sweeping city, the magical wastes, the dreamlike garden. DAT BRILLIANT MUSIC. Howl. Did I say Howl? HOWL! (A.k.a. Pendragon/Jenkins.)

DID I CRY? YES. During the part when Sophie goes into Howl’s memory in a flashback and she understands his bond with Calcifer. When she’s forced to leave the memory and she cries out to them that she knows how to help them and to find her in the future — I lost it. I literally was Sophie when she apologized to Heen, “I’m sorry, I just can’t seem to stop crying.” Plus, THAT BEAUTIFUL MUSIC ONLY MAKES MY HEART BREAK MORE.5 hearts

#1. Princess Mononoke (1997)

This. This movie. This movie is on its own level. It’s a fantasy set in ancient Japan where gods and demons rule over the forest. It’s about an exiled prince named Ashitaka who goes to seek out the source of what turns animals into demons. He reaches Iron Town, where the people are at war with the animals because they want to clear the land but the animals aren’t having it. It’s about a wolf princess called San who is determined to kill the leader of Iron Town, Lady Eboshi. It is about an evil quest to kill the ruler of the forest, the great Forest Spirit/Nightwalker. It is an unlikely tale about a man and a young woman falling in love and working together despite their vast differences. It is a story about survival, a story about greed, a story about power, a story about civilization versus nature. It is an epic masterpiece.

Princess Mononoke is an extremely dark and complicated story that always captivates me. It might be the darkest Miyazaki movie ever, and Studio Ghibli, too. It is a true epic, a true masterpiece (yup, just reiterating that because it’s TRUE), and a film that deserves way more credit and recognition. Plus, it’s my favorite of Joe Hisaishi’s soundtracks. Goodness, I have listened to the beautiful score so much I know it by heart. I cry at the beautiful music, I cry at the beautiful film. (And I’m not even a crier! In normal day-to-day life I NEVER cry, but when I’m reading or watching or listening to emotional stuff, I’m a river.)

Princess Mononoke is a dark piece (I know, I said that already), depressing but uplifting, magical and gritty. There is good and evil, but, again, Miyazaki’s heroes and villains are gray. Everyone is doing what they think is best, and others don’t always view it as the right thing. Gah. This movie, guys. THIS MOVIE. It’s not as kid-friendly as some of Miyazaki’s other films, as it deals with very hard and more adult topics, but I was a kid when I watched it, and I loved it back then, and to this day it still remains my favorite anime movie of all time. OF ALL TIME. (Interesting fact: Princess Mononoke is the only PG-13 rated Ghibli film, due to the violence. I was probably 9 or 10 when I saw it, though, and the violence didn’t really bother me. Probably because American films, even kids films, are pretty violent in general.)

This film has influenced me in so many ways. It has inspired me, it has made me think about humanity, war, and nature. It does an excellent job of breaking gender stereotypes. There are extremely strong women like San, Eboshi, and Toki, but Ashitaka is also an amazingly courageous and just man. The gods and demons are multidimensional, too, believe it or not, and I love Moro, the wolf god and San’s adoptive mother. Oh, yeah, and Yakul the red elk is so great, too. He’s just so devoted to Ashitaka it’s adorable. Aaaand — the cute little forest sprites, kodama! SO FLIPPING CUTE.

Princess Mononoke is one of those films that you get even more out of the more you watch it. It’s heavy stuff, but it’s a spectacle and on a completely different scale than most films out there. The English dub voice cast is fabulous, everyone matching their character perfectly. This movie is absolutely genius, one that more people need to know about and appreciate. I’m telling you — this is Miyazaki’s best film, and he’s got a lot of “best films”. Thank the lord he decided to make this movie. If producer Toshio Suzuki hadn’t persuaded Miyazaki to make the action film they could more easily get backing for than the less-marketable Boro the Caterpillar (as awesome as I’m sure it would be/will be), Princess Mononoke might never have been made. And that would have been very unfortunate seeing as it’s my favorite anime movie, my favorite Miyazaki movie, and (spoiler for my 22 Ghibli films countdown) favorite Studio Ghibli movie overall.

FAVORITE THINGS: EVERYTHING. I mentioned the characters above — humans, animals, and spirits. I talked about the soundtrack, too, it being huge and sweeping and awesome and cry-worthy. The animation is top-notch, as well, no surprise there. Basically, this movie is perfect. Like, actually perfect.

