The Magic of Studio Ghibli's Animation


Ting Chen

Studio Ghibli Logo
Studio Ghibli Logo


The best parallel for Studio Ghibli in American culture is Disney, and thus Hayao Miyazaki is sometimes known as the Japanese Walt Disney. However, Miyazaki himself always disdained that title as though he took inspiration from early American animated works including those of Disney, his works have always had more mature themes compared to those of the West. While in America, animation is often disregarded as nothing more than children’s entertainment, in Japan, animation is a legitimate storytelling vehicle where mature themes can be expressed to both adult and child audiences. Studio Ghibli combines the fanciful settings and styles of Disney with thought provoking themes as it concentrates on the emotional aspects of its characters instead of the action. This focus on emotion is what lets the films provide answers to the questions of human existence. How do we overcome challenges? Why do good people do bad things? How do we be happy and find fulfillment? The main reason why people enjoy Studio Ghibli films so much is because they show us humanized characters who we see ourselves in. Thus, we feel empathy for the characters as well as reality of the world we are viewing. By the end of a movie, we understand ourselves better after seeing the characters’ experiences in the story as they resonate with what it's like to be human.




Spirited Away


Spirited Away
Spirited Away

The most famous of Hayao Miyazaki's works, Spirited Away won an Academy Award in 2003 for Best Animated Feature, making it the only Japanese as well as hand drawn film to win an Academy Award. Miyazaki also famously refused to attend to Oscars in protest of the United States involvement in the Iraq War, stating "I didn't want to visit a country that was bombing Iraq." In the movie the protagonist Chihiro and her family are moving in to their new home when the father takes a wrong turn and unwittingly enters a world meant for spirits. The parents eat some food meant for the spirits and turn into pigs, thus Chihiro must work for the witch who owns the world around them in a bathhouse in order to free her parents. The film itself contains many recurring themes in Miyazaki's films which include a strong, young female protagonist, overcoming challenges and growing in the process, animism and a sense of magic, a blurred line between good and evil, and critique of modern society, in this case the moral failings of capitalism. Chihiro starts out as a scared, somewhat bratty child but as she journeys on her quest to free her parents, she grows independent and competent. Chihiro had lived a life of relative luxury and pleasure but once she experiences the shock of having to grow up and work in order to save her parents she grows into a more capable and stronger person through her hard work. Additionally, Miyazaki




Princess Mononoke


Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke

Unlike most of his films, Princess Mononoke contains quite a bit of violence and graphic material.





Whisper of The Heart


Whisper of The Heart
Whisper of The Heart

A bildungsroman of sorts,





Castle In The Sky

Castle In The Sky
Castle In The Sky

In my opinion, the greatest adventure film of all time.