Top 12 Dumbest Moments in Hayao Miyazaki Movies

Everyone knows by now that I’m a Miyazaki fanboy. And how could I not? Not only did I spend an article ranking his filmography from worst to best, but he’s the guy who got me into anime. I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t love him! But, like The Nostalgia Critic said about Avatar: The Last Airbender when his “Top 11 Worst Avatar Episodes” list came out, even the best has aspects in it that aren’t as great in comparison. And I figured that I can apply that to Hayao Miyazaki and his 11 movies too.

Without further ado, here are my 12 nitpicks with Hayao Miyazaki, 1 for him, the other 11 for each of his films. And yes, there’ll be spoilers (I’m criticizing Miyazaki movies, after all.) Assuming you’re as crazy as I am and want to see what I could say, here goes:

12. Miyazaki’s “On-Again-Off-Again Retirement”

I put this one at the bottom because of recent developments. As of last year, Hayao Miyazaki has officially retired. That said, the reason I put it on the list is because the man has announced retirement numerous times, only to return with another movie shortly after; in fact, it’s because of this that people didn’t take his actual retirement seriously, thinking it was another of his false retirements. It was only once the announcement was confirmed that it became serious. Oops.

So why announce the past retirements at all? Well, it could’ve been a result of the stress of his job, since animating is so tedious and tiresome. It’d make sense, since he animates most of his works in some fashion, and that alone is tough to do. But then…why come back? It’s clear that he wasn’t ready to leave if he kept returning, and his frequent “retirements” became so well-known that even John Lasseter openly joked about it during TCM’s marathon in honour of his then-65th birthday.

It’s like Miyazaki wanted us to not take him seriously! And given his pedigree, not taking him seriously isn’t so great. It’s like dangling a carrot in front of a horse, only to occasionally nibble it and mock the horse for wanting it at all. Are you gonna do it, or not? Retire, or not? In the words of my Zaidy, “Either sh*t, or get off the pot!” In other words, make up your mind!

11. Kiki’s Treatment of Tombo

And now we get to the movies. Ladies of all ages, take it from someone who’s been shot down more often than he wants to count: when a guy is trying to be nice to you, be courteous and accept the kindness. Don’t shoot it down and treat him like dirt, okay? Because that’s what Kiki does to Tombo for the first 2/3 of Kiki’s Delivery Service, and that’s almost enough to make her lose brownie points in my eyes. “Almost” being the key word, since she more than makes up for it in other ways.

Think about it: Tombo gets her out of trouble with a police officer, and how does she thank him? By insulting him and storming off. Tombo buys a cookie from the bakery she helps man in order to invite her to the unveiling of his new invention, and how does she respond? By giving him his change without looking at him. Even when she’s not being directly rude, like when she gets sick from being in the rain, she still refuses a visit to see how she’s doing! Seriously, the kid’s trying to be nice! Would it kill you to be nice back?

I actually think it’s interesting how it takes Osono to get her to warm up to him…by tricking her into delivering his mother’s grocery list. Yeah, you know you’re being dumb when Osono, the nice woman who’s been treating you like an adult, thinks you’re childish. And even after Kiki warms up to him, she still has one more moment of rudeness during a telephone conversation. I get that you’re depressed, kid, but cut the guy some slack! Better yet, stop being so rude to him! Good grief!

10. No-Face

Spirited Away, as you’re no doubt aware, is my favourite movie of all-time. Despite having only seen it 6 times, I know a good chunk of what happens off the back of my head. I also know its shortcomings, one being No-Face. More specifically, I know the shortcomings of his character arc. It’s not that it doesn’t make sense in context, because it does, but he’s one weird spirit.

It’s his downfall in particular that I can’t get over. Why? Because he’s defeated through barfing, a chase down the bathhouse’s interior and a projectile vomiting of the three servants he’d eaten. And then he’s back to his lonesome self, as if nothing ever happened. Really? Did we forget how No-Face went on a tyrannical rampage, pigging out like no tomorrow and terrorizing the bathhouse that so kindly took him in? Why is that no longer a problem?

In fact, you know what his ultimate punishment is? Nothing. Chihiro merely tells him to “behave himself”. No slaps on the wrist, no lectures about being a bad spirit, nothing. A line about behaving is his retribution. Think about that.

9. Mei and Satsuki’s Dad Can’t See Totoro

I’m gonna come right out and say this, since it needs to be said: Totoro, aside from not being in the first-act of his own movie, is a dick. Why? Because he hates adults. Why? Because he refuses to let Mr. Kusakabe meet him, using the guise that “he only lets you see him when he wants you to.” In other words, as I said, he hates adults.

Which begs the question: why? The movie gives a vague explanation that humans and spirits used to live in harmony, but that’s not fair to Mr. Kusakabe; after all, it’s pretty much implied that he has the heart of a child, and that he even understands what Mei and Satsuki are doing in their spare time. What, does Totoro have an age-gate, and anyone who doesn’t meet is denied his presence? Is this some sort of Narnia-esque rule? Actually, that rule is contradicted in the final Narnia book…

It all boils down to this: Totoro is a pedophile. He restricts adults so they can’t stop him from perverting the innocence of children, which he does regularly. And when the adults try to get involved, he disappears. Either that, or he’s an a**hole. Take your pick.

