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10 Miyazaki Films You Should Watch At Least Once In Your Life

10 Miyazaki Films You Should Watch At Least Once In Your Life

Nippon’s Studio Ghibli is beloved the world over for producing extraordinary animated films. They have captivated tens of millions of people, inspired imaginations, won Oscars, and yet at the heart of the majority of their catalogue is one man – the legendary Hayao Miyazaki.

Miyazaki films are special as he wrote, directed, and even helped animate many of them during a career spanning over 30 years. As a result, they have his distinctive touch throughout; his merger of compelling plots, endearing characters, breathtaking animation, and a sense of imagination places him on a creative genius level. He has now, unfortunately, retired (although he’s currently designing a nature park for children) and Studio Ghibli will forge on without him, but his legacy will ensure the animation specialists continue to thrive.

For fans of the films, people who haven’t heard of Studio Ghibli, or parents looking to inspire their children, the following are 10 of Miyazaki’s finest feature films. If beautifully hand drawn, fantastical, and dramatic stories are your thing, then Miyazaki has provided works which will leave an impression on you for years to come.

1. Princess Mononoke to Get Started

Princess Mononoke

    This is arguably Miyazaki’s outright masterpiece, so it’s a great place to start! Released in 1997, Princess Mononoke is a a beautiful and sweeping classic. During its complex plot, protagonist Ashitaka becomes fatally cursed, and ventures into the wider world to find help. Ultimately, he gets drawn into something far more dramatic in a sprawling adventure. Miyazaki plays on Japanese folklore throughout, with several memorable scenes involving kodama (tree spirits).

    2. Spirited Away  to Focus on Themes of Love and Loss

    Spirited Away

      This Oscar winner really woke Western moviegoers up to the spectacular nature of Miyazaki’s films. Written and directed by the great man, it centres around schoolgirl Chihiro Ogini as she’s transported to a bathhouse in the spirit world. An astonishing work of the imagination, its themes of love, loss, solitude, and maturity make it vital viewing for all ages.

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      3. Howl’s Moving Castle for Its Masterful Writing

      Howl's Moving Castle

        Adapted from Dianna Wynne Jones’ novel, Miyazaki displayed his mastery again by writing the screenplay, and directing, this epic. When young Sophie is transformed into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste, she is left to search for a possible solution to her dilemma. This leads her to a spectacular castle owned by the enigmatic Howl, and her adventure begins. It’s a wonderfully animated and, as always, charming film crammed full of imagination, humour, and drama.

        4. Ponyo for Children

        Ponyo

          Arguably Miyazaki’s most environmentally conscious film. Ponyo centres on the life of the eponymous central character, a goldfish princess, finds herself taking on human characteristics as she strikes up an unusual friendship with a young boy. Ponyo boasts some of Miyazaki’s most vivid and exhilarating scenes, and is particularly well suited for children.

          5. Porco Rosso for Being a Classic

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          Porco Rosso

            This unusually titled, often forgotten classic from 1992 may be hidden behind Miyazaki’s grander efforts, but it’s still a fantastic film. The eponymous character, who has somehow been mysteriously turned into a pig during World War I, is a flying ace who dares to challenge sky pirates who are besieging a local community. Once more, Miyazaki’s fascination with flight takes center stage.

            6. Castle in the Sky for Being the First Studio Ghibli Film

            Laputa Castle in the Sky

              This is, officially, Studio Ghibli’s first film – Miyazaki put his abilities to the test with a spectacular start for the company! Castle in the Sky is about two orphans searching for treasure in Laputa, a legendary floating city. Released in 1986, and in typical style written and directed by Miyazaki, it set the scene for what was to come.

              7. My Neighbour Totoro for All Ages

              My Neighbour Totoro

                Another fine example of how Miyazaki could craft a film to be accessible for all ages. My Neighbour Totoro was written and directed by Miyazaki, and launched in 1988. It’s essentially a simple tale of two schoolgirls in rural Nippon who interact with local friendly woodland spirits. The now iconic Totoro (a large, lethargic cat creature) adorns Studio Ghibli’s logo, and has been something of a cultural phenomenon.

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                8. The Wind Rises for Adventure

                The Wind Rises

                  Hayao Miyazaki’s final film. The Wind Rises (2013) focuses heavily on his fascination with flying, and is one of the more poignant stories from his catalog. It features many of his familiar tropes (love, life, aviation, youth, ageing, the environment) but is typically crammed full of humor and is an absolute joy to watch.

                  9. Kiki’s Delivery Service for a Cool Cat

                  Kiki's Delivery Service

                    One of the lesser known Miyazaki films as it has been dwarfed by his more dramatic efforts. Adapted from Eiko Kadono’s novel, it follows the exploits of a young witch called Kiki. She essentially comes of age after moving to a new town, accompanied by Jiji the talking cat (who is, quite possibly, the coolest cat in movie history). It’s for all ages, but children should particularly love it.

