Castle of Cagliostro
Compared to some of his later works like Nausicaä or Princess Mononoke, which are laced with heavy themes on war, morality and environmentalism, Miyazaki’s first full-length feature film Castle of Cagliostro is a charmingly simple story of our hero’s attempts to thwart the antagonist and save the princess.
The movie follows the international super thief Arsène Lupin III (pronounced like Lupan. Don’t ask me why, it’s a French thing) and his henchmen as they travel to the country of Cagliostro and the fortress like castle of its villainous ruler Count Cagliostro.
The chivalrous and mischievous Lupin always has a trick up his sleeve and a facetious retort on the tip of his tongue, which makes him incredibly entertaining to watch and one of Miyazaki’s most unforgettable characters. —Nathan Fung
Howl’s Moving Castle
Enchantments, danger, romance, and war all wrapped up in one seriously awesome anime — Howl’s Moving Castle. Young beautiful Sophie meets the dapper dashing Howl (anime fan girl scream ensues) but shortly after falls victim to The Witch of the Waste and is transformed into an old woman. Living scarecrows, fire-demons, and giant bird-like transformations paints a story entangled with sacrifice, saviour, and seriously heart wrenching sorrows. The music by Joe Hisaishi will invoke all the right feelings at all the right moments and at the end of this visually, emotionally, and audibly encompassing film. You’ll be preaching it to all your neighbors—like you’ll literally run over and knock on their door. They may call the psych ward on you considering your hysterics, but in the end you’ll be satisfied because this movie is that good. — Chyana Deschamps
The Cat Returns
Whoever thought that saving a cat from being roadkill would cause so much trouble? Haru is a young school girl who rushes into traffic to save the life of a mysterious cat. The odd feline proceeds to stand on its hind legs and show off its different coloured eyes, one red and one blue, symbolizing the famous pill scene in the Matrix. The only difference? Haru has no choice. The odd-eyed feline she saved ends up being Lune, price of the cat kingdom. However unlike The Matrix, Lune isn’t offering her a choice, Haru’s coming to cat world whether she likes it or not and shit is about to get really weird.
Although not directed by Miyazaki, he was one of the film’s executive producers and he did play a major role steering the direction of the project as he was behind the creation of the characters The Baron and Moon. — Jon Zilinski
A common theme in Miyazaki’s films is a cute kid saves an animal that turns out to be a magical being, usually some sort of royalty in the spiritual plane. Ponyo is no different, but the breathtaking shots make it one of the best.
Sōsuke finds Ponyo, a magical fish-human (because what’s a Miyazaki movie without some human/magical being offspring) stuck in a jar near the fishing village he calls home. It turns out, Ponyo is the daughter of the ocean’s Goddess of Mercy, so she has tons of powers, and turns herself human so she can stay with Sōsuke.
The ocean then proceeds to get mad Ponyo left, and rises to insane levels. Ponyo and Sōsuke then go on the most beautiful animated adventure, floating over a city taken by water, and see prehistoric fish as they go along.
It’s one of the definite “kids movies” from the Miyazaki filmography, with no underlying themes of war or terrifying demons. The lighthearted nature makes the movie a fun watch. — Kieran Chrysler