8. Lady Clarisse

If you’ll recall in my previous list, I mentioned that I thought the praise for this movie was exaggerated. I still think that’s the case, and a good chunk of why rests on the shoulders of Lady Clarisse. That’s not to say she isn’t without charm, but, save being a damsel in distress, there’s little to her. She simply looks and acts kind/vulnerable, and that’s it. But whatever, at least she has an understandable romance with Lupin, right? Well…sorry to burst your bubble, but no. She falls in-love with him, becomes dependant on him, and that’s it. Also, Clarisse is 16 years-old.

Yeah, I blew your mind with that one, didn’t I? It’s true: according to Miyazaki himself, Clarisse is a teenager. In Canada, she’d have recently gotten her driver’s license and wouldn’t be able to drink alcohol legally. Considering that she’s being forcibly married to a guy in his 30’s, let-alone a blood relative, and somehow forms a “loving” relationship with Lupin simultaneously, well…it’s a little unnerving, no? I think so.

Regardless of whether or not I’ve ruined your love of this movie ever-so-slightly, which wasn’t my intention, there’s no denying that this is uncomfortable however you look at it. If you wanna be technical, she’s underage, making the plot a little creepy. If you wanna be even more technical, her reliance on Lupin makes her a lolicon character. But if we’re being plain, Clarisse is simply uncomfortable as far as a character goes. Not to mention, when Mary Jane from the Raimi Spider-Man films, who’s also a damsel in distress, has more depth and less creepiness to her than Lady Clarisse, there’s a serious problem…

7. Sheeta’s Pro-Environmental Speech

I love this movie, I really do. I even think its pro-environmental message, while not exactly subtle, is mostly well-executed. Sadly, it falls apart in the third-act, particularly in the confrontation between Muska and Sheeta. Why? Because it’s undermined by a preachy and heavy-handed speech about compassion and nature, as told by Sheeta.

When I first heard this speech, it didn’t bother me. But as I re-watched the film more, it began to stick out like a sore thumb. For one, where was it coming from? And why was it so earnest and heartfelt, to the point that it felt rehearsed? Better yet, considering he had a gun, why did Muska wait for Sheeta to finish and shoot off her pigtails, as opposed to killing her right then and there?

The whole event doesn’t add up. Nor does it kill the movie, to be honest. But that it’s even in here at all is distracting. I know you love trees, Miyazaki-san, but did you have to go this far? The movie is already a tree-hugger in disguise, so keep the lovey-dovey, eco-friendly message out of it!

6. Kayo’s Wasted Screen-Time

Question: How many of you remembered that Jiro had a younger sister in The Wind Rises? A few of you? Good. Now then, how many of you remembered her name? Fewer people?

Well, her name was Kayo. She appeared in four scenes, had about a dozen lines in total and barely made an impact on Jiro. Doesn’t that seem a little odd? For an allegedly important character in Jiro’s life, i.e. his younger sister, you’d think she’d be more important; after all, she appeared in four scenes, three to criticize Jiro for ignoring her, so it’d make sense! Sadly, she’s wasted. I mean, Naoko has few scenes too, but she still plays a part in the damn movie!

Was Miyazaki trying to make a point with Kayo Horikoshi? A point about how we can be neglectful of our own family while trying to better mankind? Because it’s never made clear. Like, at all. Kayo barely qualifies as window dressing, even! It’s a shame, because her obsession with studying medicine could’ve made for an interesting commentary on the sexism of the times.

5. The Ending to Ponyo

As I said in my last list, Ponyo, in my opinion, gets a lot of undeserved hate. It does have its share of problems, but not the ones people complain about so frequently. Except its ending. That’s legit. Perhaps not for the reasons people usually point out, but it’s a concern nonetheless.

Why? Because it’s anti-climactic. For all the talk about Ponyo’s decision to become human, the consequences it’s had on the world and whether or not her challenge to become human permanently is right, the ending re-institutes the status quo. The waves recede to their natural level, the Devonian fish disappear and everyone has a happy ending. But the most surreal part is how Ponyo becomes a human: she leaps from her pail, kisses Sosuke on the lips and transforms into a little girl right-then-and-there. Uh…what?

