Few filmmakers have the ability to make the audience emote exactly the way they want to like Hayao Miyazaki. Though his movies vary between the very child-friendly to the decidedly not, each one elicits a warm, wistful feeling of adventures of a bygone age or of times yet to come. His canon is among the most consistently wonderful of any director in history and each time you put on a Miyazaki film, you know you’re going to enter a world you won’t want to leave any time soon. Such is the power of the man and his art.
It’s well known that Miyazaki-san retired from feature filmmaking in 2013, though he contends he’s still going to make shorts and oversee the Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo. That means we can now look at his catalog of amazing characters and stories as a finished work. He directed 11 features, each painstakingly drawn and animated by hand by a team of talented artists—we even wrote a whole series highlighting the films’ accomplishments last year called Miyazaki Masterclass. Now, Disney is releasing a box set of all 11 on Blu-ray, along with some fancy extras, entitled The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki exclusively on Amazon. Notice it isn’t “The Complete Works.” I’ll talk about that in a moment.
– The Castle of Cagliostro (1979): Miyazaki’s first feature, a spinoff of the popular Lupin the Thirdanime series on which Miyazaki had previously worked.
– Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984): Based on Miyazaki’s own manga series, it’s a post-apocalyptic adventure film about a princess trying to save warring factions from the darkness of metallic and toxic evil.
– Castle in the Sky (1986): Another pseudo-steampunk outing where two kids travel in airships in order to find a mysterious kingdom that floats called Laputa.
– My Neighbor Totoro (1989): Miyazaki’s first look at contemporary Japan, this one follows two little girls who move with their father to the country and encounter woodland spirits who help them cope with the hardships of life. Totoro became Studio Ghibli’s mascot.
– Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989): The tale of a young witch who moves to the big city to find independence and her way in the world—along with her magical talking cat. She becomes a courier on her broom.
– Porco Rosso (1992): Continuing Miyazaki’s love of flight and airplanes, this film (my personal favorite, perhaps) is about a WWI Italian fighter pilot cursed to look like a pig who becomes a bounty hunter, fending off air pirates over the Adriatic Sea.
– Princess Mononoke (1997): Miyazaki’s darkest film, it reflects his anger and concern about rampant deforestation. Set in a mythical feudal Japan, the film follows a prince cursed with a deadly demonic presence stemming from the evils of industrialization. The only film by Miyazaki close to a Samurai epic, and easily his most violent.
– Spirited Away (2001): The film that won Miyazaki his first Oscar, this to me is a Japanese take on Alice in Wonderland, concerning a young girl who stumbles upon a magical, ghostly realm full of spirits and witches and boys that are really dragons and dust sprites and all manner of visually stunning things.
– Howl’s Moving Castle (2004): Based on a British fantasy novel of the same name, this film has all the magical, weird stuff that Miyazaki loves, like castles and spirits/demons and curses and—of course—flight.
– Ponyo (2008): Another magical skew on contemporary Japan, this film is about a little fish creature who longs to be a person to stay with her human friend, and her Sea King father who does not want that to happen.
– The Wind Rises (2013): And finally, Miyazaki’s love letter to flight and elegy about the nature of creating something meant for something else. This is a biography of Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of the Mitsubishi A5M and A6M Zero fighter planes which were used by Japan in WWII. The film juxtaposes the beauty of the creation with the horror for which it was used.
All of these movies are wonderful and the fact that Disney has rounded them all up at once is something of a coup, especially with regard to The Castle of Cagliostro, which they didn’t have the rights to before. Which brings me to a very important point when considering the purchase of this set.
If you’ve already bought Disney’s individual Blu-ray releases of Miyazaki’s ten films after Cagliostro, it should be noted that the discs in this set are not the same. There are no special features on the films in the set. While the extras on the individual releases weren’t much to talk about—and mostly just ported over from DVD releases—they did include some storyboards and interview material which was of interest to some. The film discs in this set are just the movie and the language/subtitle selection. That’s it.
This is doubly true for Castle of Cagliostro. Earlier this year, a really nice special edition of the film was released via TMS Entertainment. This included both the 1992 and 2000 English dubs, a restoration of the original 1980 subtitle translation, a brand new subtitle translation, original storyboards, feature commentary, interviews, and more. The one in the Disney set is just the 1992 dub and a set of subtitles that didn’t appear initially to be either of the ones on the TMS release. If you own this, I would not recommend chucking it in favor of the box set. With the other films, you can probably take them or leave them.
Now, what extras DOES this box set provide? All on a twelfth disc, we have Miyazaki’s full, uncut retirement press conference, which is nice and sad; we have a pilot presentation Miyazaki made in 1972 called Yuki no Taiyo, or “Yuki’s Sun,” based on a manga by Tetsuya Chiba; and we have three episodes of the series Little Samurai from 1972 which Miyazaki apparently storyboarded “and more,” though I can’t find this on his IMDb anywhere. Not the most revelatory of extras, it has to be said.
Earlier I said this couldn’t be called “The Complete Works,” and that’s because there are lots and lots of short films and TV episodes and other bits of animation that Miyazaki did that are not included. If you want all of his films, you’re in the right place; if you want everything he did, you’ll have to continue searching.
The set also comes with a booklet featuring “The Great Dichotomy: Looking at the Works of Hayao Miyazaki,” a critical essay by Tomohiro Machiyama. This is a really fascinating if brief examination of the themes and techniques present in each of the films, from Miyazaki’s initial notes and proposals all the way to finished film. This is a wonderful read and something worth the purchase.
If you don’t already own all 11 of Miyazaki’s films, I would say this is a perfect way to do it. The movies look and sound wonderful and it’s a great way to enjoy 35 years of feature film excellence. If you do already own all or some of the films from their individual release, you have a big decision to make. The box set certainly takes up less room and is in a lovely presentation along with that great booklet, but you’ll not get any interviews or behind-the-scenes info on any of the films. The choice really is yours.
The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki is an Amazon.com exclusive, SRP $249.99 but currently on the website for $215.00, which works out to a little over $17.00 per disc.
And if you want to see our own Dan Casey unbox the entire set, take a peek at this video:
Images: Disney/Studio Ghibli
Kyle Anderson is a film critic and Weekend Editor for Nerdist.com with a love of lots of different things. How vague! Get in touch with him on Twitter if’n you’d like!