Hayao Miyazaki is a world-renowned and celebrated animator, auteur and founding member of the iconic Japanese studio house Studio Ghibli. To celebrate the release of The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki a DVD/Blu-Ray collection from Madman Entertainment that contains 11 of Miyazaki’s feature films in one boxset (read about it here), we’re taking a look at our five favourite Hayao Miyazaki / Studio Ghibli films.
Howl’s Moving Castle
The handsome but vain wizard Howl and his cynical fire demon Calcifer live in their magical moving castle. After the timid Sophie is turned into an old lady she stumbles into the castle and starts to change those around her (including herself). This beautiful Ghibli is based on the same titled novel by Diana Wynne-Jones and tells a story where everyone is not quite as they first seem and where love is the most powerful magic of all. — Kathryn Czornij
In a story that is not too dissimilar from The Little Mermaid, the 2008 masterpiece that is Ponyo marks film number eight for Studio Ghibli. This animated adventure tells of the tale of five-year-old Sosuke and his friendship with a goldfish of whom possess superhuman powers. Yet, over all of this, she has the overwhelming desire to become human.Bouncing, bubbling, and beautiful; rebellious, dreamlike, and more than a little heartbreaking; Ponyo will steal your heart as it did mine. Full of sparkling childhood innocence, Ponyo’s beautiful, dreamlike world pushes the limits of your imagination. It is Miyazaki at his brilliant best, bursting at the seams with colour and enchantment. Undoubtedly, you will be sure to never see a film quite like it. Never did I think a goldfish princess would ever reignite my faith in the true magic of human kind. — Anastasia Giggins
Beyond a fantastic story and a visually compelling world, Spirited Away is instilled with so much Japanese culture – I learned so much from watching this film as a teenager that was never even touched upon in high school Japanese classes, and every time I watch it again I learn something new. Also No Face is the most adorable “bad guy” ever. — Erin Smith
Princess Mononoke follows the story of Ashitaka and his involvement in the battles between the Forest Gods and the humans consuming the earth’s natural resources. One of Miyazaki’s films that has a strong environmental and ethical message that looks at the development of industry and destruction of the environment for capital gain. Unlike some of his other works there are some rather graphically violent scenes of battles and fights here and the film always makes the stakes feel high because in reality they are. What do we have left once we plunder the earth’s natural resources? Another theme raised in the film is the exploitation of women and the disabled. For a film released in 1997 Miyazaki was not afraid of addressing these issues of discrimination. — Carina Nilma
The Wind Rises
The Wind Rises may not be on par with the phantasmagorical aspects of Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle or My Neighbour Totoro, but it remains visually stunning. As with all Miyazaki films, real-life scenes are translated meticulously into animated landscapes. Anime pilgrims will rejoice in recognising the familiar backdrops of Ueno and Nagoya despite the reversal of decades. The film also pays homage to Japanese technology and design – contrasting the different interiors of living spaces and forms of transport, as well as the ever-changing environment progressing from the mid 1920s to the 1930s. — Serena Ho