Five Whimsical Miyazaki Movies to Complement Ponyo -


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Five Whimsical Miyazaki Movies to Complement Ponyo

Spirited Away & Ponyo Genius Miyazaki's Other Offerings

By Chris Beveridge     August 14, 2009

© Bob Trate

Just over a year after its Japanese release, Ponyo is set for an August 14 release in the US through Studio Ghibli’s alliance with Disney. Ghibli’s movies have had a strong influence on a lot of US moviemakers, from Spielberg to quite a lot of what Pixar does, especially anything that includes flight. Ponyo did big business in Japan with a equivalent box office take of nearly 150 million dollars. The film is the latest from Ghibli that fits into their whimsical side, a decided contrast to their darker movies like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. If you can’t make it to the theater to see Ponyo, here are five Ghibli movies you should check out.

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
This one’s centered on a young witch named Kiki who has just turned 13., Part of her ritual is to go out into the world on her own and survive. Witches aren’t exactly common in the modern world, but they’re known and accepted, so she just has to find her niche. With her familiar, a slinky black cat named Jiji, Kiki settles into a town by the sea where she meets a couple who help her, an old lady that looks kindly upon her and a young boy who really likes her. As her magic develops, so does her business idea of being a witch delivery service. She faces challenges that are sweet, cute and difficult for an innocent child of that age.

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Satsuki and Mei move to the countryside with their father so they can be closer to the hospital where their mother is coping with a disease. The girls have some difficulty in adjusting to the very simple farming life that’s there, but they revel in the wonderful house where their imaginations light up with what could be around each corner. With a very loving father that’s home, they discover a lot of magic in the area itself. What becomes the most magical is a giant creature they call Totoro that lives in the Camper Tree. Totoro takes to watching over these girls that befriend him and they have a series of fun adventures together until the girls’ mother takes a turn for the worse with her condition.


Porco Rosso (1992)
How can you get any more whimsical than a 1930s fighter pilot that’s literally a pig? Porco is a pilot living along the islands of Italy where he’s a fighter pilot that deals in taking out air pirates and other scum that is the scourge of the area. Though he may be a walking, talking pig who used to be a man, he has quite a few women who are interested in him, and competition in the form of a real ladies man named Curtis who is an ace of the area as well. With some mild nods towards the political climate of the time, Porco Rosso keeps more to the whimsical side by showcasing beautiful aerial fights, good natured fun with amusing air pirates and a cast of young characters that add plenty of charm.


Whisper of the Heart (1995)
The only Ghibli movie to spawn a true sequel with the Cat Returns, Whisper of the Heart is an entirely charming real world take about a young girl named Shizuku. Addicted to books and the world of wonder within them, she becomes exposed to wonders that are in the real world when she discovers a shop that has many curiosities in it that have their own stories. She’s introduced to this store after finding the boy who seems to take out all the books she likes before she does, which leads to a greater discovery about herself and those around her when it comes to relationships. Through him and her parents, she sets on the road to telling stories of her own, which comes alive in a wonderful sequence about a cat statuette in a very magical world.


Pom Poko (1994)
Who else but Studio Ghibli can create a movie that involves shape-shifting raccoons that make excellent use of their genitals in order to transform and fly away. The film is an environmental warning piece as we see a village of raccoons who living a mountain area that’s being threatened by development of mankind. Using their ability to transform, they take the shape of people and head out into the surrounding town to cause trouble that will stop the project. Along the way, many get addicted to the lifestyle of humans and begin to forget how to turn back. Pom Poko has some serious messages to it as it plays out, but it’s filled with lots of silliness and fun as you would expect of any large group of raccoons.


All of these movies are available from Disney in the US and are worth checking out. Check out the high definition trailer for Ponyo below:



Showing items 1 - 8 of 8
Whitelotuspriest 8/14/2009 1:25:11 PM

Miyazaki's imagination is off the charts! I recommend Nausicaa, Howl's Moving Castle, and my favorite Princess Monoke, these films might be a little bit darker, but not so much that the kids can't watch 'em.

janx218 8/14/2009 1:26:36 PM

The title of this article is a bit misleading considering that Miyazaki didn't direct Whisper of the Heart or Pom Poko.  Though he was involved in writing the former, Pom Poko was the work of Isao Takahata, a genius who gets far too little recognition.

mortellan 8/15/2009 1:40:00 AM

I came across Howl's Moving Castle for the first time on IFC I think? I was un-moving from there on. Mesmerizing.

flinshadytoo 8/15/2009 6:10:42 AM

 I love  Miyazaki movies! I saw Totoro first when an ex got it off of Japanese tv. It was all in Japanese but I didn't care as it was so different from all the other cartoons I had seen. Joe hisaishi's music is great too! I now have all the movies from Ghibli, & it doesn't matter about your age you can still enjoy them & be reminded of a time when things were more innocent.

mbeckham1 8/15/2009 7:48:37 AM

I'd also recommend Lapuda:Castle in the Sky. I think I heard that was one of hias earliest anikmated films ad it has all the elements. Adorable child protagonists, air pirates, cool folks helpig out, a message about War and the environment. And of course some extraordinary visuals and scifi concepts. The Castle and the Island that it floats on are amazing. The machines and the wildlife are beautiful.

I don't think Spirited away is all that dark. It has one fairly violent scene where a River spirit is attacked by paper dolls. And there's that shadow creature. But it ends well and I don't recall anyone dying or staying dead.

Howl's Moving Castle also has some scares but it is ultimately kid friendly I thnk. And has a very hopeful ending.

Princess Mononoke is probably his most graphically violent film, but the story and the characters and the animation are just extraordinary. Nausica might be a less bloody alternative to Princess Mononoke. It has no less violence and isn't really any less dark, there are fewer severed limbs and heads and coughing up blood. And it hasd a similr themes and narrative structure. Its defintely a great film in it's own right. And everyone should see Princesws Mononoke at some point in her life. I liked that the Lady in Charge of Iron town wasn't really a villain,she had people with real problems she was trying to solve and sincerely good goals. Curing the lepers, protecting the women she'd saved. She was a sort of humanist trying to do good things for her people ad the outcasdts she'd welcomed, but willing to do siome very bad things tro makje that happen. And of course thre animal Gods were no less violent or brutal in the protection of their own interests. No one was either blameless or unsympathetic It was just a hard time. With some sad choices.

mbeckham1 8/15/2009 12:15:29 PM

This isn't a MIyazaki movie, but one Iaalways thought would appeal to other Miyazaki fans as it dosto me was Metropolis.  The amnime.  It has a cutee kid who falls in love wuith  mysterious yopung girl and his grandfatherly grandfather is a detective for the UN.  It's sweet tale of young love olitics and a robot revolution set to the tune of I Can't Stop Loving You. 

SleepyDog 8/18/2009 2:13:22 PM

I love how Chris phrases the closing of his description of Pom Poko being "filled with lots of silliness and fun as you would expect of any large group of raccoons" because really, what else do we expect of raccoons in large groups? (Suddenly I'm in mind of the old live action Wonderful World of Disney television programs from some time ago. Raccoons featured prominently in those, too, always getting into trouble in some cabin in the woods and other hijinks.)

Grill 5/21/2010 6:25:35 AM

 Yeah, Howl's Moving Castle is really something, yet I believe that it's suitable for kids as well.

Anyway, good job.



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