For painfully beautiful images and whimsical storytelling, there is nothing better than animation by Hayao Miyazaki. With intricate characters, vividly drawn worlds, and storylines that range from action to ‘right vibes’, the films captivate viewers young and old. Due to the somewhat limited catalog, Miyazaki fans always want more. So what are the best books for Miyazaki fans?
The obvious answer is to look at both the books that inspired the films and the books made from the films. Howl’s Moving Castle is both a book and a movie, delicious in both forms. Arrietty’s Secret World, with a screenplay co-written by Miyazaki, is inspired by Borrowers by Mary Norton. Miyazaki’s films are also frequently adapted into graphic novels. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Abducted as if by magic, and Kiki’s delivery service all received this treatment. There are also books of artwork from the movies. But if you’re looking for more stories that evoke Miyazaki-style feelings, you’ve come to the right place.
Books for Miyazaki fans run the gamut of age groups and genres, but there are themes that tie them together. Imaginative worlds to lose yourself in, inhabited by wonderful creatures. Determined characters who get creative and learn to believe in their own powers. Antagonists who come in various forms, often with trickster attributes that don’t fit perfectly on a spectrum from good to bad. And intrigues highlighting the responsibility of humanity to take care of our natural environment. I have curated a selection of books that tackle these themes with both serious and whimsical stories rooted in folklore or everyday life. You are sure to find one that matches your favorite Miyazaki movie.
Night lights by Lorena Alvarez Gomez
Richly illustrated graphic novels almost seem to deceive when it comes to recommending books to Miyazaki fans. But in Sandy’s bedroom, tiny stars appear in the darkness that she gathers and sculpts into creatures to play with. When a sinister force tries to control Sandy’s imaginative night world, it must show intelligence and regain control. Still, the conflict is light, the artwork is lavish, and the creatures Sandy created would be right at home in a Miyazaki movie.
Monster friends by Kaeti Vandorn
My neighbor Totoro is a bit confusing movie. It does take some liberties with what we might call the “narrative structure”. I find it best to watch with kids, who are much less bothered by the lack of intrigue than adults tend to be. Monster friends is just the book if you want adorable monsters to make friends without too much intrigue. Monsters are soft and shape-changing and gently encourage readers to grow, explore, and share their feelings.
Wake up, spring by Katherine Ferrier and Florian Ferrier
You will see that I was inspired a lot by Abducted as if by magic in this list. It’s my favorite Miyazaki movie, after all. But honestly, how can you see a graphic children’s novel about the adventures in a hotel for monsters and not think of the public baths in Abducted as if by magic? The story explores why spring has not yet arrived for Hotel Strange despite the date on the calendar. The characters embark on a journey to find Mr. Winter and see if Mr. Spring has been kidnapped. It’s charming, charming and full of humor. Something that I love deeply about Miyazaki’s films is the depiction of food, always rendered with exquisite care. Not only Wake up, spring have detailed illustrations, he and the other books in the series have recipes at the end of the book!
The door to the stairs by Katherine Marsh and Kelly Murphy
Although Miyazaki has never animated a Baba Yaga story, they seem very much in its bailiwick. Between the literally moving Howl Castle and Yubaba, the mighty witch in Abducted as if by magic, there are traces of Baba Yaga in Miyazaki’s work. So a novel that actually includes the Rogue Witch is perfect for a list of books for Miyazaki fans. In this dark and funny novel, 12-year-old Mary Hayes is finally adopted from the Buffalo Girls’ Asylum. But when she finds herself with a mysterious adoptive mother in a city full of crooks, she doesn’t know who to trust. This book is a fun take on the oft-repeated Slavic folk tales.
The girl who drank the moon by Kelly Barnhill
Truly one of my all-time favorite books, this mid-level fantasy delivers all the emotional weight of a Miyazaki movie with its fair share of whimsy and adventure. The story follows the misunderstood forest witch Xan, who is adorable despite the Protectorate’s notion of her. She nurtures the baby left to her as an offering, but nurtures her moonlight instead of starlight. This accident imbues the baby, named Luna, with extraordinary magic, which she must use to restore a troubled world. In addition, there is a little dragon and a poetic swamp monster that you absolutely must fall in love with. Although we never get the chance to have a film adaptation of this book, the text itself is pure wonder.
The beast player by Nahoko Uehashi, Translated by Cathy Hirano
Determined and intelligent female characters are everywhere in Miayazaki’s work, and Princess mononoke in particular portrays a fierce femininity. In the same way The beast player, an epic fantasy by YA about a girl who finds great power in communicating with magical animals. She will harness her powers to prevent her animal companions from being used as tools of war. These themes will sound familiar to fans of Miyazaki’s current interests in communion with the nature and futility of war.
Courageous story by Miyuki Miyabe, Translated by Alexander O. Smith
One of the reasons Miyazaki’s films are so popular with people is the complexity of the characters. High stakes may be at stake, but a central journey for the characters is to understand each other deeply. A similar atmosphere is found in Courageous story, a YA novel translated from Japanese. Wataru Minari seeks to change his life, a desire that compels him to cross the magical world of Vision, full of wonderful and fearsome creatures. He has been entrusted with a quest that promises to unlock his fate. But he also needs to figure out how to come to terms with a world where morality is much more blurry than the black and white of a typical good versus evil story.
Happy forever by Elise Bryant
Miyazaki wrote the screenplay for Heart murmur, my most recent Studio Ghibli watch. I love stories that portray a slice of life with just a touch of magical realism. Basically, the story is about a girl who is inspired to write because of her real relationships. In Happy forever, Tessa Johnson, who loves romance novels, never sees herself in the crazy books she reads. She therefore actively pursues a love story in real life to fuel her own writing. Like a Miyazaki movie, Tessa’s story is full of charm and a sincere journey to understand each other.
The eternal sea by Joshua Phillip Johnson
Miyazaki is known for his whimsical and spooky airships, as seen in Castle in the sky andNausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. The eternal sea uses the concept of imaginative ships and places them in the unique setting of vast prairie grasses. Kindred Greyreach tries to find out why her grandmother went missing in the sea. So she sets out on a journey that entangles her in politics and piracy. With environmental themes, this book will be of interest to those who enjoy Miyazaki’s more ostensibly political films.
Shadow life by Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu
Have you ever wondered what a Miyazaki protagonist would look like as an older woman? Shadow life could represent such a future. It’s a graphic novel about an old woman on the run from the assisted living facility where her children have placed her. The shadow of death has followed her and comes to claim her. But she won’t fall without a fight. Kumiko is eccentric and stubborn like any Miyazaki heroine. The book also skillfully mixes a look at someone’s everyday life with a surreal fantasy, another hallmark of Miyazai.
The priory of the orange tree by Samantha Shannon
One of my favorite features in fantasy entertainment is the creatures which can be formidable wild beasts, but are actually gentle and wise. It is often a question of approaching these beasts with the right spirit. I think of Chihiro in Abducted as if by magic and Haku, the spirit of the dragon river. The Orange Priory tree presents several fantastic creatures, including dragons, in an epic tale of a divided world. The novel weaves the threads of many richly drawn characters whose lives will intersect in their quest to prevent chaos from unleashing the world. Tané is the character riding a dragon, and the fascinating creature she meets carries the deep wisdom and empathy of many creatures in the Miyazaki universe.
I sincerely hope you can find something on this list to take you into a world of wonder and enchantment. If you’ve exhausted this list of books for Miyazaki fans, we’ve got one more movie per movie. In conclusion, did you know that this article has a soul? It is true, according to the baron of The return of the cat. He said, “Every time someone creates something with all their heart, then that creation receives a soul.”