Whether you’re interested in Japanese film or international animation in the past 30 years, Studio Ghibli is a name you’ll hear over and over again.
And that mainly comes down to Ghibli’s visionary founder, director Hayao Miyazaki.
In a career spanning four decades, Miyazaki directed 11 full-length films, but as producer, screenwriter and manga author his published works span an even wider range. And Studio Ghibli, the production company he co-founded, is responsible for more, than 20 defining anime films.
And not just any films: Studio Ghibli is responsible for some of the most acclaimed works of animated film ever created, with a widespread effect on audiences, animators and filmmakers worldwide.
It’s safe to say that I’ve devoted most of the past ten years of my film research time to analyzing the works of Hayao Miyazaki. (With Kunihiko Ikuhara’s works coming second and the Star Wars series third.) And over that time I’ve amassed hundreds upon hundreds of pages of research material, which I have never assembled before into a coherent whole.
That changes now.
As part of the Moon Rabbit project, I am slowly but steadily publishing my years of Studio Ghibli research for the first time on this blog.
Your Studio Ghibli journey starts here
- Studio Ghibli Secrets a.k.a. The three common threads in all Miyazaki films — Whether you’ve seen all of Miyazaki’s films a thousand times or whether you’re just now getting acquainted with him, this is the perfect place to start. In this guide, I run through the entire life work of the man, going into where he comes from, what formed his journey as a director, and what values he imbued in his films. I also give pointers to almost all of his films, from Nausicaä, Castle in the Sky and Totoro through Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle to The Wind Rises. All this helps to help place Miyazaki films in their proper context, as well as to give you new aspects through which to look at his work.
The Introduction to Studio Ghibli series
This a series of talks I gave for Picturehouse Cinemas. They showed six of the most popular Ghibli films in the UK and asked me to hold an introductory talk of each. These six talks, in chronological order, provide a great overview into the central themes and things to look out for in Studio Ghibli storytelling as well as each individual film.
- The secret link between My Neighbour Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies
- The personal mythology behind My Neighbour Totoro
- How Kiki’s Delivery Service grounded the magical girl genre
- The many layers of Princess Mononoke
- Spirited Away: a framework for growing up in modern Japan
- Howl’s Moving Castle Explained: a film about people who don’t want to be adults
Going deeper – in-depth analysis of Studio Ghibli films
As part of the Moon Rabbit podcast, my guests and I dive deep into Studio Ghibli films — the longer timeframe providing ample opportunities to really get to the core of these films.
- The prophecy of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
- The landscapes of Studio Ghibli – an overview of Miyazaki’s approach to landscapes and architecture, including My Neighbour Totoro, Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke, Pom Poko, Ocean Waves and Spirited Away
- Castle in the Sky – part 1: Story Origins
- Castle in the Sky – part 2: Sheeta’s Disney subversion
- Castle in the Sky – part 3: Pazu’s Quest and the Mystery of the Island
- A deep-dive into Spirited Away — coming up next
- A deep-dive into Howl’s Moving Castle — coming soon
Tiny detail, big reveal – audience Q&A posts
I’ve recently launched the Moon Rabbit Hotline, a simple way for people following this project to leave me messages and questions about Ghibli films and details that I haven’t covered. The answers to the most interesting questions I then go off, research, and turn into posts of their own.
- Why Haku tells Chihiro not to look back — an exploration of “don’t look back” mythology from around the world, underworld initiation trials and how it all connects to one single sentence in Spirited Away
Widening the net – the films of Studio Ghibli
Many people associate Studio Ghibli solely with Hayao Miyazaki, even though there are many others responsible for films that have been made at the studio, including Isao Takahata, Hiroyuki Morita, Gorō Miyazaki, Yoshifumi Kondō and Hiromasa Yonebayashi.
- What is Porco Rosso really about? — coming soon
- What is Pom Poko really about? — coming soon
- What is The Cat Returns really about? — coming soon
The Wind Rises
Back in 2014, I had the absolute privilege to have been part of one of the films of Hayao Miyazaki, as I was tasked with the film’s Hungarian distributor to produce the Hungarian translation and subtitles for The Wind Rises, that I carried out with long-time colleague and expert Japanese translator Edina Csalló. Having spent months on the work, we’ve had a lot of unique experiences that we couldn’t have acquired in any other way than digging deep into the work of taking a Miyazaki text and putting it into another language. Even though the end result was a Hungarian text, the lessons and insights we learned are universal, so I’m devoting an entire category of posts to this film.
- 17 way to say ‘hai’ in Japanese – translating The Wind Rises, Part 1 — coming soon
- How to put a Japanese bath into an aeroplane – translating The Wind Rises, Part 2 — coming soon
- What goes away and doesn’t come back – translating The Wind Rises, Part 3 — coming soon