Aren’t we all a bit tired of watching typical princes and princesses, fighting off evil witches and monster movies? Well, I thought why not introduce you to some old school Japanese anime movies with different takes on fantasy. More specifically, Hayao Miyazaki films. Now, this man is a legend! He makes movies for teenagers, children, pre-teens and in some cases childish adults (A.K.A myself). Here are a few all-time favourites!
1. My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari No Totoro):
This movie was released in 1988 in Japan by Studio Ghibli and later dubbed in English by Disney. The story begins with two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, who move to the countryside with their father to be near their sick mother who is admitted in the hospital. Mei, the younger sister, senses the presence of spirits in their new home and tries her best to catch some to show her sister, but fails every time. One day, with Satsuki at school and their father busy with housework, Mei discovers little bunny-like creatures in their garden and follows them. These little creatures lead her to a big tree with a hollow with an even bigger bunny-like creature inside it, sleeping. She names him “Totoro”. She tells her sister and father about her fascinating encounter and the two sisters anticipate the Totoro’s next appearance. The sisters go about their daily lives and look forward to seeing Totoro every day. They later on go on strange journeys with Totoro in a magical Cat-bus.
This movie is suitable for all ages. It is a very sweet story about two cheerful little girls enjoying life to the fullest. It is relaxed, no violence and even the hospital scenes with the sick mother aren’t sad. Even though at first Totoro may seem scary, but he really is gentle and helps the sisters a lot.
2. Spirited Away:
Here we meet Chihiro, a 10-year-old stubborn and grumpy little girl who is not happy about moving to a new house. She and her parents are on the way to their new house when her father takes a wrong turn. They stumble upon an abandoned amusement park. Her parents decide to explore the place and soon start eating from different stalls. They eat like pigs and eventually become pigs themselves. The scared Chihiro meets Haku, a mysterious little boy who explains that the park is for spiritual beings. The spirits come here to relax and she must work for the spirits to free her parents of this curse. Chihiro and Haku then go on an adventure to free her parents from this curse and meet various strange creatures on the way.
This is most appropriate for children aged 7 and above, as there are a few scenes that might scare younger children. The animations are beautiful and the characters are strong and unique. Chihiro poses as a strong role model and the movie delivers positive messages about friendship and self-motivation.
3. Howl’s Moving Castle:
This movie is based on the book by Diana Wynne Jones with the same name and the movie was released in 2005. We follow the adventures of a gentle, responsible and hardworking Hat-maker named Sophie. Sophie meets Howl, a fantastic wizard with the power to change appearances at will and falls in love with him. Howl lives in a gigantic castle with legs which carry the castle from place to place. The jealous Witch of the Waste, who also appears to have romantic feelings for Howl, curses Sophie to turn into an old woman. Sophie travels to Howl’s Castle to get help to undo the curse but also hesitates to reveal her true identity to Howl. At the Castle, she meets a fire demon called Calicifer, who fuels the moving castle. Calicifer promises to break Sophie’s curse, but in return he asks Sophie to break the curse he himself is under which binds him to the castle. Sophie starts working in Howl’s Castle as a cleaning lady while dealing with war in her country, her feelings for Howl and her hidden identity; all the while, working to free herself and Calicifer from hateful curses.
Howl’s Moving Castle is full of unpredictable and inventive events. The visuals such as; the rickety castle with legs and wizard taking different forms are wonderful to watch. I would recommend this for children aged at least 8, and younger children should have parental guidance. This may include some scary images of war scenes, explosions, and otherworldly wizards. It still is entertaining and encourages the children to analyse the events that took place.