Table of contents

My neighbor Totoro

A story about children discovering the world

Spirits show up first as the positive formulation of a negative: The intrusion of dirt or decay on a disused house. We encounter nature, in a sense, in that in which gets in the way of the work we get out of our artifacts. Thinking of soot […]

Porco rosso

Miyazaki says, Porco Rosso was a silly thing to do: A move for children that cannot be understood by children.

Porco Rosso is a man alone. He was once a flier, with all the manly adventure & romance of flying, especially during the early years, during the war. But he lost a friend […]

Mononoke-hime 3

Why is the spectacle of nature a political crisis?

It seems to be the case that the core of the story is an investigation into immortality. Ashitaka may be trying to save his life from his deadly curse–or maybe he just wants to learn what it means to die. His early show of piety […]

Mononoke-hime 2

What do we learn by suffering?

In what ways are Mononoke & Ashitaka the same? They ride wild beasts; they are trained warriors; they’re doomed because they want to protect something ancient from change. They are also not Japanese. He is an Emishi prince, a remnant of centuries past, of a race of horse-archers […]


Are we proud of our strife?

Ashitaka is the prince of a tribe who has hidden away from Japan’s unification politics. One day, a monster attacks his village. Ashitaka is cursed for killing him. Modernity has come to his people another way, by the gun which made the boar into a demon. By iron, […]

The wind rises

On terrible beauty

The boy Jiro wants to design planes. He dreams of flying. He cannot become a flier himself, because of his eyes, but he takes his hopes with him into engineering school. It’s important to notice early on that there is a kind of blindness in what he’s doing: It’s always going […]

Pom poko 2

Some reflections on the resilience of beauty

Now we can go back to the tabloids. We’re told, the antics of the raccoons–the unexplained, the shocking, the thrilling–were abandoned in favor of the scandals of the politicians & celebrities. Anger at injustice & the unleashed eroticism of democracy blind the people to the stories Isao […]

Pom poko

Moral & metaphysical reflections on nature

Human beings began in the Sixties to cut down the forests around Tokyo to accommodate population growth & their newfound prosperity. The raccoons therefore have to fight against the creatures to whose leftovers they are drawn. Raccoons are human-like in their ability to shapeshift & their irresponsible pleasure […]

Howl’s moving castle 2

Some notes on character How helplessness causes the plot

Sophie’s absent mother thinks beauty is something you use to get good things from other people. She’s husband-hunting. This beauty turns out to hide callousness & more than a little evil. This comes from a sense of entitlement: If you’re beautiful, people treat you as […]

Howl’s moving castle

Love without patience

The most important thing about this story, the plot makes no sense. I’ll write later about the characters–for now let’s try to figure out why this is so. Two stories have Howl at the center. Two women chase after him, the king’s witch & another witch. The one starts a war; […]