Today: June 22, 2024

The Hayao Miyazaki Collection

When one of cinema’s most iconic filmmakers announced his retirement last year it sent a wave of sadness through anyone who has ever basked in the glory that is Hayao Miyazaki. That it now looks increasingly likely his retirement may lead to the closure of one of film’s most recognizable brands Studio Ghibli makes the news that much harder to swallow. So it seems only fitting that StudioCanal are releasing The Hayao Miyazaki Collection, a positively Christmas delight featuring all eleven of the master’s feature films.

It should be noted at this point that this is not a Studio Ghibli Collection, because it does not include films directed by other Ghibili directors. It is testament to Miyazaki’s accomplishments as a director that his name, and seemingly the studio’s existence, has become so synonymous with each other.

The most fantastic thing about the Miyazaki Collection is being able to take in the entire breadth of his directorial effort in one go. Because in doing so you see a clear trajectory of the man’s work. From the mad-cap-caper of The Castle Of Cagliostro, taking in the wonders of My Neighbour Totoro and the grand Princess Mononoke the charm of Ponyo before culminating in his final film The Wind Rises. Having all these films in one collection feels some how right. It allows you to appreciate that Miyazaki headed out on his filmmaking career with a set of ideals and by its swansong it’s impossible to not believe those have come to fruition.

Quentin Tarantino has recently banged the drum that directors are like prize fighters; they have their time in the ring of roughly ten years and then they must hang up the gloves. In his final film The Wind Rises Miyazaki, who it should be noted wrote all of his films as well, has one of his characters state “Artists are only creative for ten years”. In this case the career is longer than ten years but at eleven films long it’s impossible to question the creative wizardry of Miyazaki and the influence he has had on all filmmaking, not just animation.

The folks at Pixar, another animated brand that has set a high benchmark for the rest of the creative forces, have an ability to conjure stories that appeal to both adults and children alike. Watching Miyazaki’s work, and knowing that Pixar’s head honcho John Lasseter reveres him so much, it’s impossible not to see Miyazaki’s influence on their work. For while George Lucas insists that the Star Wars movies are for kids, Miyazaki actually makes films for children that have powerful adult themes.

The innocent nature within films such as My Neighbour Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service transport us to fantastical places without ever feeling the need to explain anything. There is a fairytale quality to the man’s work, a strong sense of Once Upon A Time that tells you all you need to know, that this is our reality but seen in a reflection, an idealistic reflection that whisks us away to outlandish places and characters but giving them a sense of reality.

And this is key to Miyazaki’s work. That it manages to be innocently inventive. In his penultimate film Ponyo, a film riffing on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid story, you appreciate the wonder with which Miyazaki is able to instill that sense of innocent charm that only someone still in touch with their youth is able to capture. Like when great waves engulf the coast they take on a life of their own, each wave becomes a school of enormous fish, rising and falling with each undulation of the tide.

Taking in more of his work that fairytale theme grows. Totoro and Spirited Away have a distinct Alice In Wonderland quality to them whilst Porco Rosso touches brilliantly on the ideas of Beauty And The Beast. And it is here, in the story of a pilot cursed to look like a pig, which captures a moment of pure Miyazaki brilliance. As a group of cutthroat sea-plane pirates kidnap a group of school girls the leaders insists they must take them all because “it would be cruel to separate them from their friends”. There is no Darth Vader in Miyazaki’s work, no Child Catcher for that matter. Even the villains have a sense of charm to them, so much so that the ambiguity often left behind means that “villains” is too strong a word because invariably they have redeemable qualities, they’re simply antagonists to the heroes.

But, like any good parable, there are strong messages within Miyazaki’s work. Messages that are surely aimed to educate viewers of all ages. For within his work there is an idea of man at war with nature. This is none-more present than in Mononoke and Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind. As man wages war and mines the earth for anything of value nature suffers and slowly but surely finds a way of wreaking revenge. It is here that Miyazaki becomes a world builder, a director on par with the likes of Ridley Scott and James Cameron. In fact it’s hard not to see a hint of Mononoke in Cameron’s Avatar; it’s native princess desperate to protect nature with the aid of a human while war obliterates everything around them.

The subject of war is a crucial one, a message that resonates throughout a large portion of the films on offer here. Because, having been born in Japan in 1941 Miyazaki understood the powerful destruction war can have. As such his films often contain visuals of death and destruction that hark back to images of World War II. The planes that sore high in the films often look like the kind of bombers that would have filled residents of Japan with dread. The sheer power of nuclear force lurks in the background of the desolate poisoned earth of Nausicaa but in his final film Wind Miyazaki finds some level of peace. It is of course a romantisied story of the man who invented the Japanese Zero fighter plane that rained so much terror of the skies in World War II but that is the essence of Miyazaki, a self-proclaimed pacifist who always sees the world as something more magical and wonderful than the rest of us jaded humans do.

Like Disney princess Miyazaki understands the importance of a female protagonist and more often than not it is they who bring about peace in the worlds they inhabit. Witness as Nausicaa is the only person able to instill calm in the violent nature that the men in her world loath and attack. Or try forgetting the indelible imagery of Mononoke coated in blood and smirking at a young warrior desperate for her attention. These strong women demonstrate Miyazaki’s forward thinking while placing emphasis on the men of his film’s irresponsible and aggressive ways. It’s a powerful idea that will inspire young viewers and enlighten adults.

A director of endless scope and vision Hayao Miyazaki is unique in the filmmaking world. A creative force just as powerful as the themes he addresses The Hayao Miyazaki Collection is the perfect gift for Christmas and one that will make your soul fly like few films manage.


Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email:

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