[AniFemTalk] Favorite Miyazaki Heroines

Fathom Events is replaying several of Hayao Miyazaki’s films on the big screen this fall, which seems like a great time to take a stroll down memory lane.

  • Who’s your favorite Miyazaki heroine?
  • Which movies spoke to you as a kid? As an adult?
  • How well have Miyazaki’s films held up as feminism continues to evolve?
  • Any recommendations of other anime films with great girls or women in the lead roles?


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  • rugose-appendage

    Probably Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle. As a character I quite like how she conveys affection and gratitude in practical ways – cleaning a castle, going to talk to a monarch. It’s similar to how I behave (regrettably I don’t often tidy magical walking castles), and it’s different from the symbolic methods of showing affection women seem to be portrayed with. That personality also work well for the plot, because it gives an excuse for the audience to explore a lot of the awesome world.

  • alecksis

    The only Miyazaki film I’ve seen is Kiki’s Delivery Service soooo… Kiki. <3 I was obsessed with that movie as a little kid, but I think it got tossed out when my parents got sucked in to the "Harry Potter is Satanic" panic. Similarly, my one Sailor Moon VHS got tossed when my mom realized the main villain's dress was transparent. So I have a lot of nostalgic fondness for both, but no memory of what they were actually about.

  • I didn’t get to see any Miyazaki films as a kid, but the one I most wish I had is Spirited Away. I didn’t run into nearly enough stories about girls being dropped into a strange world and being able to rise to the occasion when I was a kid.

    Of the Miyazaki movies I’ve seen, the only one that holds up especially badly in the light of feminism is Castle of Cagliostro. Not that it would have looked that great even in 1979 when it was released.

    Other recommendations: Summer Wars, for Sakae Jinnouchi. Even though she isn’t a viewpoint character and doesn’t get top billing, she’s the person the film is largely about. And she has a level of competence, power, and force of personality that is rarely allowed elderly women in either Western movies or anime.

    • Gorion

      In defense of Castle of Cagliostro, Fujiko is treated as an out-an-out action hero who also comes up with the plan to bring in the police at the end, which is quite a different take from her prior Lupin portrayals as a greedy and vain trickster. I believe that portrayal of her was popular enough that it’s impacted Lupin stories since Cagliostro and eventually led to the Fujiko stand-alone series a few years ago. But yeah, the core story about an older man saving a young girl from marriage really isn’t feminist material…

  • Lauren Vaughn

    Spirited Away is not just one of my favorite anime movies, but one of my all-time favorite movies period. Chihiro is brave and resourceful when she’s thrown into a strange world. San from Princess Mononoke is another one of my favorite Miyazaki heroines – she is fierce and (to the people of Iron Town) dangerous but she is also fighting to protect the home and family she loves. I love that the movie doesn’t shy away from making San so fierce – nature is dangerous after all, and it takes a dangerous girl like San to fight a dangerous woman like Lady Eboshi.

  • sweejen

    I adore Shizuku from Whisper of the Heart. Just trying to be her goofy self in a world that wants everyone to follow the same path, establishing and defending her own equal footing in her romantic relationship, feeling crappy when things blow up in her face but not afraid to take on her next challenge. I love her everyday heroism. Of all of the young Ghibli heroines, she’s the one whose adulthood I most enjoy imagining.

  • Kirsten M. Schultz

    I was an adult when Kiki and Princess Mononoke came out, so I can’t give you any childhood/adult comparisons. I can say that Miyazaki’s films brought me back into the anime fold after encountering series like Gatchaman/Battle of the Planets and Space Battleship Yamamoto/Star Blazers on American TV as a child at the end of the 1970s and obsessing over them because they were so much better than the American cartoons I encountered. I left the fold not willingly but because I simply didn’t have much access to anime from around the late 1980s to the mid/late 1990s, even when cable began (and I didn’t have cable in most of my uni career). So thank goodness for encountering a newspaper article about Princess Mononoke in the late 1990s, which inspired me to see it, causing me to fall for Studio Ghibli films and look around for more anime.

    I enjoy most of the heroines/female antagonists, but perhaps because we get most of Nausicaa’s story in the manga, she would be my favourite. However, that’s more the manga than the movie, which showed just a small part of her epic life. Apart from Nausicaa, Chihiro and San stand out to me in part because they are in my favourite SG films. Chihiro does seem more human to me in that she is realistically flawed and yet rises so well to a terrifying, like-threatening situation. She needs help especially at first, but also helps others. She even reacts to those outdoor stairs near the beginning in the way I would (and not just as a child either). So I think she’d be no. 2. I also enjoy the female antagonists because they are multifaceted (again Kushana would win out because of her story in the manga fleshing her out much more).

    I appreciate that Miyazaki and SG as a whole have a range of female characters and has compassion towards them, whether or not their story ends happily or not. If I’m thinking in present-day terms, I might point out the lack of queer romances for the ladies (even incidental ones like you get in YOI or SU, since Miyazaki isn’t into dokidoki romance-centric stories), or disabled heroines. I’m blanking atm, so I’d love to hear others’ opinions on where Miyazaki might have gone.

  • MrMissMrs Random

    My favorite Miyazaki Heroine is either Shizuku from Whisper of the Heart or Chihiro from Spirited Away.
    -I think the Miyazaki movies that spoke to me most as a kid were Howl’s Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke, but as an adult the message and struggle Kiki goes through in Kiki’s Delivery Service is one I relate to a lot.
    -I don’t think I’m as well versed to speak about the other two questions, but for movies I really enjoyed Hana in Wolf Children.

  • TheSojourner

    I can’t pick just one! There’s been so many good female characters in Miyazaki/Ghibli films!