Hayao Miyazaki is arguably the greatest of all directors of “anime”, Japanese animation. He is noted for such classic animated films as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Laupta: The Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and, most recently, Howl’s Moving Castle (Amazon links).
If you’re not familiar with most or any of those, it’s the fault of a narrow-minded American movie distribution system and/or Disney, who has the rights to distribute and promote Miyazaki’s films in the US, but apparently doesn’t have a clue how to do so. (To their credit, they’ve done a pretty good job with the packaging of the US DVD versions).
Miyazaki’s films are among the all-time most popular in his native Japan, and deservedly so. Filled with beautiful drawing, splendorous settings, engaging characters, adventure, mystery, charm and wit, his movies refuse to settle for clichéd “evil” villains, simplistic black and white visions of morality and the tired formulas that cripple many Hollywood animated features.
Don’t expect the super-fluid animation of classic Disney or Warner Brothers animation, it’s not a priority in Anime, instead look for amazing settings, wonderful characters, intelligent writing and a much broader range of subject matter than you will find in western animation.
My favorite of Miyazaki’s films is My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro) (image above), a wonderful, magical animated story. For me it evokes certain aspects of childhood better than any other film (animated or otherwise): the “goes on forever” quality of a late summer afternoon, the deep fascination children can have with simple things, quiet moments that seem to reveal unspoken worlds, the terrible urgency of a lost sibling or sick parent and the blurred line between what is real and what is imagined and the (indistinguishable) wonder and delight inspired by both.
If you’re interested in Totoro, don’t buy the 20th Century Fox fullscreen edition, wait for the Disney widescreen 2-disk set due in March of 2006. There are also multi-disk sets of Miyszaki DVDs, a three pack (Spirited Away/Castle in the Sky/Kiki’s Delivery Service) and a six-pack (Castle in the Sky/Kiki’s Delivery Service/Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind/Porco Rosso/Princess Mononoke/Spirited Away).
Miyazaki established Studio Ghibli, a production house that produces most (but not all) of his films. Here is a link to the Studio Ghibli site (in Japanese) and the Google BETA translated version which is rough, but navigable.
Unfortunately the Studio Ghibli site doesn’t have a lot of easily accessible images. Here are some official movie sites: Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and the (poorly done) Disney: Studio Ghibli site that is the official site for the others.
Here are some fan sites that have images:
And some Totoro images from totoro.org.
The Studio Ghibli site isn’t very practical for non-Japanese speakers. For us the best source of general information on Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli is an unofficial, but excellent and extensive site called The Hayao Miyazaki Web at Nausicaa.net.