Every Film by Hayao Miyazaki: From Studio Ghibli and More Beloved Animation (2024)

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Every Film by Hayao Miyazaki: From Studio Ghibli and More Beloved Animation (1)

Hayao Miyazaki is back! It’s been 10 years since the release of his last film, “The Wind Rises,” and now the acclaimed Studio Ghibli director returns with his supposedly final film, “The Boy and the Heron.”

Released in Japan on July 14 under the title “How Do You Live?,” the latest film takes its name from a best-selling novel of the same name penned by Japanese author Genzaburo Yoshino. The film, which released with little promotional material, follows the journey of a 12-year-old boy named Mahito Maki as he stumbles upon a fantasy world with a talking grey heron.

Miyazaki, who turned 82 on Jan. 5, 2023, has once again declared that “The Boy and the Heron” will be the culmination of his career – which he said seven previous times in 1986, 1992, 1997, 2001, 2004, 2008 and 2013. After each time, he withdrew from his retirement to make another film.

The filmmaker began his career working in television at Toei Animation in 1963, and he made his directorial debut with the animated film “The Castle of Cagliostro” in 1979. Throughout his career, his name has become inseparable from Japanese animation. His top-grossing films include beloved classics such as “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Howl’s Moving Castle” and the Oscar winner “Spirited Away,” which have all brought joy and nostalgia to generations of viewers.

“We must be idealistic realists,” said Miyazaki in the documentary “10 Years With Miyazaki.” For decades, he has been passionately conveying the belief of love and hopes to the audience, emphasizing that what collapses can be rebuilt (“Princess Mononoke”), what’s lost can be found (“Spirited Away”), and no matter how cruel the world is, there are always parts worth experiencing and people to walk alongside (“The Wind Rises” and “Howl’s Moving Castle”).

With the release of “The Boy and the Heron,” here are all of Miyazaki’s films in chronological order.

  • “Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro” (1979)

    Every Film by Hayao Miyazaki: From Studio Ghibli and More Beloved Animation (2)

    “Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro” is Miyazaki’s feature-length directorial debut, and it’s part of the “Lupin the Third’’ Japanese manga franchise. It follows master thief Lupin III’s adventurous trip to the country of Cagliostro, which is rumored to hold a lost treasure. This film presents itself as a fable, telling us that “sometimes, what you see is not necessarily true,” and it shows Lupin III’s transformation from a thief to a brave hero after he is aware of the Count of Cagliostro’s sinister plans. “The Castle of Cagliostro” went on to inspire many filmmakers at Disney, Pixar and beyond years later.

  • “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” (1984)

    Every Film by Hayao Miyazaki: From Studio Ghibli and More Beloved Animation (3)

    “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” is a post-apocalyptic fantasy that takes place 1,000 years in the future after a devastating conflict has left the world’s ecosystem in ruins. The compassionate princess of the Valley of the Wind, Nausicaä, possesses the ability to communicate with the insect inhabitants of this toxic jungle. Guided by Lord Yupa, the wise man of the Valley, Nausicaä, being a messenger between nature and humanity, successfully brings peace and prevents the war between humans and the protectors of nature.

    This movie conveys a message about humans’ fear of the unknown and their tendency to destroy rather than try to understand the meaning of its existence. The abilities given to the Ohmu insects are supposed to be used to benefit people, like communicating through their minds. However, instead of living peacefully together, people despise the Ohmu based on their appearance and seek their elimination, even though the Ohmu play a role in rejuvenating the world damaged by humans. The success of “”Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” led to the founding of Studio Ghibli.

  • “Castle in the Sky” (1986)

    Every Film by Hayao Miyazaki: From Studio Ghibli and More Beloved Animation (4)

    There is a castle in the sky in everyone’s heart. This was Miyazaki’s first film produced by Studio Ghibli, which was founded in 1985. It follows a boy named Pazu and a girl named Sheeta who try to protect a powerful crystal from the army and a family of pirates while searching for a legendary floating castle called Laputa. The film won the Animage Anime Grand Prix in 1986. As an anti-war film, “Castle in the Sky” conveys themes of environmental protection and peace.

  • “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988)

    Every Film by Hayao Miyazaki: From Studio Ghibli and More Beloved Animation (5)

    “My Neighbor Totoro” tells the tale of two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, who move to a new home in the countryside with their father to be closer to their ailing mother. One day, Mei stumbles upon an adorable spirit known as Totoro, who lives in the nearby forest with his family. Mei and Satsuki befriend Totoro and, with the help of the spirit, embark on an adventure in the forest.

    This is a film about childhood, where the world is viewed through a colorful lens. Everything appears fascinating to the children’s innocent demeanor, and their ability to see nature’s beauty allows them to perceive Totoro. The dust-mite Susuwataris, the tiny Totoros feasting on acorns beneath trees and the Catbus traversing the countryside all emerge from the flourishing hearts of childhood.

  • “Kiki’s Delivery Service” (1989)

    Every Film by Hayao Miyazaki: From Studio Ghibli and More Beloved Animation (6)

    “Kiki’s Delivery Service” is a heartwarming movie about growing up. It tells a story of a young witch named Kiki and her talking black cat Jiji’s adventure in the coastal town of Koriko. They must finish their one-year training, which all witches are required to do at the age of 13, so Kiki provides delivery services to the townspeople. Through her acts of kindness and bravery, Kiki gradually earns the gratitude and appreciation of the new community. The image of a girl with short hair, a black dress, a red bowknot hair tie and a talking black cat has now become an iconic image when talking about Miyazaki’s movies. This was also the first film released under a 15-year distribution partnership between Disney and Studio Ghibli.

