Pop Culture

Books for Miyazaki Movie Fans

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Jessica Yang

Staff Writer

Jessica grew up in Silicon Valley, yet somehow ended up rather inept at technology. She dreams of reading luxurious novels all day in a greenhouse, and is guilty of writing puns for money. Majoring in Japanese and English literature made her both wary and weary of the Western canon. She can be bribed with milk tea. Follow her on Twitter @jamteayang.

While we at the Riot take some time off to rest and catch up on our reading, we’re re-running some of our favorite posts from the last several months. Enjoy our highlight reel, and we’ll be back with new stuff on Tuesday, January 3rd.

This post originally ran August 26, 2016.

There comes a time in your life when you’ve watched all the Miyazaki movies. All of them, except maybe Porco Rosso. And you’re left with the daunting prospect of no more Miyazaki movies. Miyazaki himself said he would retire, and then he said he wouldn’t. You can just imagine him, wearing an off-white apron and gravely smoking a cigarette while he resurrects, then destroys, your dreams.

In the meantime, what are you going to do? Fill that movie void with books! Below are some of Miyazaki’s biggest movies, and books that match up with them in tone, theme, or general vibe.

My Neighbor Totoro: The Wind in the Willows, like My Neighbor Totoro, is a childhood classic. Its whimsical talking animals give you the same warm fuzzies as watching Mei bounce on Totoro’s giant, fluffy belly.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind: First, the obvious choice — the original manga by Hayao Miyazaki. The less obvious choice — The Hobbit. Both are adventures in a fantasy world that are as much about the main characters as they are about the setting.

Kiki’s Delivery Service: The original inspiration for the movie, Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono, is high on my to-read list. And if you want more stories about spunky girls getting mixed up in magic shenanigans, check out Kat, Incorrigible.

Whisper of the Heart: The charm for me of Whisper of the Heart has always been its off-kilter and imaginative slice-of-life vibe. The children’s book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which centers around two siblings who run away to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, hits that same note — as does the graphic novel, This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki.

Spirited Away: In Half World by Hiromi Goto, the heroine Melanie ends up in a kind of in-between, supernatural other world, much like Chihiro of Spirited Away. It’s all about intrepid girls on magical journeys.

Princess Mononoke: At first glance, Uprooted by Naomi Novik is nothing like Princess Mononoke. Polish fairy tales and Japanese forest spirits? Nah. But to my mind, they both portray a world where nature, culture, and self are deeply intertwined, leaving you with plenty of food for thought.

Howl’s Moving Castle: Look, if you haven’t read the original Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, you need to get on that. And once you’re finished, you might as well read its adorable sort-of sequel, House of Many Ways.

Ponyo: Brave Story, a translated Japanese novel by Miyuki Miyabe, is much more serious than Ponyo. But I like to imagine that if the hero of Ponyo grew up in the city and had all the troubles of society thrown at him, he’d be much like Brave Story‘s Wataru Mitani.

The Secret World of Arrietty: The book Borrowers by Mary Norton is the original inspiration for this movie. But if you’ve read that and want more tales about tiny people, try reading Truckers by Terry Pratchett. You can never have too much Pratchett in your life, after all.

What other books do you think are good matches for Studio Ghibli movies? And did Miyazaki retire for real this time? I just hope, wherever he is, he’s taking time to pet the local cats.