How does Miyazaki fare with minor characters? Does he fall into the same trap that both Disney and Pixar do of defaulting to male characters? There numbers aren't as definite because while I've seen all of these, it's been a while for most of them, and I don't recognize the gender of Japanese names as well as American names. (For some minor characters I just had to go off of the gender of the voice actor's name for Disney's dub and hope it wasn't someone like Nancy Cartwright.) It's also hard to define minor vs. supporting in some cases, and my count of supporting characters is likely low. But here goes:
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind: 5 of 14 voiced characters are female (1 main: Nausicaä, at least 1 supporting: Lady Kushana)
- Laputa, Castle in the Sky: 4 of 13 voiced characters are female (1 main: Princess Sheeta, 1 supporting: Captain Dola)
- My Neighbor Totoro: 4 of 8 voiced characters are female (2 main: sisters Satsuki and Mei)
- Kiki's Delivery Service: 7 of 11 voiced characters are female (1 main: Kiki, 2[?] supporting: Kiki's mother[?], Ursula)
- Porco Rosso: 2 of 6 voiced characters are female (2[?] supporting: Gina and Fio[?])
- Princess Mononoke: 8 of 12 voiced characters are female (1 main[?]: San/Princess Mononoke, 2 supporting: Lady Eboshi and Moro; the story is largely told from Ashitaka's point of view, though)
- Spirited Away: 5 of 12 voiced characters are female (1 main: Chihiro, 1 supporting: Yubaba)
- Howl's Moving Castle: 6 of 14 voiced characters are female (1 main: Sophie, 2 supporting: Witch of the Waste and Madame Suliman)
- Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea: 10 of 14 voiced characters are female (1 main[?]: Ponyo, 2 supporting: Ponyo's and Sosuke's mothers; but like Princess Mononoke, this is largely told from Sosuke's point of view)
I added a "Main male" column to this table to better compare numbers of leading females vs. males:
|Movie||Voiced characters||Voiced female||Minor female||Supporting female||Main female||Main male|
|Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind||14||5||3||1||1||0|
|Laputa, Castle in the Sky||13||4||2||1||1||1 (Pazu)|
|My Neighbor Totoro||8||4||2||0||2||1 (Totoro)|
|Kiki's Delivery Service||11||7||4||2||1||0|
|Porco Rosso||6||2||0||2||0||1 (Porco Rosso)|
|Princess Mononoke||12||8||5||2||1||1 (Ashitaka)|
|Howl's Moving Castle||14||6||3||2||1||1 (Howl)|
|Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea||14||10||7||2||1||1 (Sosuke)|
This is 49% female characters, and 67% female leads. Quite a departure from Disney and Pixar!
There are other differences. Most notable to me, the stories may be defined by conflict, but generally not by inherent good vs. inherent evil. The "bad guys," when they exist, are often portrayed fairly sympathetically -- you can see how they came to their position, even if you disagree with it -- and they often side with the main character in the end. All of the movies feature coming-of-age stories, but this process is focused on cleverness, daring, and hard work for all characters. The movies also often focus on themes of environmentalism and pacifism. Sometimes there are love interests, but most of the stories don't revolve around them, nor do they generally end with the love interest getting together with the main character.
Studio Ghibli's other work (the stuff not directed by Miyazaki) follows a similar trend. Anime generally does not, though, so this is specific to Miyazaki and Ghibli.