Monday, February 20, 2012

Family Adventures: Miyazaki

Image via GeekTyrant

If you feel that there are no children's films sophisticated enough to hold the interest of adults or that there aren't enough strong female lead characters in such movies, then you have not yet been introduced to the extraordinary work of Hayao Miyazaki. We are devoted fans of the Japanese anime directing legend at our house. Our Girl has declared his films her "favorite kind of movie." She has manga comic books for several of them and loads of toys from the movies. Each of us has a favorite. Our Girl loves Castle in the Sky best. My Wife likes Spirited Away. I'm partial to Howl's Moving Castle. Bottom line, the entire opus is outstanding.

Miyazaki photo via Wikipedia

Until this weekend, we had never seen one of Miyazaki's films on the big screen. Miyazaki serves as director for many of the Studio Ghibli films but for The Secret World of Arrietty, he handed over the reins to Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Miyazaki maintains screenwriting credit, though, teaming with Keiko Niwa in adapting The Borrowers, the children's novel by Mary Norton. From the Ghibli logo at the opening, it was clear we were not the only longtime fans in the audience. My Wife overheard many whispers of "That's Totoro!"

Image via The Mary Sue

We love Miyazaki films for so many reasons. The artwork is beautiful, the stories rich and the characters nuanced. One of the big draws for us, though, has been Miyazaki's strong female leads. Arrietty is typical of his protagonists: adventurous, daring, neither exceedingly girly nor overly tomboyish. She's like a real kid, difficult to pigeonhole.

The film is wonderful - 4 out of 5 stars from me. We ran into Orange Man and his family at the theater. Touching base afterwards, he asked if I managed to stay awake through the whole thing. That is his measure for kids' films. Last year's Winnie the Pooh movie? Not so much. But he stayed awake for Arrietty.

Image via

I won't spoil too much for those planning to see the film but towards the end of the story, the cat leads Sho, Arrietty's human friend, to the Borrowers. We have a cat. Affectionately, we call him The Big Lug. He's a sweet kitty but not the sharpest tack in the drawer. If one of us is on our way to the kitchen, he runs in ahead excitedly, as if he has something to show us. He then invariably gets distracted by his food dish. We've been trying to figure out what he's trying to communicate to us with this display (never mind the obvious - there's always plenty of food in the bowl). As the closing credits were rolling, I leaned over to My Wife and said "I think he's trying to lead us to the Borrowers..." She laughed, clearly having thought the same thing.

It was an Asian-themed weekend for us. In addition to the Japanese film, we went out for two meals - Thai on Friday night and Chinese on Saturday after the movie. Our closest Thai restaurant has just come under new management. What was Tiny Thai is now Sukho Thai Restaurant in Essex. We had a loooong wait for a table but it was well worth it. My go-to dish in Thai food is Pad Kee Maow (aka Drunken Noodles) and Sukho's is excellent - wide noodles and plenty of heat. My order at Joyce's on Saturday night was less successful: the House Lo Mein. It did pair nicely with My Wife's order, though: Mongolian Lamb with Hot Chili Garlic.

On the broomball front, we lost again, 2-0 this time. Still no goals for me (obviously) but I can smell one coming soon. My shoes arrived in time and they're awesome! One can actually run like a normal person with them.


  1. I really want to see this movie. I love Miyazaki films. :D

  2. I love Miyazaki films too. I just saw the commercial for this one the other day. Awesome!

  3. Hi, Squid.

    I'm with your daughter, 'Castle in the Sky' is my favorite. 'Princess Mononoke' is the darkest we have seen/own. We haven't yet seen 'Howl's Moving Castle,' and all pretty much like 'Spirited Away,' save for that enormous, creepy baby.

    Miyazaki has a talent for 'creatures.' My daughter loves 'Ponyo' and 'Totoro,' and while far less creature-ly, 'Kiki's Delivery Service.'

    We plan to catch this one as a family on Saturday.

  4. I saw a couple Miyazaki movies growing up, they always got my imagination running. While I haven't seen this one yet, I guess Carrol Burnett is the voice of the maid, which makes me like it already.
    Random story about "Spirited Away": the first time I saw this movie I was around 13 channel surfing with my dad. When we came across it, the girl was already working at the bathhouse, so we had no idea how she got there or what was going on. Then stranger and stranger things kept happening and we just couldn't look away. We saw it as a whole eventually, but nothing beats how awed and confused we were seeing it the first time.
    And, as someone else already mentioned, that giant baby freaked me out.

  5. An amazing talent, Miyazaki. Thanks for these images and thanks for mentioning all those culturally rich meals. It reminded me I need a few nights out at my favorite Japanese or Thai restaurants.

  6. Stopped reading after "I won't spoil too much" hah. I don't want anything spoiled. I love Miyazaki too and I read the Borrowers when I was a kid so I've really been looking forward to this.

  7. Hi there! I just saw the trailer for this movie last night; can't wait to see it! I might check into the other Miyazaki movies you listed too; thanks for the heads up--and nice to meet you too :)

  8. That movie is out? Oh my gosh, I must see it.

    I've watched Miyazaki films my entire life. Almost every movie he touches is beautiful, and I read The Borrowers when I was in fifth grade, so I'm doubly excited for this.

    Wow. Thank you for telling me.

  9. Can't wait to see THE BORROWERS. The kids and I are also quite addicted to anime (just thought I'd share - LOL). =D

  10. Hey!

    I've only seen Howl's Moving Castle, but I really loved it! Thank you for this post, it reminded me I really must see more of his films!