The films of Japan's great Hiyao Miyazaki contain many themes that world leaders would do well to contemplate and incorporate into the moral compass that guides them. While some of Miyazaki's works are focused on creating magical, enchanted worlds for younger viewers, a good many of Miyazaki's best films are very much aimed at worldly, adult audiences. Replete with messages of selfless love, environmentalism, anti-violence, anti-materialism, and simple wonder at the mystery of life and nature, Miyazaki has created a collection of dignified and deeply relevant films for our time. Warning: some possible spoilers below.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
In a post-apocalyptic world, humans live in terror of insects that have evolved in the toxic jungle. Human civilization consists of small villages that vie over the remains of ancient technological accomplishments, most significantly, a great weapon that has not been used for hundreds of years. The two greatest cities seek to possess the great weapon and gain control of the world. One city has avoided the fighting. The city is lead by a princess named named Nausicaa who believes that nature and humans can coexist and mutually benefit from one another. Nausicaa is captured when the Valley of the Wind is caught between two warring cities. She and her friends try to stop the war before the toxic jungle takes over the world.
Yupa: "Nausicaa! What are you doing here? This chamber is filled with toxic plants."
Nausicaa: "I collected the spores and grew them down here myself. Don't worry the plants aren't poisonous."
Yupa: "Not poisonous? Its true, the air is pure in here. But I know these plants from the jungle. These are some of the most lethal."
Nausicaa: "I irrigated this chamber using water drawn from deep underground by the castle windmill. I used soil drawn from there as well. I found that with clean water and soil, the plants from the toxic jungle aren't poisonous. All the poison is in the soil. Even the topsoil in our valley is polluted. But...I don't understand. Who could have polluted the entire earth?"
Yupa: "You discovered this all on your own?"
Nausicaa: "Yes. I was hoping to find a cure for father's illness."
Chihiro, a ten-year-old girl, has moved with her parents to a new town. After getting lost, she and her parents stumble upon a deserted theme park. The park is enchanted, and, separated from her parents, who have been transformed into pigs, Chihiro finds herself living in an alternate reality filled with spirits and magic. With the help of a boy who befriends her, Haku, she gets a job in a bath house for spirits, but must give her name away to the old lady, Yubaba, who runs the place and is given a new name, Sen. The symbols and themes are abundant as the plot unfolds. Chihiro is forced to wait on various spirits in the bath house, in fact the most difficult customers. In the end, Chihiro helps Haku remember his real name--Kohaku--and he is freed from his service to Yubaba. Chihiro's last test to be freed from Yubaba is to identify which pigs are her real parents, which she does successfully and is restored to her family.
No-Face Spirit: [offering a bowl of food] Try this. It's delicious. Want some gold? I'm not giving it to anybody else!
No-Face Spirit: Come closer, Sen. What would you like? Just name it.
Chihiro: I would like to leave, sir; there's some place I need to go to right away, please. You should go back to where you came from. Yubaba doesn't want you in the bath house any longer. Where is your home? Don't you have any friends or family?
No-Face Spirit: [sulking] No... no... I'm lonely... I'm lonely.
Chihiro: [backing away] What is it that you want?
No-Face Spirit: I want Sen... I want Sen...
[shoving a handful of gold in front of her]
No-Face Spirit: Take the gold! Take it!
Chihiro: Are you going to eat me?
No-Face Spirit: Take it!
[Boh bites him]
No-Face Spirit: Huh? Ow.
[attempts to swat Boh, but misses]
Chihiro: If you want to eat me, eat this first. I was going to save it for my parents, but I think you'd better have it.
[feeds No-Face the medicine. No-Face starts to vomit everywhere]
No-Face Spirit: ...Sen! Sen, what did you do to me?
In 14th century Japan, Ashiitaka*, the young prince of a small village, kills a demon in the form of a giant boar, but in the process he suffers a wound on his arm that curses him to a slow death as the infection spreads through his body. To try to find a cure, Ashiitaka heads west and eventually finds himself in Irontown, a mining settlement run by the cool and solemn Lady Eboshi. The mining activities are slowly destroying a nearby forest, and Eboshi's goal is to kill the forest spirit as she has no use for the gods of nature. In opposition, trying to save the forest, is a girl raised by wolves named San, aka Princess Mononoke. Ashiitaka comes between the warring sides and tries to achieve a peace. In the end, the Lady Eboshi shoots off the head of the forest spirit and Irontown and the surrounding land is nearly destroyed as the enraged forest spirit searches for its head. After Ashiitaka and San return the forest spirit its head, the land is restored.
*Note: Ashiitaka is actually spelled with only one "i", however, the Newsvine filter rather stupidly objects to the spelling and automatically replaces some of the characters with gibberish.
[In the midst of Lady Eboshi and San fighting, Ashiitaka moves through a crowd, flinging people high into the air, then he throws himself between the two, holding them apart]
Lady Eboshi: What do you think you're doing, boy?
Ashiitaka: Stay your hand. The girl's life is now mine.
[San viciously bites Ashiitaka's arm]
Lady Eboshi: [mockingly] I'm sure she'll make a lovely wife for you...
Ashiitaka: There's a demon inside of you. It's inside both of you.
[San's bite reveals the curse]
Ashiitaka: Look, everyone! This is what hatred looks like! This is what it does when it catches hold of you! It's eating me alive, and very soon now it will kill me! Fear and anger only make it grow faster!