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The Magical Storytelling of Studio Ghibli | Sage Park

Growing up, you’ve probably watched or at least heard of the phenomenal Studio Ghibli movies. Although some might think animated movies are for children only, the timelessness of the studio ghibli movies makes them appropriate and entertaining for people of all ages. These infamous Japanese animated movies often seem to carry a certain aura about them that differentiates them from western animated movies. There is somewhat of a magical allure about these 2D movies that makes it immersive and visually attractive for every viewer. The question now arises, what is it about these movies that makes it so aesthetically pleasing and how does this add to the magical, grand plotlines they present?

Putting the storytelling aspects aside, the artstyle of these movies are made to comfort the viewer’s eyes while watching. Studio Ghibli movies tend to portray nature in a soft and dainty way, adding to the major themes of ecology and environmentalism shown through many of their films. Likewise, the art utilizes a variety of vibrant and brightly pigmented colors instead of dulling them down like some animated movies do. Studio Ghibli artists especially seem to make heavy usage of the colors green and blue in backgrounds, due to the recurring themes of nature and environmentalism in their films. Naturally, these colors are the most relaxing to the human eye, because of the shorter wavelengths that cooler colors have. Movies like When Marnie was There, Princess Mononoke, The Secret World of Arrietty, Howl’s Moving Castle, and My Neighbor Totoro showcases stunning natural backgrounds that gives viewers a relaxing visual to set their eyes on in the midst of the story unfolding. Everything about these movies, including the background, are hand-painted and sketched, especially some of the earlier movies. This adds a human touch to the films, and gives it an organic feel.

Though ecology and environmentalism are two of the major themes in a lot of Studio Ghibli films, there is no outright, cliche, eco-friendly message to the audience. Rather, they show the characters fully immersed and interactive with their own environment, and as the characters explore and appreciate their outside world, viewers are encouraged to do the same as well. Even the characters themselves contribute to this comfortable storytelling. Most of the characters are written by director Hayao Miyazaki in a feminine lens, and a great majority of the heroes in the films are depicted as young children. This makes the films more approachable and appealing to younger audiences, and adds a hint of nostalgia to older audiences, since almost all of the films are made for everyone to watch as well.

Furthermore, Miyazaki has expressed his love for incorporating Japanese culture into many of his films. Spirited Away especially showcased the beautiful fusion of Shinto, Daoism, and Buddhism in Japan. In fact, the studio was first created with the purpose to explore Japanese mythology and ecology. The architecture and landscape in Miyazaki’s films aren’t just there for no reason, they serve an integral part in the magical storytelling that unfolds throughout the films. Contrastingly, Miyazaki also shows his love for European architecture and they can be seen very frequently in his films to add to the fairytale atmosphere. Howl’s moving castle, Kiki’s delivery service, and The Wind Rises are a few examples of films with European architectural influences and inspiration.

In a lot of western films, wars are often seen as a “necessary evil” of sorts, and it is something even romanticized sometimes in certain fantasy movies, where the main protagonist has to venture into war to save the day. However, Hayao Miyazaki considers war to be a senseless and illogical matter, and portrays this in his films as such. His characters aren’t participating in the war, but rather victims of it. They try to defuse the war instead of fighting it. Grave of the Fireflies is especially popular for its raw portrayal of the realities of war, and is a powerful anti-war film based on actual historic events during World War 2. Even in other films with more fantasy aspects like Castle in the Sky, Nausicaa, and Princess Mononoke, the characters seek specifically to avert war. Miyazaki’s anger towards the Iraq war directly influenced Howl’s moving castle, one of the most well-known films from the studio. The characters directly refer to the ongoing war as “this stupid war” repeatedly throughout the movie. In one of the most breathtaking scenes in the film, the character Sophie asks, “Is it the enemy’s or one of ours?” to which Howl replies, “What difference does it make? Those stupid murderers.” Many of Miyazaki’s own experiences and beliefs are intertwined in his storytelling, and this is just one example of that.

The Studio Ghibli movies are timeless dreams of art and literature. They are a nostalgic journey through the different themes of human lifes, portrayed in the realest way possible.

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