Following on from my post of a few weeks ago where I discussed how part of the reason I wished to visit Japan was to do with all of the Studio Ghibli films I have watched, I am this week exploring some of those very films!
In my opinion, the best time to watch a Studio Ghibli film is on a dreary, hungover Sunday snuggled up on a sofa with (or without) a loved one, where you can sink into the magical escapism of these very special films. With their fantastical characters, idylic settings and dreamlike stories, they are perfect to retreat into when the real world just isn’t cutting it.
Although I could not tell you detailed facts about the plots of many of the Studio Ghibli films I have seen, I definitely remember how contented the beautiful, vibrant artwork and emotive soundtracks made me feel.
Another, more cerebral, reason I am interested in Studio Ghibli films, is to do with the cultural and lingual differences between the original Japanese films and the American dubbed versions that I watch (I make the point that they are dubbed in ‘American’and not in English as the translations noticeably use American phraseology). I wrote my Undergraduate dissertation on language in cinema, in terms of multilingualism and subtitling and, as a result, I am very curious about how my perception of the films, their messages and their nuances, is filtered through the American dubbing.
Laputa: Castle in the Sky
I was inspired to watch Laputa: Castle in the Sky after listening to the song Hey Beau by Dillon. I was interested in the lyrics about ‘robots helping find a crystal’ and when I looked the song up I was pleasantly surprise to discover it was about a Studio Ghibli film which I had never seen (although it was a bit of a spoiler that film was going to be about robots helping someone find their crystal)!
In Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Sheeta and Pazu team up with some pirates in order to search for Laputa, a mythical castle in the sky, using Sheeta’s crystal amulet whilst evading government agents also trying to capture the crystal. A key theme is how nature and technology must work together in order to protect the future, which is demonstrated in the film by the robots who care for the gardens on Laputa.
Kiki’s Delivery Service
This film is a joy to watch and has one of those premises that you can’t quite believe no one has ever done before. Simply, it is the coming of age story of a young witch who uses her broom flying skills to set up a delivery service once she leaves home.
Kiki’s Delivery Service emphasises one of my favourite things about Studio Ghibli films which are the strong, young female leads. Young girls are the protagonists of most, if not all, Studio Ghibli films and the varied storylines, backgrounds, personalities and professions given to them put other animated films, indeed most films, to shame.
Arguably the best known Studio Ghibli film in the English speaking world, Spirited Away won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and I think it was also the first Studio Ghibli film I saw. This classic features the story of Chibiro, who is forced to work at a bathhouse, which can easily be seen as doubling as a brothel, after her parents are transformed into pigs.
A unique element of Studio Ghibli films is that they often have strong moral messages and, for all it’s popular success, Spirited Away is no different. There is much discussion about the meanings of Spirited Away, but I would argue that it explores ideas around capitalism, Western influence in Japan (linked to ideas of capitalism) and corruption, which I see in the bathhouse/brothel element.
When Marnie Was There
This is the Studio Ghibli film which I saw the most recently. When Marnie Was There feels quite different in plot and general feeling to the above films, which can be explained in part by the fact that it was made after the retirement of Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki. I did, however, really like When Marnie Was There and thought it was another gem of a film.
The key relationship between the two central characters, Anna and Marnie, is very intriguing and although I had worked out the mystery in their pasts’ relatively early, it was enjoyable to see how things played out. I also appreciate how the location, as in the other films we have discussed, became a key element in the story which really influenced how I felt about the film as a whole.
Let me know what Studio Ghibli films you have seen and please recommend some similar films to me! J 🙂