Growing Up with Miyazaki

You see the T-shirt to the left? That t-shirt alone has brought many intriguing and interesting questions from my 6 year old daughter and 3 year old son. And that brought one answer from me, this would be a perfect time to introduce my kids to the wonderful worlds​ of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.

I set out to answer my son’s most asked question of “Who’s that Daddy?”. What followed was many hours of informing him who each character was and within a few days he had every single one etched into his little brain. My daughter, was unsurprisingly more taken by all the female characters and due to us having our own cat, Kiki and Jiji stood out the most to both of them.

So we had our first Hayao Miyazaki film to sit down and watch together “Kiki’s Delivery Service”. I to was pretty excited about this choice as I hadn’t watched it in over 20 years. Recalling from memory that there was nothing unsuitable within Kiki’s Delivery Service for both my kids to view, and finally locating my copy of the DVD, we cosied up on the couch and began our first journey together with Studio Ghibli.

For me this felt like a huge achievement, I have been a fan of all Miyazaki’s movies and to sit down with my kids for the first time with one of his movies was a proud moment “FATHERHOOD XP LEVEL +20 UNLOCKED” But as usually is with my daughter, she lasted about 20 minutes and decided that she’d had enough, not to worry I still had my youngest with me and he was transfixed. For anyone who has not seen Kiki’s Delivery Service the film tells the story of a young witch, Kiki and her familiar spirit Jiji, who move to a new town and Kiki uses her flying ability to earn a living. Once we had finished watching my son said “Can we watch it again Daddy?” from that moment I knew this was going to be special and something we would continue to do. So much so that EVERY day for the next week he demanded to watch Kiki and due to this my daughter reappeared and we all sat through it numerous times and now both kids wanted to repeat watch over and over again. Slightly to the annoyance of my wife, as we had commandeered the TV almost every day now, so we had to move over to my laptop.

Back to the t-shirt, Kiki and Jiji were still being pointed out, “Kiki and Jiji Daddy, I like Kiki Daddy” so proud!! But then all of a sudden a new question was being asked by my son, “Can I watch that one Daddy” and pointed to Mononoke and Moro from Princess Mononoke. Princess Mononoke is my second favourite Miyazaki movie but I knew instantly due to a few scenes within this movie I couldn’t allow him or my daughter to view it. So what did they pick next might you ask, see below

“My Neighbor Totoro” that’s what!! I can imagine how any serious fan of Miyazaki is reacting to that, which is probably the same as how I reacted, sheer joy and happiness. Off I ran to grab the DVD and once again we settled down one rainy Sunday afternoon. Compared to our first viewing of Kiki’s Delivery Service, my daughter this time did not take her eyes from the screen. I was quite surprised by this, because to me, My Neighbor Totoro actually takes quite a while to kick in, as in actually getting to see Totoro himself. Again if you have not seen My Neighbor Totoro it tells the story of the two young daughters (Satsuki and Mei) of a professor and their interactions with friendly wood spirits in postwar rural Japan. Maybe she became attached to the Satsuki character, as she is the older of the two girls and is always seen to help her younger sister out. The same way as my daughter likes to help her younger brother out. When the first two friendly wood spirits appeared the giggles and delight on my childrens faces was a joy to behold and when Totoro appeared sheer amazement and shouts of “TOTORO!!!” followed. This continued throughout the movie, with loves of Catbus added to their list of now much loved characters.

The main reason for this piece was to inform other parents that your kids are like sponges, the amount of information they take in is phenomenal. Am not saying sit indoors every day with your kids and watch movies, but on rainy days when they are completely uninterested in anything, why not try them on something you enjoyed as a youngster or at least something that is completely different than the mind numbing nonsense that is put on kids TV nowadays. You may be pleasantly surprised.

I must sign off with this, we now know our next Miyazaki movie… My boy has noticed a Blu Ray on the shelf matches one of the characters on the tee. “Daddy it’s Chihiro, can I watch that one?”. Yes that’s right Spirited Away is next and I cannot wait. Spirited Away is my personal fave Miyazaki movie. The feels are going to be next level.

Happy viewing as a family all.