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Halloween Movies: The Magic of Miyazaki

by Elise Yeakley
Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away, halloween movies

Halloween is a time for spooks and frights, but it’s also a time of fun and laughter. I’ve always loved the scary side of Halloween, but I’ve mostly grown up loving Halloween for the festivities, movies (both scary and feel-good movies), and all things magical and mystical. I like the warm fuzzies that you get when drinking cider and trick-or-treating with family and friends. We all have our favorite movies around this time, but is there really a better way to celebrate Halloween than with a Hayao Miyazaki movie marathon? I think not.

I love watching Miyazaki’s worlds of magic throughout the whole year, but especially around this time of the year. My personal favorite for Halloween is Kiki’s Delivery Service. The crisp scenery, beautiful music, and magical coming-of-age tale of a young witch learning how to use her magic and believe in herself with her black cat Jiji by her side always warms my heart and makes for a fuzzy Halloween.

halloween, Halloween movies, hayao miyazaki, kiki's delivery service

We can all agree that the worlds within Hayao Miyazaki’s movies are beautiful and filled with wonder, but what is it about these movies that are so magical? According to the director himself, he “gave up on making a happy ending in the true sense a long time ago.” What he meant by this was not that his stories don’t ever have happy endings (as we know is on the contrary for many of his films), but that the aesthetic, narrative, themes, and characters of his films are atypical of most films of this genre, especially of many animated films directed towards children (but written and created for all ages to enjoy). His characters go through struggles, both internally and externally, and have to rise above it. Where things get blurred, though, is who is “bad” and who is “good.”

In films like Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, some of the characters who were labeled as the bad guys ended up joining the protagonist on her journey throughout the film later on. In this sense, Miyazaki is reflecting the notion that everyone has both light and darkness within them, and it seems that he is arguing what really is good and evil?

halloween, Halloween movies, hayao miyazaki, spirited away

He also tackles tough subjects through symbolism, as he has discussed that Spirited Away was criticizing the over-sexualization of adolescents in society as well as the horrors of prostitution and how one becomes dehumanized when entering this world. This film also tackles environmentalism issues, greed, and much more.

Miyazaki has expressed that we need the fantasy genre:

“I do think we need fantasy. For those who are in their powerless childhood, when they feel helpless, fantasy has something to give them relief. When children face complicated or difficult problems, they have to dodge at first. They would surely lose if they tried to tackle it head-on. We don’t need to use a complex and questionable phrase such as “escaping from reality”. There are many people who were saved by Tezuka-san’s manga, not just in my generation, but also in older generations. I have no doubt about the power of fantasy itself.”

Hayao Miyazaki’s movies are packed with emotions, beauty, and art. The magic piques our interest and fills us with the wonder of childlike imagination and thrill, but the substance and value beneath the surface keeps these movies with us forever.

So, if you’re looking for some enchanted movies for Halloween tonight, try Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Sky, or another of Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpieces to fill your friends with fun, adventure, and strong stories that will stay with them for a lifetime.

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