Way back in 2006, Nayt introduced his new girlfriend to the world of anime. And his selection for my first toe-dip into that pool was Spirited Away. It was a good choice, one I’ve seen many times since. Studio Ghibli films are now part of our personal cannon. Have you heard of Studio Ghibli*? If not, they are a Japanese animation studio. And before you dismiss foreign films for straining your eyes as you read the subtitles, calm down. 🙂 Disney has provided the American audience with many English-dubbed versions of the original Japanese films.
In general, I’m a huge fan of entertainment aimed at children when it is done well, with intention and the understanding that children are capable to grasp complex truths. The first time I saw My Neighbor Totoro, I was thrilled that the plot focused on the emotional conflict of the children. American children’s films and books don’t often focus on emotional resolution. Our books and movies focus on circumstance and action. As a highly emotional person, I think this is why I have loved each Studio Ghibli film I’ve seen.
And once I find an author or movie I like, I tend to obsess a bit. My job at Half Price Books only adds fodder to the fangirl fire. So, thanks to some amazing customers parting with their collections of Studio Ghibli films, this month I’ve been able to watch a few titles I’d not seen before: Pom Poko, Grave of the Fireflies and From Up on Poppy Hill. Each are wonderful in their own way. Pom Poko is hilarious and full of adorable animals. Grave of the Fireflies is visually stunning as it rips your heart open. From Up on Poppy Hill is engaging and honest and beautiful. Each of these films deal with real, hard truths: ecology, loyalty, pacifism, death, grief, love, work. I am thrilled movies like these exist with children as the intended audience.
Jes loves to find layers**. Motivation and complex truth intrigue me. Studio Ghibli films tell more than just stories. They are telling good stories. I like being reminded that ecology and loyalty and pacifism and death and grief and love and work are important. I like expecting to be entertained and unearthing truth.
I have seen 15 of the 20 films released to date: Castle in the Sky, Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Only Yesterday, Pom Poko, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, The Cat Returns, Howl’s Moving Castle, Tales from Earthsea, Ponyo, The Secret World of Arrietty, From Up on Poppy Hill, and The Wind Rises. If I absolutely had to pick one movie from the 15 I’ve seen so far to claim “my favorite”, I would stammer for awhile and then admit it’s a 3-way tie between Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle and Arrietty. 🙂
Have you seen any Studio Ghibli films? Which are your favorites?
*note, you’ll need Google to translate their website into English if you don’t read Japanese 🙂
** Thanks Shrek for making me simultaneously want onion rings, cake and parfait at the mention of the word “layers”.