Studio Ghibli: a reminder to enjoy life

The Japanese animation Studio Ghibli was established on June 15 1985 by Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, amongst others. Miyazaki and Takahata both had experience in animation before joining forces and additionally, previously worked together on numerous projects. One of Studio Ghibli’s first films, 1988’s My Neighbour Totoro, was a huge success and coincidentally became a prime example of a typical Ghibli film: amazing visuals, multidimensional characters and most noticeably: strong female characters. I want to take the time to analyze Ghibli’s most notable elements and how its films create a familiar yet new space for the viewer to escape reality.

Relaxing visuals

While some of Ghibli’s films focused more on action, a great deal of them would focus on everyday life. And while these films would often still include supernatural elements, it could always be traced back to the portrayal of life on earth. Even something as simple as making food is not ignored; from ingredients to the final product, the meal gets its moment of glory. The way Studio Ghibli accomplishes this is due to its pacing. Ghibli’s films often make use of slow pacing and favor showing frames introducing the surroundings or little details we would otherwise miss. With these close-ups, you are taking into the environment and can almost feel or hear the dripping rain or the sound of birds chirping in the background. Another key visual of Ghibli’s films are the backgrounds. All backgrounds are traditionally painted with watercolor paint and often have a cohesive, pastel and warm feel to it.

Animation stil from The Secret World of Arriety (2010), by Studio Ghibli, source:

Strong female characters

As mentioned before, Ghibli is known for its strong female characters. A lot of these characters are children or early teens. Even though this might seem like that this would make their movies solely directed at children, this is not the case. The children in Ghibli’s films are always being their authentic selves; full of energy, wild, naive and most importantly: young. The characters go through complicated character development and come out a changed person at the end of the film. The portrayal of childhood could not only appeal to the children watching these films but adults as well. This portrayal can create a sense of nostalgia and perhaps even a greater appreciation for our childhoods. A prime example of this is Ghibli’s 1991’s Only Yesterday. Following a 27-year old woman from Tokyo as she escapes to the countryside on a trip, this film also focuses on moments of the woman’s childhood. The woman herself gets nostalgic for all the fun moments she remembers from her childhood and reflects on them as she simultaneously starts to figure out what she truly wants to do with her life.

So for those feeling down or wishing to relax, try and watch one of Studio Ghibli’s films and watch as your appreciation for life will once again emerge. These films are here for us in these trying times of chaos, pandemics and crises, to remind us that even something as simple as making breakfast can be seen as something beautiful and worthwhile.