Spirited Away

Please, Hayao Miyazaki, Animate These Books

The books I love that haven’t been turned into movies or TV shows are especially dear to me. Their one true version is in my head. Only I know what those books look like. Whenever it’s announced one of these few survivors is getting an adaptation, a little piece of my brain chips off. It’s not necessarily sad to see a book become a movie or TV show, but it does feel like theft.


If it’s being adapted by a real visionary, though, it’s different. A director with a really clear style can sometimes suit a book perfectly. Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki is one of those directors. His art style, writing style, and scene composition is consistently magical. There’s something distinctly literary about his movies. His movies continue to evolve too. His latest, The Wind Rises, is a historical drama about the designer of Mitsubishi jets during World War II.


If Miyazaki needs ideas for his next project, I’d love for him to ruin how I picture these books.


1. The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino


Baron in the Trees

Image Via Amazon


This lovely novel follows twelve-year-old Cosimo living in the French Riviera in the 18th century. After a fight with his annoying sister, Cosimo abandons the ground to live his entire life in the trees. Initially he has some help with things like food, but he eventually becomes totally self-sufficient. Although he left the ground to escape society, he finds his life in the trees does nothing but help the people below. He then falls in love with a girl, and that’s also nice.


It’s a perfect tale of youthful whimsy set in a slightly askew version of our world. Sounds pretty Miyazaki-esque to me.


2. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki


Tale for the Time Being

Image Via Amazon


This one follows two narrators. The first is Ruth, based on the author Ruth Ozeki, who lives in Vancouver and finds a washed up diary from a Japanese girl, Nao, and starts reading it. The second is from Nao’s perspective, who’s forced to move from California to Tokyo after her father loses his job. It’s a story that deals with bullying, suicide, spirituality, and general adolescent angst. But it is so funny. Ozeki absolutely nails Nao’s voice. She’s never too much of a bummer or too heavy even when the subject matter is vicious. It’s really just a great book you should read.


Miyazaki might be perfect for this because Ozeki depicts Japanese culture in an unusual, very modern way. She’s not weighed down by its rich history that’s so often mythologized, but she uses it instead to depict what Tokyo is like today. And it’s not always pleasant fun.


3. The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson


The Long Ships

Image Via Amazon


Bengtsson’s tour de force is the beginning and end of all Viking depictions. No others have to be made. The book follows Red Orm as he’s abducted by Vikings, then those Vikings get abducted by Andalusians, for whom he then serves as a slave. Through Red Orm, the reader gets to see some of the most significant moments of the Viking Age: Christianization, the turn of the first millennium, Harald Bluetooth’s reign, the Battle of Maldon, and many others. And it’s funny.


Miyazaki and…Vikings? It just sounds too delicious to pass up. His lively, light animation suits Bengtsson’s tone so well. It would be absolutely fascinating to see color applied to Vikings. Vikings are really popular right now, but nearly every depiction reduces them to stereotypes. A Miyazaki-helmed The Long Ships film would be a proper Viking saga.




4. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders


Lincoln Bardo

Image Via Amazon


After his son Willie dies, President Lincoln visits his son’s tomb by himself several times. What he doesn’t know is that Willie is in a spiritual middle ground, stuck between life and death. He’s also surrounded by a lot of other ghosts who are also stuck between life and death. Saunders’ Booker-winning debut novel is funny, sincere, and wonderfully bizarre.


The world of Willie’s cemetery is very Spirited Away-esque. The ghosts have a proper culture. Miyazaki can give Saunders’ story a wonderful new dimension. His sense of humor is also tried and true.


5. ‘The Second Bakery Attack’ by Haruki Murakami from The Elephant Vanishes


An Elephant Vanishes

Image Via Amazon


It’s a funny one. Murakami’s short story follows two troubled newlyweds who decide to rob a McDonald’s. Their reasoning is hilarious. As a teenager, the husband robbed a bakery of bread, but the baker forced him to listen to Wagner in exchange for the bread. The husband couldn’t listen to Wagner, so he didn’t steal the bread. The wife thinks this placed a curse on her husband, so they need to try again. There are no bakeries open, though. Only a McDonald’s.


It’s a quirky story, and even though it’s based in the real world, the logic is very otherworldly. That’s typical of Murakami and sometimes Miyazaki too. They’re two major Japanese artists and it would be great to see them collaborate in some way even if it’s not a direct adaptation of one of Murakami’s books or stories.




Please, Miyazaki. Don’t retire for good before you adapt at least one of these! I’m counting on The Long Ships. Pretty please?


Feature Image Via Studio Ghibli