Totoro, My Neighbor Totoro

If you create a character that become so popular and beloved that it becomes the mascot for your entire company —chances are you've created something perfect. And that's what Totoro is — a fuzzy blue creature that is kind of mysterious, a tiny bit scary, but entirely adorable, one who is the perfect embodiment of a child's sense of wonder. Even if there's a day where Miyazaki and his movies are forgotten, there's no doubt in my mind that Totoro will live on to delight kids forever.


Ponyo is a young and overeager goldfish princess who escapes home to become human and finds a friend in a young boy along the way. She accidentally creates a massive tsunami by trying to turn herself human.

Lupin the Third, Castle of Cagliostro

Lupin is still a trickster but one with a code of honor, and one who'll always save a damsel-in-distress even if he still does act a bit pervy sometimes. Lupin may not be Miyazaki's original character, but he's benefited from how Miyazaki transformed him for nearly 40 years



The Laputa Robots, Castle in the Sky

They don't speak, they don't move much, and they're honestly not in the film for that long. And yet the lanky, silent robots of Miyazaki's adventure fantasy Castle in the Sky (a.k.a. Laputa) are captivating because of their enigmatic silence. They're striking and somber and amazing all at once, a masterpiece of design and minimal animation.

San, Princess Mononoke

Although human, she's as savage as the world she protects. It helps that she's a fierce, brutal fighter, beautifully animated by Miyazaki at the very top of his game. But what makes her so striking us that even as she falls in love with the human protagonist Ashitaka, she never abandons her family or her ideals —, San never abandons the forest or the animals that raised her. There's nothing traditional about San, and that's what makes her so fascinating


Jiro Horikoshi, The Wind Rises

Miyazaki has only done one biography — that of Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of what would be known as the terrifying Japanese Zero fighters of World War II. A man whose poor eyesight destroys his dream of being a pilot, who follows his passion for aviation into engineering, only to see that passion and his talents used for death and destruction. Miyazaki somehow gets across Jiro's pride in accomplishing his dream of building a great plane with his horror at their use, making him one of animation's most complex, tragic figures.

No-Face, Spirited Away

t's almost impossible to describe No-Face. Is he a monster? Sometimes. Is he the antagonist of Spirited Away? Not really. Is he scary? Pretty frequently. But this is intentional, as No-Face transforms to meet the needs or vices of those he surrounds, so when the spirit world's bathhouse attendants go mad with greed, he turns into a hungry beast, determined to consume everything. But alone he's just a quiet, masked creature looking for a connection, one he finds in Sen later in the movie. Very, very few of Miyazaki's characters reach this level of complexity, and it's one of the reasons why Spirited Away is his most acclaimed movie.



Lady Eboshi, Princess Mononoke

Lady Eboshi is that rarest of antagonists because she isn't evil at all. Eboshi brings a sophistication to the argument by being focused solely on protecting and benefiting her village and its people, which means cutting down the forest for both walls and resources, and sometimes attacking the creatures of the forest before they attack her. It's a war of survival on both sides, and Eboshi's lack of greed and her abundance of selflessness prove that this conflict isn't always a black-and-white issue.

Sen/Chihiro, Spirited Away

Sen starts as a hostile child, pouting because her family is moving to a new home. But a detour into a bizarre, abandoned festival ends up with her parents turning into pigs, forcing her to find work in a bizarre and dangerous spirit realm, and take care of herself and save her family, as well. Even more than Miyazaki's other heroines, Sen actually grows up during Spirited Away; by starting lower, so to speak, her journey to maturity and independence is both more authentic and infinitely more powerful.


Porco Rosso

An Italian fighter pilot who was so frustrated with the senseless violence of World War I, he renounced his humanity and turned into a pig. Porco is Miyazaki's only completely adult main character, and that makes him utterly unique. Like Kurt Vonnegut and Miyazaki himself, Porco is a pessimist who desperately wants to be an optimist, but keeps getting let down by the world.

Nausicaa, Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind

The star of Miyazaki's first masterpiece, Nausicaa is the sum of all of Miyazaki's favorite things — the environment, peace, feminism, and flight. If there's one film that could serve as his mission statement, it's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, best represented by its title characters. Nausicaa isn't exactly complex, but she's a savior for the ravaged, post-apocalyptic world.