5. The Cat Returns
This somewhat confounding "sequel" to Whisper of the Heart is one of Ghibli's biggest head-scratchers. Where Whisper is a quiet, restrained, and beautiful story about a young girl pushing herself to do what she loves, Cat Returns is a wild flight of fancy with exotic worlds in the clouds, cat gestapo and talking animals. The two films couldn't be any more different. Only the appearance of the Baron, a golden cat in a suit and hat, binds them together. So... why bother?
The Cat Returns is also a massive departure in style for Ghibli - so much so that it just doesn't feel like them. Instead, it feels like a diversion; a trifle thrown together to hold audiences over until the next Miyazaki joint. It's not entirely terrible, but it fails to make the connection with the audience that almost every other Ghibli film does.
But what's truly disgusting is how Cat Returns seems to encourage children to experiment with... *AHEM*... fur. Haru, the movie's heroine, is introduced to a world of cats where she goes on to dance with the very dashing and debonair Baron, and then start turning into a cat herself! Sure, Haru wants to get home, but its hard not to imagine a certain segment of the audience wanting to stay in the Cat Kingdom and "yiff" with all their favorite characters. If this movie had received the XXX rating it deserved, then maybe we could put it on the shelf with Fritz the Cat and take it off this list. As it is... this is FILTH.
6. Howl's Moving Castle
This is the Miyazaki film that grabbed the attention of a new generation of anime fans (A.K.A. bandwagon hoppers). Who wouldn't want to spend some time in Howl's castle? Visiting whichever town you want... hanging laundry in the mist-shrouded mountains... or spending mornings with a living flame who's happy to cook you breakfast?
Howl's Moving Castle prides itself on having characters who are all interesting and multi-dimensional... even the villains. What that actually translates to is Miyazaki being unable to commit to making villains stay villainous. Most of the baddies get transformed into something cute and friendly, and that quickly gets rather tiresome, as it softens the danger to the point of deflating any sense of conflict.
There's also the deus ex machina ending where almost everything is solved in a matter of seconds by the surprise appearance of a prince in disguise. That's lazy plotting, no matter how you slice it, and rather uncharacteristic of Miyazaki's typically more sophisticated approach. Again, the bulk of work seems to have gone into making this a fully realized and livable world; not into making sure anything interesting happens in that world.
More importantly, audiences should not overlook the movie's troubling suggestion that being old isn't so bad. This is patently untrue, and very misleading for young viewers! Sophie's life finally turns around when she becomes an old woman. She finds adventure, friends, fun, even the love of a handsome (if whiny) man-witch-bird-monster. How very unrealistic. The elderly are plagued by poor health, mental problems, and advanced wrinkle-face. This film just ignorantly glosses over all that. Unacceptable.
7. My Neighbor Totoro
Geez, 6 isn't enough!? Well, fine then...
Some would say this is a perfect film. Totoro is recognized the world over: a household name in Japan who's still growing in popularity in America, every year. Truly a classic character, and a heartwarming story. Some of Miyazaki's most personal, human, and affecting work...
But why does Totoro have to be so fat!?
Much like the Cookie Monster, with his chemical dependency on treats, Totoro is a poor role model. He's enormous. just disgusting. Why couldn't Mei meet a slender monster in the woods? One who enjoyed vegetables fruits, grains, and protein in sensible amounts?
Imagine that famous scene at the bus stop with a slim, healthy Totoro. His weight alone wouldn't be enough to shake the rain from the trees and, as a result, everyone would have been a lot more dry (and a lot less likely to die of heart failure before the age of 40).
Obese animals may seem like a cute idea, at first, but they aren't healthy. In fact, it's cruel to overfeed your pets. Totoro misses this exceedingly important point, and must be considered a failure as a result.
And that cat bus! You can't climb inside of animals! That simply isn't safe - for them or for you!
Previously by Alex Eckman-Lawn: