In honor of Hayao Miyazaki‘s 76th birthday yesterday (January 5th), I’d like to recommend Miyazaki’s movies to people and families who haven’t watched them. My kids and I love watching these movies. We are definitely not original or alone in that.
These Japanese anime style movies are often talked about because of their strong leading female characters or their amazing imagery, but there is so much more to talk about.
We started watching Studio Ghibli films when The Secret World of Arriety came out around 2010. My daughters (who were 4 and 6 at the time) LOVED the movie right away. The story is that of The Borrowers. The film is very gentle and beautiful, which is what my girls were into at the time. The story concept in this one is pretty easy to follow, especially for girls who love playing with dollhouse/Polly Pockets/Legos. We have rented Arriety on Demand and borrowed it from the library again and again and again. After seeing the previews before Arriety so many times, my girls starting asking to see Ponyo.
But a couple years later (by now my son was old enough to follow a movie) we watched My Neighbor Totoro. And we watched it again and again, until I bought our own copy. Totoro is a big Studio Ghibli fan favorite, and a good example of what the movies are like. Most of the movies are somewhat of fairy tales and magic happens in different ways. Because the main characters are relatable in such a real sense and the imagery is so awesome, it’s easy to melt into the world created by the movie. But then there is so much that happens around the characters that stretches the limits of your imagination. A cat is a bus in Totoro. When we first watch one of Miyazaki’s movies, it’s both very comforting and very uncomfortably confusing. Having a little time to digest, and wrap our heads and stretch imaginations around character concepts (there is a lot of spirits becoming animals, beasts or human like), plots and probably knowing the whole story helps. We re-watch and usually appreciate it even more.
(I got these socks for my daughter for Christmas and she reported a couple other kids at school also received them over vacation!)
Because we like to watch these movies over again, we know the next movie is going to be awesome and the list of movies is finite (we only have a couple left!), we have been savoring and re-watching each movie (and others we’ve seen) for a few months before moving onto the next film. We have been saving (and looking forward to seeing) Howl’s Moving Castle, which is also a big fan favorite. I bought it for Christmas. We’ve bought of the movies (before and after seeing the movie for the first time). We have watched some OnDemand (free and paid) and getting discs out of the library. Song of the Sea streams free if you have Amazon Prime.
We took a vote in our house and while we have a range of favorites, Kiki’s Delivery Service is currently the top by popular vote!
If you haven’t seen these movies yet, they likely aren’t like anything you’ve really seen before! Give it a try!
(Disclaimer: While not necessarily violent, in most of the movies there are monsters and big wind storms or tidal wave sort of scenes, my girls are generally sensitive to that stuff, but haven’t minded or been scared by these things, again, there are some common fairy tale sort of themes, but you’ll want to see what your kids are comfortable with!) (Second disclaimer: Links are Amazon Affiliate, but as mentioned, check your library!)