Conning wizards, building businesses, chopping arms off—the characters in Miyazaki movies are always getting so much done. This, in essence, is the Miyazaki effect – you see all these amazing characters taking control of their lives, and not only are you inspired, you’re mysteriously motivated. Before you @me, I love all kinds of Gibli movies, but gracious, isn’t there just something else about Miyazaki? The energy is quite distinct.
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I doubt it’s just me. You watch them run through the forest and scrub floors, and suddenly you want to clean your whole house and maybe bake something. I can’t claim credit for the term’s coinage—I’m referring to a post I saw some months ago, in which the poster outlines this ‘Miyazaki Effect’. The feeling of energy and organizational ability that comes out of seeing Howl’s or the bath house’s newly sparkling floors. There’s something there.
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Not to get too deep, but I do think a big part of it is the feeling the movies give you. No, they’re not really optimistic, as such—Nausicaa’s dress is that magical blue from the blood of the creatures she was trying to save. Calcifer is doused. A river will always be a river. I think this is better. The blind optimism of many things, especially much children’s media, makes it unconvincing. Miyazaki’s movies don’t fall prey to this flaw, and I think the reason is simple. They’re not optimistic, as such—they’re hopeful.
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When Kiki snatches a broom and runs through the street, trying to get airborne, you can feel it. It’s the way we’ve all been down and still fought our way into the sky. It’s how Satsuki runs after Mei, screaming, untiring. The magic in Miyazaki movies, the good, helpful magic, is all hope. Howl expands his home hoping his new family will stay. The cat bus arrives when the sisters want to see their mother, want her to get better.
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Nausicaa wants peace, thinks it’s worth nearly dying for, and her faith and conviction lead not only to peace, but healing—physical, yes, on the Ohmu’s glowing whiskers, but also peace for her people, the idea that the choice is not being crushed by empires or poison forests. The world seems like it’s already ended, like they’re counting down the days, but she falls through to a place where the air is clean, where it is healed. She tells us it’s never too late to start trying. To love the world.
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Sure, the stakes in our lives might be lower. Or at least a little more surmountable. But it’s the same feeling that makes you leave the movie straining for the sky. Even if it’s just the energy you needed to do your dishes, its basis is the same—the hope that even though it’s hard work, life can be better. You can make it so much better.
This is the point where I confess that Howl’s Moving Castle is my favorite Miyazaki movie by far. They’re all good! But I connect with Sophie on a deeper level. If you’ve yet to read the book, get ready to have the experience of the movie turned up to eleven. Sure, it’s not as soft or as serious, but believe me when I say you will not miss it. Obviously the movie is iconic, but the book characters are on a whole other level. Thanks for coming to my ted talk. Here are some memes.
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Who doesn’t want to be very very old? Sure, hypothetically the curse is a punishment, but Sophie clearly finds it as liberating as I would. Meek little Sophie Hatter starts breaking into magic houses and bullying demons. Talk about a glow up. In the book, Howl tries to lift Sophie’s curse, but her own magic keeps it in place. It really goes to show they’re a good match. She’s ridiculously stubborn and he’s just ridiculous. Still, we stan, and I think we can all relate.
It’s What he Does
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This might be the hottest take I’ve ever seen. Of course he bites her hair. It looks like stardust! And what does Howl do to stars? Eats them. You’d think he’d learn his lesson. Unless you’ve seen the movie, read the book, or heard about literally any of his choices. Learn his lesson? This is a man who literally will not stop ghosting immensely powerful witches and then running away. The mistakes are endless. She looks surprised here, but I don’t think anything can surprise Sophie anymore.
It’s a Different Vibe
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I’m not going to get all ‘the book was better’ on you because I absolutely adore both, but book Sophie is an honest to god force of nature. When she gets mad she kills an entire garden. It’s sort of the spiritual opposite of Howl’s slime meltdown, I guess, because it’s productive, but still absolutely ridiculous. Just talk about your feelings instead of throwing dramatic magic everywhere! You guys are too powerful to be this messy.
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Sure, education is important, but at what cost? What is it about just going to class that ages me fifty years? I can’t be alone. Maybe it’s the fluorescents, maybe it’s learning, maybe it’s the fact that I’m too lazy to wear my glasses at home, but there’s a sharp contrast. I don’t even need a witch to curse me. Just tell me I have sixty pages to read in two days and I wither like the witch of the waste trying to climb the stairs. Stay strong, and don’t use school mirrors.
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True story, every day for about a month I walked past a closed popup, but it’s banner was still outside and described it as ‘a slime experience’. Who would want that? Howl, apparently. I’ve had some hair dye gone wrong, and I’ve been dumped, but never have I flooded my entire living room and half of Porthaven. He just hired Sophie, she just got everything clean, and now he pulls this? Still, it’s one of the most memorable scenes, and characterizes Howl pretty powerfully without any explanation needed.
Riddle me this: What is everywhere in your room but doesn’t clutter up any space?
