Hayao Miyazaki: Film Director, Screenwriter, Producer, Author, Animator, Legend…

Hayao Miyazaki has been highly praised for anything he has a hand in. From Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, or My Neighbor Totoro, Miyazaki has created fantastical realms with unbelievable striking colors, themes and complex characters. With a magnetic pull, he creates works of art that have been compared to Monet, and has a keen eye for originality. Always ready to tell a story, he takes you on a journey to places far away, and teaches the wonders of magic, friendship and love. More surprising though, his works always have an underlying tone of either a political issue, or moral value that he sheds light on. It’s easy to miss if you’re more into the films for the aesthetic allure, but Miyazaki highlights important issues that can be understood by humankind of all ages.


Kicking off his career in 1963 and spanning five decades since, Miyazaki has attained international acclaim as a masterful storyteller. A creator of anime feature films, along with Isao Takahata, he co-founded Studio Ghibli, the film and animation studio. He has been described as combining elements of Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg and Orson Welles. Through his characters he guides the viewer through a story that both delights and teaches the journey from a male or female point of view. Miyazaki does tend to create strong female leading roles.

Spirited Away

He has created some of the most beloved characters including Chihiro from the movie Spirited Away. Almost all of Miyazaki’s characters are children who go through a huge life lesson and Chihiro is no exception. In the beginning of the movie she starts out as a typical young girl who is unhappy about having to move to a new school, and overall appears to be very selfish and hard to deal with. Throughout the movie, she is faced with challenges that push her to overcome her obstacles and force her to explore the inner strength she houses within. It’s a whirlwind of a storyline, from her parents turning into actual pigs, being forced to find a job and finding a way to save her family. All of this is happening in a spirit realm that they wandered into on the way to their new house. Chihiro is surrounded by spirits who work in a bath house that is used to help traveling spirits. She meets friends along the way, and some enemies as well. Both help her in her journey to grow up, and be thankful for what she has in life.

Howl’s Moving Castle

Another memorable character is Howl in Howl’s Moving Castle. Miyazaki focuses on this character’s weaknesses more than his strengths, even though it is hard not to see how wonderful he is. Howl is a wizard who is vain and relies on his looks to get what he wants. He is used as a warning for girls around the world, to shield your heart or he will eat it.

Also in this film is star character, Sophie. She’s a regular girl who is self-described as ‘plain’ who works in her family’s hat shop where nothing ever happens. Howl and Sophie’s cross paths, and he inevitably rescues her from the witch of the wastes henchmen while at the market. Being a jealous person, the witch turns Sophie into an old woman with a curse that makes it impossible for her to tell anyone who she really is. Searching for the cure to the curse, Sophie sets out for Howl’s Castle, which moves across the land in secret to hide from the witch of the waste. This story tells of human character, that looks aren’t everything, and the story of love, life and bravery. Sometimes the easiest things are the things that aren’t good for you. Howl’s character makes huge strides in understanding what real love is, and how to trust in others. Most importantly he learns how to trust in himself.

Any movie that you see that Hayao Miyazaki helps create instantly becomes a classic and favorite among the masses. There are many more works of his to check out other than the ones mentioned above. To celebrate the joy that is Miyazaki, Bookmans Phoenix has an event happening Saturday, August 27th for Rad Reads: Howl’s Moving Castle. We are going to be taking a look into the fascinating world of Hayao Miyazaki and his beautiful adaptation of Howl’s Moving Castle, based on the book written by Diana Wynne Jones. Join us for the event, and revel in all things Miyazaki with the Bookmans Phoenix crew!

***Bookmans is your store to explore. If you are interested in any Hayao Miyazaki film mentioned here please give us a call and a Bookmans staff member will be happy to check our shelves. Otherwise, we hope to see you soon perusing the Bookmans shelves for all your movie needs.