10 Hayao Miyazaki Anime to Watch After The Boy and The Heron, Ranked

10 Hayao Miyazaki Anime to Watch After The Boy and The Heron, Ranked
Image credit: Toei Company, Toho

Which one of these animated gems would you rank first?

On December 7, The Boy and The Heron was released, marking Hayao Miyazaki 's first work in 10 years. The director's return came as a surprise to many: he had already announced that he decided to leave the profession, and confidently spoke about The Wind Rises as his last film.

But we're grateful to the great director for his inconsistency – because absolutely every Miyazaki project is an animated masterpiece, and we don't actually want him to stop.

10. Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro, 1979

The plot of the anime tells about the adventures of the thief and womanizer Lupin III. He commits a grand theft of several million dollars, but it turns out that all the bills are counterfeit. Now Lupin travels to the European kingdom of Cagliostro, where rulers have been making counterfeit bills for many centuries. Lupin must take revenge on those who fooled him and rescue the charming Princess Clarisse.

The Castle of Cagliostro is Miyazaki's first feature film as a director. But you wouldn't know it by the quality of his work: even in his debut, the director dazzled with his attention to detail and breathtaking animation.

9. Howl’s Moving Castle, 2004

The anime is set in a world reminiscent of late 19th century Europe, where magic and steam technology coexist. The evil witch has turned 18-year-old Sophie into an old woman. After running away from home, she gets a job as a housekeeper for the powerful wizard Howl, whose castle is a refuge for many magical creatures.

The main advantage of Howl's Moving Castle is its detailed visuals. This is one of Studio Ghibli's most beautiful and technically challenging works. The movie surprises with the elaborateness of every frame: from the cityscape and colorful landscapes to the design of the castle and its cozy interiors.

8. Ponyo, 2008

A fish named Ponyo enters the human world and meets a boy named Sosuke. The children become close and Ponyo gradually becomes more and more human. Ponyo’s escape does not please her father, a powerful sea sorcerer. He tries to bring her home – and with his actions he endangers the lives of the people in the coastal town.

With Ponyo, Hayao Miyazaki deliberately moved away from the elaborate visual style of his previous works and created a more minimalist picture. And the plot is fitting: without dark allusions to the sins of humanity, but with a sweet story of friendship between two children.

7. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, 1984

Earth after nuclear war, far future. Terrible forests of poisonous plant spores have grown across the planet. People huddle together in cramped spaces where they can still breathe without gas masks. The survivors are periodically attacked by giant insect-like monsters, but the main source of the problem is not the monsters, but other humans. Princess Nausicaä must protect her homeland from invaders from other lands.

The team of what would become Studio Ghibli actually began to take shape in 1983, just as they were working on Nausicaä. It already had everything that made Miyazaki's films so beloved: a touching story, excellent animation, and amazing music by his favorite composer Joe Hisaishi.

6. Kiki’s Delivery Service, 1989

According to an old witchery tradition, the young witch Kiki must live in the human world for one year after her thirteenth birthday. Together with her cat, she goes to the small town of Koriko and meets Osono, the owner of a bakery. Kiki gets a job as a courier and opens a delivery service. She has to deal with capricious customers, and even a creative crisis.

On the one hand, this is the simplest of Miyazaki's fairy tales, but on the other hand, it is a timeless story, which does not give clear-cut answers to "heroic" questions. By the way, children will like the movie too, if you don't mind giving them a frivolous witch as an example.

5. Spirited Away, 2001

Ten-year-old Chihiro moves to a new house with her parents. While traveling through Japan, the family takes a wrong turn and ends up in an empty town. The hungry adults see food, sit down to eat, and turn into pigs. Chihiro realizes that she is in a magical world, and to save her parents, she will have to work with the evil witch Yubaba.

The place to start getting acquainted with Studio Ghibli animations is, of course, with the work of its founding father and his most famous film. Girls gaining new experiences and maturing in spirit through trials are a constant trope in Miyazaki's stories. This shift in gender focus in Ghibli films allows viewers to take a fresh look at the classic save-the-world plot, which has traditionally centered on male heroes.

4. Porco Rosso, 1992

Porco Rosso is a World War I veteran pilot with a pig's snout for a face. He fights air pirates on behalf of the Italian government. One day, the criminals hire an American pilot to defeat Porco. Meanwhile, the authorities of Fascist Italy try to lure the pilot to their side.

Porco Rosso speaks not only about the senselessness of war, but also about the power of guilt and the importance of maintaining humanity and compassion. But despite its dark context and generally unchildlike story, Porco Rosso is a true visual extravaganza: spectacular aerial duels take place right over the magnificent Mediterranean landscapes.

3. My Neighbour Totoro, 1988

Two girls, Satsuki and Mei, move to a Japanese village with his father. In the forest near their new house, they accidentally stumble upon the lair of Totoro, a large, furry spirit of nature.

Totoro shows Miyazaki's ability to hold the viewer's attention even in scenes where nothing happens. Routine cleaning and cycling look as interesting as entering a fairy tale world. The little story contains a family tragedy, a story about growing up, and a sweet drama about unity with nature at the same time. However, Totoro is first and foremost a story about the joys of a happy childhood, when the world around you still seems magical and unknown.

2. Princess Mononoke, 1997

Prince Ashitaka kills a boar possessed by demonic filth, but is himself infected with the curse. To find a cure, the prince embarks on a journey. In the process, he becomes embroiled in a war between humans and the spirits of the forest. Among the latter is the mysterious San, the adopted daughter of a giant she-wolf.

It was Princess Mononoke that sparked the interest of international audiences in the films of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli in general: the animation was purchased by Miramax for an American release, and translated by Neil Gaiman. However, due to a poor advertising campaign, the theatrical release went almost unnoticed, and Princess Mononoke became much more popular after its release on DVD.

1. The Wind Rises, 2014

The main character, Jiro, has dreamed of becoming a pilot since childhood, but vision problems put an end to his dream. The boy goes into aircraft design, and in the 1940s he becomes one of the most promising professionals in militaristic Japan. Jiro sincerely wants to create the best planes, but he understands that they will be used in war.

This is a poignant, difficult movie about a dreamer forced to live in constant conflict with his own conscience. And if you want to see the apex of a great director's creative career, this is the movie for you.