You can’t over-emphasise the importance of Hayao Miyazaki’s work. While he is by no means the only creative force at Studio Ghibli, he is responsible for some of its finest films, as this collection proves.
The Castle Of Cogliostro (4/5) saw Miyazaki putting his own spin on the character of rogueish thief Lupin, turning him into a loveable rascal and creating a hugely entertaining caper as our hero tries to save a princess from the titular fortress.
He adapted his own manga for Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind (4/5) , which shows him already depicting strong heroines and the importance of existing in harmony with nature to create a real emotional impact.
Laputa: Castle In The Sky (4/5) is more of an adventure story, as a boy and girl try to evade government agents to find the long-lost floating city of Laputa. It’s a little overlong, but beautiful to look at, and the sky pirates are a fantastic bunch of scene-stealers.
My Neighbour Totoro (5/5) is Miyazaki’s first masterpiece. The story (two girls encounter friendly forest spirits when they move to be nearer to their mother) is simple and more grounded than his previous works, but it’s beautifully affecting, and Totoro is a wonder.
Kiki’s Delivery Service (HHHHH) is more lively but no less heartfelt, as a young witch tries to make her way in the world without losing her natural spark.
Porco Rosso (4/5) was also set in Europe, with its between-wars tale of an Italian air-force pilot turned pirate hunter who is cursed to look like a pig. It’s got a great noir atmosphere, is loaded with dry humour, and his love of flight is on display.
He then delivered a pair of masterpieces: Princess Mononoke (5/5) is an affecting fairy tale, as Prince Ashitaka tries to prevent others from destroying the forests and enraging the gods and spirits within. It’s still surprisingly brutal in places, as the environmental message fiercely comes through alongside the beautifully created otherworldly elements.
Spirited Away (HHHHH) won an Oscar and brought Ghibli to the attention of the mainstream. It’s still every bit as bewitching, as he plunges his young heroine into a bathhouse for spirits, opening the door to a world of strange creatures, dark surprises and wonder.
Howl’s Moving Castle (4/5) is a slightly cluttered but visually stunning adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’ book, with a young hatmaker transformed into an old woman by a mean-spirited witch before taking up with the titular wizard. Sofi is one of the most winning of Ghibli’s many brilliant heroes, while rounded characters and undertones of moral responsibility give it depth.
Ponyo (4/5) is a heart-warming tale of a young fish-girl who rebels against her father and goes to live with a young boy and his family. Unexpectedly affecting and beautifully created, it’s an utter joy.
The box-set also includes Miyazaki’s lovely farewell The Wind Rises, about a young man designing fighter planes in the lead up to World War II.
The only drawback is that the sole extra feature is a bonus disc containing Miyazaki’s warm, funny 90 minute-farewell press conference. With a £180 price tag, you have to ask yourself if you want the box, or if you’d rather buy the Blu-rays separately.