Growing up in Japan, I am pretty familiar with Hayao Miyazaki’s anime films. So many Japanese and people around the world are the fans of his films. Still, some of you have never watched or known any of his movies. That’s totally fine because there are so many good movies I don’t know their existences of or have not watched yet. Nevertheless, I really hate some children are missing these fun and loving Miyazaki’s films. Parents and grandparents, please consider these movies I recommend below for your kids and grandkids. I promise both you and they will love it.
Must Watch for Kids
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
This is a must see. The very best for elementary age kids, but everyone, younger, older or adults will love it too. So this is best for a family movie night. The Totoro characters including Totoro and cat bus are so adorable, once you see Totoro, you will not forget it. My 2-year old niece has watched multiple times already. She knows its song and of course recognizes Totoro. If you ever visit Japan, you may want to take your kids and yourself to the Totoro’s Forest in Saitama (https://www.totoro.or.jp/totorofund/index.html) and the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka (http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/) to meet Totoro and other cute characters from the movie. As parents, you will be glad to show this movie to your children.
Totoro is so cute that many of us want to be able to draw, and some even offer a free lesson.
This movie, also known as “Laputa” is a big hit to myself. Elementary kids and older will find this anime most interesting with a story of glorious adventures and fantasy. The robot in this movie has a distinct feature you will never be mistaken. The song and music match the story plot very well. The ending song “Kimi o Nosete (Carrying You)” later became popular as a choir singing in Japan. I spent some chunks of 8th-grade year karaoke-ing this song with my basketball teammates before and after the practice. I cannot describe enough about this film.
This is based on a children’s book by a Japanese writer, Eiko Kadono. You and your kids may be interested in reading the book, too, as it is translated into multiple languages including English. I never read the book but Miyazaki’s movie was quite entertaining to me. The main character, Kiki, is a witch. My image of witches probably neutralized because of her and this film. Among the characters, though, I especially love Jiji, a black cat. This movie is one way for kids to get to know how cats think, maybe. For a sneak peek to find what I mean, check this out https://movies.disney.com/kikis-delivery-service
I was already an adult when this movie was released and probably so this movie did not feel like one of those Miyazaki’s classic. However, the fantasy elements and very adorable fish characters will attract younger children in preschool, kindergarten and elementary age. I looked into more about this movie and found that Miyazaki got abstract inspiration for this movie from the Little Mermaid story of Hans Christian Andersen. Ponyo’s simpler story plot actually taps into the imaginative power of a child’s mind that I might have lost already.
The significance of this Ponyo’s scene is yet to be found out for me.
This masterpiece was released in 1984. I saw this movie for the first time at my elementary school’s gym on the movie day in 3rd grade or so. I was fascinated by the images, music, and epic story of this “old movie” at that time, but it was after several years or later that the movie truly started to sink in. So, this movie may be more for older kids. Its message is timeless. The soundtrack is amazing. You can never forget this piece of music and movie. It is Joe Hisaishi who composed the beautiful soundtrack for this movie and multiple other Miyazaki’s movies.
Even Must Listen
As I was ending my introduction of Miyazaki's anime movies to parents and kids here, I realized that they are not only a must watch but also a must listen. You can find soundtracks of all these movies on youtube, and you will be amazed how great pieces they are. Also, when such option works for you and your kids, it's best to hear the original subtitled Japanese voice versions of these films because these voices match better to the characters and you will be able to better understand these characters and stories. It is never too late for your kids to re-watch these movies this way after they get older as many of grownups still like to re-watch these movies.
Joe Hisaishi had US concert tours in the past to conduct lots of Miyazaki film soundtrack.
Where to Find
Ghibli movies are mostly released through Disney in the USA and you can buy through their website and Amazon. Hope you find them and more of Miyazaki’s masterpieces easily.