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Hayao Miyazaki: The Vindication of the Role of Women in Cinema

Strong and empowered women are those that Hayao Miyazaki recreates All of them, in each of their worlds, play a fundamental role where they do not need to be saved by the male sex, but rather they develop autonomously, transforming themselves into the heroines of their own stories.

This is not new, and although it has become increasingly recurrent to see women as protagonists, without minimizing their problems and generating debate with how they perform.

One of the thanks of the house of animation in general, and of Miyazaki in particular, is that they disguise great truths in a resource so vilified (even today) as that of animation.


With Japanese animation it has never been easy to get everywhere. There are many people who can not stand the language and Ghibli (and the oriental cinema despite its massiveness), being so opposed to what happens in the West (especially if it is the film industry), did not have many Possibilities for him to escape from the “under” in which he was plunged for years on this side of the planet.

But things changed when one of these films reached worldwide success and was crowned with an Oscar for the best animated film in the 2003 awards.

As the years have passed, great filmmakers, cartoonists and critics have unveiled their fascination for all that Miyazaki creates and how he is able to create life stories that are capable of capturing images that escape the possible, the credible, approaching the imagination of the youngest with contents that easily fascinate the greatest, leaving aside the debate about who are the characters that move the plot . The political and social are disguised with the beauty of the images and endearing characters that mark anyone who settles to watch any of his films.

Hayao Miyazaki extols the role of women in the history of Japanese animation, changing the paradigm that placed the female gender as the weaker sex in cinema, and in life in general.


Ahuyendanto prejudice

The Spanish psychologist and researcher Trinidad Núñez, wrote an essay on sexism in movies and animation series, which highlights the concept of stereotype as the promotion of a prejudice.

For her, “the power of these images together with the force of words leads us to idealize the characters and certain lifestyles.

In addition, we can not forget that most of the time we go to the movies we do it in a relaxed way, we go unprepared, we do not go with critical eyes … And in that way we allow ourselves to be impressed more easily.

We must also recognize that the film usually has an ideological charge (that is why in some cases there is censorship) while having an emotional and social burden. So we could say that it has potentially “side effects”. “

That is why animated film is important because, although it is complex to see it right away, it feeds or weakens the pre-established concepts, the ideas you came up with before setting out to watch a movie.

And that, finally, can make a difference in the spectators, especially in the minors and in their way of perceiving the world.


In addition to considering the works of Miyazaki and the Ghibli studios as masterpieces, sources of inspiration, demolition of prejudices and a visual delight thanks to its colorful, careful and spectacular aesthetics, it was never a secret that what the director was looking for was to develop characteristics powerful in characters that, generally, were left in the background throughout the history of cinema. The vindication of women came hand in hand with films such as “La Princesa Mononoke” (1997), “Mi vecino Totoro” (1988), “El Viaje de Chihiro” (2001), “Ponyo” (2008), “Kiki, the Witch Apprentice “(1989).

But not to be confused, we will follow a chronology and review three films, placing special emphasis on the performance of the female sex and how its protagonists act in relation to the other characters that appear in the story.

“Mi Vecino Totoro” (1988): Nature, fantasy and curiosity

Two sisters, Mei and Satsuki , aged six and eleven, move home with their father. Thanks to the curiosity of the youngest is that they meet mysterious and tender beings in and around the house. One of them was a huge and strange protective spirit of the forest: Totoro.

Set in the 50’s, was awarded as the best animated film in history according to the British magazine Time Out, leaving in second place to ” Snow White and the seven dwarfs .” But, why “Mi Vecino Totoro” vindicates the role of women in animated films?

The answer is simple: because it positions two small girls as the protagonists of a story where the illness of their mother does not become a perpetual suffering, but they develop their lack awakening an imaginary characteristic of infants, transforming their daily life into an enriching adventure and extraordinary.


Both go into a world that connects them directly with the forest and with the creatures that live there, creatures that, by the way, only they can see.

His interaction with the mysterious beings becomes tremendously close and almost accomplices, helping and transforming everything in the most wonderful scenarios. The duality that exists between reality and the fantasy that these girls live is what stands out and what makes everyone happy to see the film.