And that’s how the movie ends: with that exact shot. Isn’t that a little bizarre, Miyazaki-san? What, did you run out of time? Out of money? Out of ways to make this work? Because, like it or not, it’s a creepy, meme-inspiring, Rule 34-enforcing way to end your simple, child-friendly film. In other words, um…yeah…

4. Porco and Curtis’s Fistfight

While I’ve never gotten into this movie to the same extent as Miyazaki’s other stuff, it’s still a fine film. The serious moments are genuinely heartfelt, while the goofy moments hit the right notes to make me laugh each time. The problem is the finale, in which Porco and Curtis fight over bounty, debts and Fio’s heart in the shallow waters of the Adriatic. The fight starts off okay, with some genuine moments of suspense and tension, but then Porco and Curtis decide to settle this like men, land their planes and fistfight for the victory. And this is where my suspension of disbelief goes too far and I stop taking this movie seriously…

Really?! A fistfight? And not only a fistfight, a violent one that feels like it could’ve been ripped straight out of a Street Fighter arcade game? I’m almost tempted to play “Guile’s Theme” over this nonsense, as not only is it painful for me to watch, but the extreme violence juxtaposed with the dumbness of the scene is jarring. We’re talking teeth flying out, bumps on the head, damaged faces and shattered shades, and all over a girl and some money. Blow me.

And they bicker about whether or not Gina loves Porco. Because it can’t be a fight without two men arguing over whether or not a girl loves one of them. Honestly, who wrote this bullsh*t? What, did Miyazaki get into an argument with his friend and decide to vent here, so as to save the embarrassment of actually hurting him? Because this is a dumb and awkward fight either way, and it’s impossible to actually care about the victor when his teeth are being punched out for giggles!

3. The Ending to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

In a similar vein to Ponyo, I take major issue with this movie’s ending. Unlike Ponyo, however, this one’s more serious. It’s not like the allegory is lost, because it isn’t. It’s not like the ending doesn’t sound good on paper, because it does. It’s not even that the ending isn’t emotionally engaging, because it is.

The problem is that it’s, again, anti-climactic. Except, this time, it also doesn’t make sense in context: how is the world suddenly pure of toxins because a teenager walked on some Ohmu tentacles? I’m not kidding, the end credits show the masks that everyone wore being stripped off for good. And now the world lives in peace and harmony too? Psh, yeah right! I know the end credits show this again, but I don’t buy a simple “walk on a golden field” as the end of all wars forever. Sorry!

Honestly, the rest of the movie is solid. Flawed, but solid. This, however, is ridiculous. It not only wraps up a complex conflict in a simplistic bow, but it renders everything that happened prior inconsequential. And that’s something I can’t accept, emotionally-effective or not. I mean, if it’s really that easy to end a conflict, then perhaps I should walk on Ohmu tentacles and enter a poisonous jungle without a breathing mask too! (Note: That’s a terrible idea.)

2. Jigo Walks Away Unscathed

“Oh dear,” you say, “what could he possibly have to complain about Princess Mononoke, aka the greatest movie Miyazaki’s ever made?” Well, I’ve already stated I don’t think it’s his greatest, but in the case of the former? Well, there’s one part that legitimately pisses me off each time I watch the movie, and it’s right after The Great Forest Spirit gets its head back and returns balance. See, Jigo and Lady Eboshi were both to blame for his chaotic rampage, and you’d think they’d both get their retributions for it. But do they?

Lady Eboshi does, having her entire arm ripped off permanently. But Jigo gets nothing. He simply sits on a rock and laughs about it. That’s not fair! Lady Eboshi was coerced into attacking The Great Forest Spirit by Jigo, so he should’ve been maimed too! Better yet, why not have the two of them switch places, with Jigo losing an arm instead? That’d have been fair, right?

I guess Miyazaki was making a statement about how cruel life can be, but it doesn’t sit right. It never has, or will. Considering how much more satisfying it’d have been for Jigo to be punished for what he did, this is lame. But I guess it’s too late to go back and complain, right? (Still, Jigo’s an a**hole…)

1. Turniphead is the Long-Lost Prince

And finally, this movie. Where do I begin? Do I pick on The Witch of the Waste? Madam Sullivan for being an uninspired antagonist? Or how about Sophie’s age fluctuations? Perhaps I’ll stick with the ending twist, since that’s the cream of the crop of this movie’s problems.

I say that because, more than any other entry thus far, it’s a deal-breaker that almost ruins the entire experience. At best, it negates the entire conflict of the film, relegating the kidnapped prince to a simple “gotcha” moment. It’s not only mind-numbingly stupid, but it renders everything prior, including the movie itself, pointless. Turniphead was the missing prince all along! Surprise! Now then, let’s let this wasted character with no depth waltz away like nothing ever happened. Carry on!

And yes, he also gets over his apparent love for Sophie, because the movie needed a pointless love-triangle. Was Miyazaki trying to make a statement with this character? Look, I hate war too, but calling all wars “pointless” trivializes the ones that make sense in the context of history (WWII, The War of Independence, WWI, The Six Day War, The Civil War, The War of 1812, need I go on?) Are you so shallow that you’d call every war “dumb” and “pointless”? C’mon Miyazaki-san, you’re better than that!

So why even bother criticizing these movies, even though I like them? Well, it’s like The Nostalgia Critic said: even the best has its aspects that aren’t so great. And if any art form is to grow and improve, it’s important that we acknowledge said areas. Miyazaki is no exception to that rule. So remember, the next time someone criticizes a piece of art that he or she likes, it’s not meant out of malice, but love. And I, honestly, think that that’s something that everyone could stand to remember.


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