Quick Guide to the Amazing Characters You Will Meet In Hayao Miyazaki’s Worlds


The world-famous Japanese animation artist and director Hayao Miyazaki was born on January 5, 1941, which makes him 80 years old now. Miyazaki was one of the first animators to conquer the Western viewers with his kindhearted, kind of quirky, and sometimes deeply philosophical themes. In almost every Hayao Miyazaki movie, the viewers can find a few life lessons, some kids doing crazy things, mouth-watering food animation, and flying contraptions. Miyazaki just loves the things that allow people (and pigs) to soar in the sky. But let’s leave this for later.

Every scene looks very realistic and clean to the point that people call his animated movies “Japanese Disney.” Let’s look closer at some of the characters you’ll be meeting in Hayao Miyazaki’s worlds.

1. Flying machines

Something always has to fly in Miyazaki’s anime, and we don’t mean plain birds (get it?). We’re talking houses, castles, brooms, aircraft, strange insects, and other flying objects and structures. Why the fascination with this particular subject, you may ask? It turns out that Hayao’s father was the director of the factory producing aircraft components, and little Hayao spent a lot of time among the flying machines. Later on, the animator dedicated one of the movies, “The Wind Rises,” to his father. After its release, Miyazaki said that he was going to retire now, but as we all know now, he’s working on new movies and even called a press conference on this, but he had already done this before, so everyone is waiting for his next film.

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2. Pigs and boars

According to Miyazaki’s biography, the Japanese director loves those oinking cuties. He has pictures of them plastered all over his house and even lovingly calls the Ghibli animation studio “the pig palace.” In Miyazaki’s works, you’ll find both the good piggies, like the pilot in “Porco Rosso,” and the really-really bad ones, like that demon-boar in “Princess Mononoke.”

3. Brave little girls

If you look closer at the main protagonists of Miyazaki’s films, you may notice a pattern: they’re almost always little girls that get into some sort of trouble but eventually overcome those difficulties and get a happy ending. This is how you know that Miyazaki is a proper feminist. In his world, these little women are the role models who save the day and never shy in the face of danger. Probably the youngest of them is a cute little tot named Ponyo, who comes from the deep blue sea.

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4. All kinds of witches

In Miyazaki’s world, no character feels the same, especially when it comes to the antagonists. Yubaba, the evil bathhouse mistress from “Spirited Away,” for example, has a very cute twin sister, Zeniba. Sophie from “Howl’s Moving Castle” is watching after a witch who turned her into an old lady. And then we have the 13-year-old Kiki of the “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” who delivers packages on a broomstick and is generally cute as heck.

5. Spirits, good and bad

Generally speaking, Miyazaki’s movies don’t usually have a bad guy, but more often than not some nasty-looking spirit or creature will be posed as the film’s antagonist. Just because they look horrifying, doesn’t make them evil, right? In “Spirited Away” there are hundreds of Yokai, most of which are having fun. Kodama, the forest spirits in “Princess Mononoke,” are also a neutral party. Through characters’ attitude towards spirits and deities, the director reveals what they really are. Using these interactions, Miyazaki shows the harmony between the human and the spiritual worlds.

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