The Joys of Studio Ghibli

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Lilly Ball , Editor in Chief

It was on a bus of all places that I first witnessed the magic that is “Spirited Away.” While the rest of the passengers slept, I couldn’t move my eyes from the screen above my seat, and as I watched, slightly horrified by the unusual animation of the film, I fell in love.

For years, I had only been exposed to the simple animation of Disney films and Nickelodeon cartoons, so you can imagine my surprise at the image of Chihiro’s parents turning into pigs. But by the ending of the film, my discomfort had melted away, and I became obsessed with the bizarre Japanese movie and it’s beautiful soundtrack.

As strange as “Spirited Away” seemed to me, I was excited to discover that there were many more movies like it. The film is just one of the many masterpieces created by Hayao Miyazaki and his animation company, Studio Ghibli. Each film is its own experience, with a fantastical plot and otherworldly animation. But, possibly, the most amazing aspects of Ghibli films are the unconventional characters. Sophie, the heroine of the film “Howl’s Moving Castle,” is charitable and headstrong, yet is very insecure about her appearance. Unlike the princesses of Disney films, she is not perfect, but she is a believable character, and I would idolize her over Sleeping Beauty anyday.

While the majority of the most popular Ghibli films are those that tell fantastical stories of mythical creatures and their wild adventures, my favorite is “Whisper of the Heart,” which follows the life of a teenage girl living in a bustling Japanese city. The film is one of the studio’s smaller releases, and was not animated by Miyazaki himself, but it exposed me to a culture and language so different from my own.

Though it was the animation style of Ghibli films that initially hooked me, the sheer alienness of it all is what kept me motivated to delve deeper into the films.

As someone who has lived their entire life in Diamond Bar, I have grown accustomed to Asian cultures existing in my community, but they are the Americanized versions. These Ghibli films allowed me to view the stories and beliefs of  Japan without any filter, and from the perspective of someone not trying to make it more palatable for Americans. From “Spirited Away,” to “Howl’s Moving Castle,” and “My Neighbor Totoro,” I owe my dreams of Japan to Miyazaki, the man who created the world of Ghibli.