Ghibli Movies! (No Spoilers)

We just finished (re)watching the entire Ghibli Studio movie collection a couple of days ago and now I’m sad.

I’m sad because they’re over, but that’s not such a big deal, we can always watch them again.

I’m especially sad because, unlike Kokoro, I had never seen any of them up until a few years ago, while she had of course already watched them all, at least once.

Growing up in Canada and Romania, the ‘classic’ movies for kids were mostly Disney produced, so instead of Ghibli, I’ve watched ‘The Lion King’, ‘Aladdin’, ‘Beauty and the Beast, and the like.

It wasn’t until much later, in my teens, that I heard about the Ghibli Studio movies and, honestly, it’s such a pity that they haven’t been broadcasted and mainstreamed as much as they clearly deserve to be.

One of their strongest features, and one of my personal favourites, is how well-rounded, developed, and even relatable (most) of the Ghibli main characters are. There’s something very human about the characters portrayed, while their worlds are eerily similar to ours, in spite of supernatural elements added to them – think for example of ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’s World War-like setting and strong anti-war message, with an added touch of magic and wizardry.

Or if you’d like something even more recent, if you’ve ever been to Tokyo, you can even recognize the train lines, shops, or streets in some of the movies, which I was delighted to see animated!   

As far as messages go, I often found Ghibli movies to touch upon themes that are both sensitive and important in our current society, making them accessible for people of all ages. Whether it’s preserving our planet and its natural habitats, or avoiding wars, or even displaying the devastating effects of technological evolution and resource exploitation, these topics are rarely seen in kids’ movies.

Add to this some magic, a few love stories, strong friendship bonds, and unique characters and you have a recipe for successful movies for all ages!

One of the very few criticisms I originally had regarding some of the films was their ending (don’t worry, no spoilers here). It was frustrating and unsatisfying because I felt as if there were either some unresolved issues, or that the movie lacked a clear resolution. For reference for those who have already seen them, the two biggest examples I can think of are ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘Castle in the Sky’.

However, the more movies I watched, the more I realized this was an intentional choice by the writers and directors. In line with their messages and complex characters, the ending appears to be designed to let you ‘choose your own path’ or ‘draw your own conclusions’ after reflecting upon what you’ve just seen. Instead of expecting your average, typical happy ending, I began to appreciate these ambiguous conclusions because they let your own imagination and thought process do the work.

So, all I can say is: truthfully hats off to Hayao Miyazaki and his team(s) for exposing children and adults alike to issues that need discussion and to various worlds that open a small door into our past and perhaps even offer a crystal ball towards our future. As a history nerd, you already know I loved all of the historical references and settings!

If you’re wondering what my favourite movie is, I don’t think I could give you a clear answer because I loved all of them for different reasons, but I can give a ‘top 3’, in no particular order: ‘Princess Mononoke’, ‘Spirited Away’, and ‘From Up on Poppy Hill’. I also have to give a special shout out to ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ and ‘Castle in the Sky’ because these were the first two films I watched, and they got me completely hooked on the studio!

I’d recommend everyone to give these movies a chance, especially nowadays since most of them are available on Netflix in many countries. They’re perfect to watch at all times, either alone, with friends, with your family, or just about anyone else. Plus, who knows, you might fall in love with them the same way I did!