                    10. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind for Its Polish

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                    Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

                      Based on Miyazaki’s manga from 1982, he adapted the plot for the big screen and directed it for a 1984 release. Studio Ghibli hadn’t been founded by this point, but the film can be considered canon. Even in 1984 his work was highly polished, and this sprawling tale about Nausicaä, a young princess, who battles to restore order to her land, is riveting.

                      And Finally…

                      The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki

                        Whilst he may have retired, the special edition Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki gathers together his work (obviously!) into one fantastic set. If you’re a Studio Ghibli super fan, this fitting tribute to Miyazaki’s creative input is a must.

                        Featured photo credit: Studio Ghibli via ghibli.jp

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                        Last Updated on February 15, 2019

                        Why Is Goal Setting Important to a Truly Fulfilling Life?

                        Why Is Goal Setting Important to a Truly Fulfilling Life?

                        In Personal Development-speak, we are always talking about goals, outcomes, success, desires and dreams. In other words, all the stuff we want to do, achieve and create in our world.

                        And while it’s important for us to know what we want to achieve (our goal), it’s also important for us to understand why we want to achieve it; the reason behind the goal or some would say, our real goal.

                        Why is goal setting important?

                        1. Your needs and desire will be fulfilled.

                        Sometimes when we explore our “why”, (why we want to achieve a certain thing) we realize that our “what” (our goal) might not actually deliver us the thing (feeling, emotion, internal state) we’re really seeking.

                        For example, the person who has a goal to lose weight in the belief that weight loss will bring them happiness, security, fulfillment, attention, popularity and the partner of their dreams. In this instance, their “what” is weight-loss and their “why” is happiness (etc.) and a partner.

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                        Six months later, they have lost the weight (achieved their goal) but as is often the case, they’re not happier, not more secure, not more confident, not more fulfilled and in keeping with their miserable state, they have failed to attract their dream partner.

                        After all, who wants to be with someone who’s miserable? They achieved their practical goal but still failed to have their needs met.

                        So they set a goal to lose another ten pounds. And then another. And maybe just ten more. With the destructive and erroneous belief that if they can get thin enough, they’ll find their own personal nirvana. And we all know how that story ends.

                        2. You’ll find out what truly motivates you

                        The important thing in the process of constructing our best life is not necessarily what goals we set (what we think we want) but what motivates us towards those goals (what we really want).

                        The sooner we begin to explore, identify and understand what motivates us towards certain achievements, acquisitions or outcomes (that is, we begin moving towards greater consciousness and self awareness), the sooner we will make better decisions for our life, set more intelligent (and dare I say, enlightened) goals and experience more fulfilment and less frustration.

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                        We all know people who have achieved what they set out to, only to end up in the same place or worse (emotionally, psychologically, sociologically) because what they were chasing wasn’t really what they were needing.

                        What we think we want will rarely provide us with what we actually need.

                        3. Your state of mind will be a lot healthier

                        We all set specific goals to achieve/acquire certain things (a job, a car, a partner, a better body, a bank balance, a title, a victory) because at some level, most of us believe (consciously or not) that the achievement of those goals will bring us what we really seek; joy, fulfilment, happiness, safety, peace, recognition, love, acceptance, respect, connection.

                        Of course, setting practical, material and financial goals is an intelligent thing to do considering the world we live in and how that world works.

                        But setting goals with an expectation that the achievement of certain things in our external, physical world will automatically create an internal state of peace, contentment, joy and total happiness is an unhealthy and unrealistic mindset to inhabit.

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                        What you truly want and need

                        Sometimes we need to look beyond the obvious (superficial) goals to discover and secure what we really want.

                        Sadly, we live in a collective mindset which teaches that the prettiest and the wealthiest are the most successful.

                        Some self-help frauds even teach this message. If you’re rich or pretty, you’re happy. If you’re both, you’re very happy. Pretty isn’t what we really want; it’s what we believe pretty will bring us. Same goes with money.

                        When we cut through the hype, the jargon and the self-help mumbo jumbo, we all have the same basic goals, desires and needs:

                        Joy, fulfilment, happiness, safety, peace, recognition, love, acceptance, respect, connection.

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                        Nobody needs a mansion or a sport’s car but we all need love.

                        Nobody needs massive pecs, six percent body-fat, a face lift or bigger breasts but we all need connection, acceptance and understanding.

                        Nobody needs to be famous but we all need peace, calm, balance and happiness.

                        The problem is, we live in a culture which teaches that one equals the other. If only we lived in a culture which taught that real success is far more about what’s happening in our internal environment, than our external one.

                        It’s a commonly-held belief that we’re all very different and we all have different goals — whether short term or long term goals. But in many ways we’re not, and we don’t; we all want essentially the same things.

                        Now all you have to do is see past the fraud and deception and find the right path.

                        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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