Courtesy of Studio Ghibli

Still from "My Neighbor Totoro"

October 26, 2020

The Magic of Studio Ghibli

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A child can spend a Friday night after school, munching on chips before dinner is ready, sitting in front of the TV — almost too close — eyes wide, watching Spirited Away by Studio Ghibli. Thirty years later, that same child, on a Friday night after a long day of work, eating leftover takeout, remote in hand, lounging on the couch is still eyes wide watching Spirited Away. It’s not an unheard of experience, especially when discussing childhood movies, but Ghibli tends to have a special heart in the places of people because of its movies of detailed animation, a nostalgic aesthetic, beautiful color palettes and most of all, a world that seems unimaginable, come to life. The peak of its popularity was in the early 2000s when Spirited Away was released — it’s safe to say that Ghibli is making its own comeback. This traditional and nostalgic film company is not being revived because of its release of new moves, but instead, with the help of a new social media platform and the establishment of the “Japanese anime aesthetic.”

Tiktok. The word of the year. The platform that’s been threatened to be shut down several times by the United States government has aided Studio Ghibli’s revival enormously. Not to say the Japanese anime aesthetic did not exist before the creation of Tiktok, it just came to light with the popularity of the platform. So, what are people obsessing over about Ghibli? Couple things. The biggest one being Japanese food animation. I have little to no words to explain why it is an aesthetic. I mean look at it.

Stills from Studio Ghibli films

Stills from Studio Ghibli films

It looks good. And for those of you who watched Spirited Away, it may be a little messed up plot wise (with the pig transformations and the abandonment part), but you can never deny the fact that when you watched it, your mouth began to drool. Another reason for its popularity is the trend of all things vintage returning! Ghibli is known for its detailed hand-animated 2D animations and most of its popular movies being made in the 90s or the early 2000s, it definitely fits the vintage trend. There are several other reasons, but a large one is the normalization of anime.

Western cultures have perceived anime to be a fetish or niche interest for decades. Until now, there haven’t been many strides made forward for anime communities. Studio Ghibli is at the forefront of destigmatizing anime culture, and although viewers may argue it doesn’t fall under the category of “anime,” it is certainly a Japanese descended animation. Ghibli is vastly seen as more similar to mainstream animes such as Naruto, Pokemon and Dragon Ball — the shows that people grew up with in English dubbed, so it never crossed their mind about the beloved cartoons being foreign. Nevertheless, it makes sense that adults or teenagers now are more accepting of foreign cinematography, in particular anime.

The renowned director, leader and figure head of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki, after announcing his retirement in 2013, announced recently that he will be returning again to the industry. Director of films including Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Castle in the Sky; he greatly influences all the movies of Studio Ghibli. His return has been the biggest news of the animation world, and Miyazaki has even decided to partake in a completely different realm of Ghibli’s image: CGI animation. It’s a far step from the original hand drawn animations and cartooning, but Miyazaki has agreed to leave his legacy on the note of the future of animation.

With a step forward in CGI animation, Ghibli has proven that its name has yet to die out and will continue to be one of the figureheads of not only animation, but also of childhood.

 

Katie Lee is a freshman in the College of Engineering. She can be reached at kjl84@cornell.edu.