DID I CRY? Yup-yup. I get teary at various parts, but I cried at the end when the forest was growing green again. Joe Hisaishi’s gorgeous piano music helps with the tears.

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Congratulations! You read this entire post! (I hope. It’s okay if you skimmed parts. I did a lot of fangirling, I’m aware.) Have I persuaded you to go watch every single Hayao Miyazaki film now? Do you agree with my list and the order of movies?

Additionally, Miyazaki wrote the screenplays for Whisper of the Heart, The Secret World of Arrietty, and From Up on Poppy Hill. Whisper of the Heart is one of my favorite Ghibli films, and the only slice of life anime film I find incredibly relateable and perfect. Miyazaki’s scripts are excellent, although his vision as a director of his own films (all of which he wrote the screenplays for) really trump almost all the other Ghibli films helmed by different directors (although Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya are top-notch masterpieces, too).

Hayao Miyazaki, you are a living legend, a true directorial genius, a true storytelling master. I bow to you. Your work is some of the finest I have ever seen, and a huge influence to other artists. Your films are classics, they’re children’s films that are mature and deep and that adults also love. You created incredibly strong women, you raised the important issue of how destructive and evil war is, and continually impressed us with the wonders of nature and wildlife we can’t and shouldn’t forget. It has been an honor to watch your films and study them. I will forever rewatch and study them. I will show them to my own children one day. I will tell (I already have) all my friends to go watch your movies ASAP and that we can’t be friends anymore until they do so. Thank you for everything, Miyazaki-sensei. I am incredibly grateful for what you have graced the world with and I hope you continue creating what you love for the rest of your life.

Stay tuned for Part 2! Where I’ll countdown all 22 Studio Ghibli films!

Script - So Tell Me

Have I persuaded you to go watch every single Hayao Miyazaki film now?
Do you agree with my list and the order of movies?
What’s your favorite Miyazaki film and why?
(Feel free to rank your favorites in the comments section!)
Comment below letting me know!
Happy watching!

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10 thoughts on “The Studio Ghibli Appreciation Series — Part 1: A Countdown of Miyazaki’s 11 Anime Masterpieces

  1. A beautiful list! I would pick Kikki as my favorite, mainly because it was my first (all the feels) but still an amazing post. But now I feel like I need to go and marathon all of these…. There went my week lol 🙂 can’t wait for part two!


    1. I think that when I was very young I had watched Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and that I had liked it. But I am already planning to watch all of the Ghibli movies again. Who knows, maybe I will write a similar post when I’m finished and we can compare notes…


  2. Is it weird that I’m happy Totoro isn”t your favourite? XD I just feel like everyone’s jumping on the Totoro bandwagon, and it’s not even the best movie! Like, it’s cute and I really enjoy it but when you look at all of these others (and the non Miyazaki ones, too), it’s really not the best.

    I was SUPER disappointed in Ponyo, to be honest. I was bored most of the time, and just not overly impressed.

    I haven’t seen The Castle of Cagliostro, The Wind Rises (I DO own a copy, though, I just don’t want to watch the Miyazaki film, HAHA), or Porco Rosso (I’ve watched some parts, but never sat down to watch the entire thing). I really need to rectify this D:

    I’m the same as you – I can never pick between Howl’s and Mononoke, because they both mean SO MUCH to me. Mononoke was my favourite before I watched Howl’s, and then when I saw Howl’s I was just blown away and now it’s really hard to choose. I think Mononoke MIGHT still be my favourite because I love the environmental message throughout, but Howl’s is beautiful and whimsical (I have the film poster in my room and it IS MY PRIZED POSSESSION).

    Now I need to g binge watch my Ghibli movies, haha XD


    1. Totoro is adorable but it’s slower and obviously not as epic as some of the other movies. I was disappointed with Ponyo, too. It really lacked the substance that Miyazaki’s films usually have. You NEED to watch Cagliostro, The Wind Rises, and Porco Rosso! They’re amazing and the three are oh so different from one another. (Miyazaki has incredible range!) And Howl’s and Mononoke really bounce around for the top spot depending on my mood and which one I most recently watched — but I think Mononoke edges Howl’s out most of the time by a tiny bit. And long ago I actually bought the Howl’s Moving Castle film companion book because I couldn’t wait for the DVD to come out and I needed to look at pretty pictures of Howl. Yup, that was eight-year-old me fangirling over a fictional, animated character, haha!


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