  • “Porco Rosso” (1992)

    Every Film by Hayao Miyazaki: From Studio Ghibli and More Beloved Animation (7)

    “Porco Rosso” takes place in Italy around World War I, and the main character Porco Rosso is an Italian air force hero…who looks like a pig. He refused to fight for the fascists and would rather be cursed to become a pig. The film is one of the few films where Miyazaki tells the story from a male’s perspective. It utilizes a hilarious way of exploring themes of the cost of war, identity and redemption: Even if he turns into a pig, Porco Rosso aspires to be a “pig that can fly.” The more adult-themed animated film also delves into the inner turmoil of an upright man who refuses to compromise and wants to make real contributions in society.

  • “Princess Mononoke” (1997)

    Every Film by Hayao Miyazaki: From Studio Ghibli and More Beloved Animation (8)

    “Princess Mononoke” portrays the conflict between industrialization and the natural world. The story follows Ash*taka, a young man from an Emishi village, who begins his journey west to seek a cure for his deadly curse from the deer-like god, the Forest Spirit. Along his travels, Ash*taka witnesses the destructive impact of human weaponry on nature and encounters Princess Mononoke, a human girl raised by the wolf god Moro. In order to save the Cedar Forest, Ash*taka gets involved in a battle between humans and nature.

    Miyazaki frequently explores animism, which is seen with the tree spirits called kodama and the Cedar Forest. After Lady Eboshi — the leader of Iron Town — cuts off the Forest Spirit’s head, the kodama begin to die. Miyazaki’s theory of animistic perspective emphasizes the spiritual presence within nature, showing the impact of human actions on the environment.

  • Spirited Away (2001)

    Every Film by Hayao Miyazaki: From Studio Ghibli and More Beloved Animation (9)

    The Oscar-winning film “Spirited Away” tells the story of 10-year-old girl Chihiro’s adventure in a dreamy city of monsters and spirits. While moving to her new home, Chihiro and her family get lost and accidentally enter a spirit town. Tempted by a feast, her parents greedily eat the free food in the empty town and are transformed into pigs. While Chihiro explores the town and looks for a way to break her parents’ spell, more hidden secrets are revealed.

    “Spirited Away” tells the story of growth, maturity and a young girl’s journey of being lost and found. We see her transformative journey of being a rebellious and stubborn girl during her adolescence and she matures into a courageous, intelligent and resilient young woman when she completes her mission to save her parents. What makes this film a masterpiece is its portrayal of social problems, like class differences, labor exploitation and discrimination, from a young girl’s perspective. It also has a poignant reflection of Japanese society during the mid-19th century when there was extreme social class polarization.

  • “Howl’s Moving Castle” (2004)

    Every Film by Hayao Miyazaki: From Studio Ghibli and More Beloved Animation (10)

    “Howl’s Moving Castle” tells the story of a young woman named Sophie who is transformed into an elderly woman by a mysterious curse. She encounters Howl, a charismatic but mischievous wizard, and then starts her magical adventure of love and self-discovery in his moving castle. This film explores the devastating influence war brings on people and how love gives people hope and courage by showing Sophie and Howl’s mutual redemption. Howl gradually embraces his true identity and Sophie lets go of her self-contempt. The film was nominated for best animation feature, Miyazaki’s second nod after winning for “Spirited Away.”

  • “Ponyo” (2008)

    Every Film by Hayao Miyazaki: From Studio Ghibli and More Beloved Animation (11)

    If you’ve heard of Miyazaki, you’ve probably heard one of the most memorable lines from his films: “Ponyo loves Sosuke!” In the movie “Ponyo,” a five-year-old boy named Sosuke accidentally rescues a magical goldfish named Ponyo, the daughter of the sea goddess. They develop a genuine and unique relationship. Miyazaki uses this film to convey the purity of love — a love that exists without concerns, without the pros and cons, or the past and future. It’s an innocent love that only focuses on love itself. One of the most touching scenes is when Ponyo runs on the waves chasing Sosuke. It shows us that nature is beautiful, and while it can sometimes bring natural disasters, they are not intentional.

  • “The Winds Rises” (2013)

    Every Film by Hayao Miyazaki: From Studio Ghibli and More Beloved Animation (12)

    Revisiting World War I after “Porco Rosso,” “The Wind Rises” takes place in a turbulent time when war, hunger and disease loom over the world. Jiro Horikoshi, a gifted aircraft engineer, has a dream to design airplanes. During his dedicated career of inventing airplanes, he reunited with his lover, Nahoko Satomi, but her health problems soon pose problems for their life together. Instead of making Nahoko’s death the climax of the film, Miyazaki focused on portraying how people live and survive afterward.

  • “The Boy and the Heron” (2023)

    Every Film by Hayao Miyazaki: From Studio Ghibli and More Beloved Animation (13)

    Miyazaki’s final film before his supposed retirement, “The Boy and the Heron,” released without a trailer, only one poster and very few plot details before its theatrical debut. It follows the journey of a 12-year-old boy, Mahito Maki (voiced by Soma Santoki), as he explores a fantasy world with a talking grey heron. The movie explores topics of war, friendship, socioeconomic disparity, prejudice and humanity. If Miyazaki’s retirement is to be believed, this will be his 12th feature film and will open the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.

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