Dust is actually very important, as far as books go. They can set a scene, they can create a mood, they can be an important plot element. So before you go off and clean your room or procrastinate about cleaning your room, you might just want to read through this list about our top 8 books that feature dust as an important element in the story.
Before we get dark, let’s start with a happy children’s book. Starting in 1963, Amelia Bedelia stars, well, Amelia Bedelia, which started this hit children’s series. Funny, brilliant, this stories often follow Amelia Bedelia, a maid in the Rodgers family, who often misunderstands various commands of her employer by always taking figures of speech and various terminology literally.
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Notably, she takes the command “dust the furniture” literally and, well, mayhem ensures.
Lucky, after a series of comic misunderstanding and general mayhem, Amelia Bedelia is usually able to the win the family over with a delicious pie or cake. After a while the Rodgers family becomes astute enough to realize that Amelia Bedelia takes everything they say literally so, instead of firing her, they give her more specific commands such as “undust the furniture”.
So remember: You shouldn’t ‘dust around the house’, you should ‘undust the house’. Or you can dust the house. I don’t care, you do you.
With that out of the way, let’s get dark. Dust can set a scene, set a mood, and you know that things are dark when this story opens with a little girl dusting the house while her step-mother and step-sisters are lounge around the house.
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Since her father’s death, Cinderella’s has been left in the dust, left in the squalor of her step-mother’s tyrannical rule. We all know where the story goes from here, either from the Disney movie or Grimm’s Fairy Tales, with her rising from the dust and into the arms of someone who loves her.
Before the monsters of movies, Infinity War and Endgame, hit theaters, comic readers knew since 1991 that there was a chance our favorite heroes might get dusted. Though we weren’t sure if Disney was going to go through with it, we sat back in awe as our favorite characters, including Spider-Man, bit the dust.
If you want to see where this plot point came from, we’ll buy this comic and listen to Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” as you see characters you know and love and characters you don’t know but will love get dusted. Be warned:
Young and Old Sophie Hatter / Image Via Fairlight Books
The importance of dust cannot be understated. After her father dies, Sophie Hatter takes over her family’s hat shop but encounters some trouble when she meets a witch who believes Sophie is doing some magic in her territory. In the book Sophie’s guilty as charged, so the witch curses her into looking like an old woman.
She runs away and, cold alone, sneaks on board a moving castle. But she’s found out!
This is when dust comes into play. See, Sophie’s cover story is that, since the castle is old and dusty, she’s the new house keeper! A quick look around and everyone is satisfied with her story, and Sophie ends up actually cleaning the castle.
The story goes on from here, but the most important moral of the story is this: Dust is helpful.
You might know the film, the play, or Victor Hugo’s magnum opus, this story shines a lighter on the misery and the pain of poverty and finding redemption in a cruel world. From the grimy streets of Paris to the dirt of the taverns, this story is known best for this image:
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There’s a reason for that. A young girl cursed to poverty, to survive and not thrive in a dirty world, she’ll have to work hard and, with a little luck, she might be given a new start and a clean slate.
Three orphans cleaning with toothbrushes because life sucks and then you die / Image Via Fast Company
In this series the Baudelaire orphans can’t catch a break. While they are bounced around to guardian after guardian, they are met with increasingly dire circumstances and squalor beyond repair. From a greedy man who just wants them for this vast fortune to a man engulfed in smoke who keeps them (including the baby!) working in a lumber mill, the orphans are no stranger to dust, grime, filth, and dusty things.
Thankfully, they never seem to catch a case of the sniffles, so I guess they’re lucky in that regard.
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Darkly funny and disturbingly horrific, this series is certainly something that’ll make you thankful because, even though dust seems to follow you everywhere you go, at least you’re not being chased by a villain.
If you are in fact being chased by an evil villain, considering calling 9-1-1.
Does dust follow you everywhere you go? Well, that might be a good thing. In the His Dark Materials trilogy, dust are elementary particles associated with consciousness and are integral to the plot. Everyone is chasing dust.
In the first book, young Lyra is bombarded with adults who claim that dust is evil, a terrible particle that causes all the misery in the world. Even her father, Lord Asriel, tells her that
Somewhere out there is the origin of all the Dust, all the death, the sin, the misery, the destructiveness in the world. Human beings can’t see anything without wanting to destroy it, Lyra. That’s original sin. And I’m going to destroy it. Death is going to die.
In the first book, Lyra believes this wholeheartedly, but at the end of the novel her eyes are opened up to the wonders of dust when her daemon, Pantalaimon, asks her:
We’ve heard them all talk about Dust, and they’re so afraid of it, and you know what? We believed them, even though we could see what they were doing was wicked and evil and wrong…We thought Dust must be bad too, because they were grown up and they said so. But what if it isn’t?
From there, Lyra realizes:
If Dust were a good thing…If it were to be sought and welcomes and cherished..
‘We could look for it too, Pan!’ she said
The moral of the story? Don’t dust your house, because dust is magical.