Their personalities and their interaction with the other characters, remember the innocence and kindness in people and, although Totoro and Gatobus steal the looks, the personalities of Mei and Satsuki are what make the story unforgettable.

“Princess Mononoke” (1997): Epitome of ‘girl power’

Easily, one of the most remarkable women in the entire universe created by Hayao Miyazaki. The skill and personality of one of its protagonists, San,steals all eyes because, basically, you do not see women of that style in the cinema. And less in 1997, year in which this film was released.

In addition to the well-known love felt by Hayao Miyazaki for nature, which is faithfully reflected with what happens in “Princess Mononoke”, San, the protagonist and declared enemy of the human race, stands as a strong character with character despite not being the main one. Although there is a love story between the protagonist and San, this line of argument is not the one that stands out, but the events that take place there, where fantasy, nature and adventure are intertwined.


The humanity of Miyazaki’s work is embodied, in a certain way, in this film. Where the environmental problems of the XXI century are reflected in a poetic way thanks to the intervention of epic characters and unforgettable women.

As Ignacia Casals announces , in the cinema “we have some of these stereotypes, namely, the evil woman, the woman who fulfills her” social function “, the woman who is the object of desire or the fetish woman, the woman who is looking for the prince charming and the heroine woman “ and with Miyazaki, it’s all about heroism and women who know what they want.

“The journey of Chihiro” (2001): From the whim to the growth

“The journey of Chihiro”, also known as “Spirited Away” is the most acclaimed feature film in the history of Ghibli Studios.

His insertion in the American cinema was key to “normalize” the Japanese animation in the western conematographic market and give the opportunity to foreign films in regard to animation, coming out of what presented Dreamworks, Pixar or Disney.

Winner of an Oscar, the story of Chihiro is marked by magic, by the director’s own experiences and by Japanese mythology, like almost all the universes created by Miyazaki.

She, furious at her change of house, enters with her parents into a completely unknown world, which they arrive by mistake after they have deviated from the road. Chihiro must face all kinds of creatures, those that will help him face his fears, to know himself and to mature to get his parents out of a spell made by the Yubaba witch, who turned them into pigs.


This film, which is sixth in the ranking created by Time Out, presents the phases of a girl who is like any other. The portrait of the normality of the character makes it close and that this abstract and magical world of which she becomes part, is easily recognizable as scenarios of everyday life. The evolution of Chihiro throughout the film is the one that draws attention and transforms an ordinary girl into a heroine who never gave up.

Although the role of women has been changed in the film industry, specifically in that dedicated to animation, and there have been several films that have tried to replicate what Hayao Miyazaki has achieved through his almost 30 Years acting as a film director (“Brave” and “Coraline”, as examples to highlight in the recent western film industry), there is still a long way to go.

Miyazaki’s work stands out as a work that not only enhances the beauty of animation, treating it in a careful and elegant way – especially in regard to landscapes – it is also characterized by creating characters with whom one feels identified.

It is fortunate that women of strong and diverse personalities come hand in hand with this creation, since it provokes and helps to forget the prejudices faced by women both in film and in the daily life of their lives.


The fact that they are female characters who face diverse and chaotic scenarios, ends by humanizing and interceding in the actions that these women and girls exercise in each of the films described above. The constant struggle and not to lower the arms is a characteristic worthy of any superhero and these characters, but without a cape, manage to become eternal and endearing in anyone who settles down to watch a film by Miyazaki.

The princesses in distress are not part of the universe of Hayao Miyazaki, but complement the other characters and nothing is in the background.

The humanizing capacity that women have in each of their jobs show that, thanks to their different skills, their psychological and physical strength, and their distinctive way of dealing with the different problems they are part of, Miyazaki’s and its fixation by strong female characters is not born from a chance, but it works with every detail, which includes the development of contrasts and inner struggles that feed the character and make it close to the public.


With Hayao Miyazaki, definitely, stereotypes about the performance of the female role in the history of cinema are relegated and, without a doubt, has ended up transforming how women are planted on the stage of animation creating complexity, admiration and Closeness thanks to each of the characters created in the diverse and magical worlds that Ghibli and Miyazaki were part of over the years.



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