I have a nearly 130 page (and ever-growing) Google Doc called “Notes” resting on my laptop. The notes began as a way for an 18-year-old version of myself to reconcile his understanding of race up until 2013 with the realities of his experiences on this campus. Admittedly, they served as a sort of “personal revenge” against any and all comers — or, in some cases, as an impersonal gratitude. For better or worse, anyone with whom I’ve interacted in a way that felt meaningful to my growth as a human being will find themselves etched forever into this document in some form or another. However, as time has gone on, the Doc has morphed into more than just a collection of notes, becoming more of an unpolished, exceedingly rough draft.
Animation has always held a distinct position within the realm of film, enchanting viewers with its unique advantages. One of its most powerful capabilities is its ability to infuse fantastical elements into otherwise totally realistic settings. Before the advent of CGI, animation was pretty much the only way to create convincing epic fantasy worlds such as those we see in contemporary blockbusters like Avengers or Lord of the Rings. When it comes to the history of western animation, Disney towers above almost everyone else. Virtually every American child in the 20th century has come into contact with the ideals expressed in films like The Lion King.
To many, animated movies seem like a medium for children: pretty, colorful and reassuring, with straight edges and corners, gaudy colors that fit just inside the lines, and a lack of the moral ambiguity that cannot help but enter a film when the characters are played by actual humans. The work of Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation studio best known for Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, has proved again and again that animated films can be complex, provocative and even disturbing, and remain enthralling for children. However, the intrigue of Studio Ghibli’s films hardly expires at a young age. I’ve only recently come to them (I haven’t even seen the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away yet), but I have been captivated by the few I’ve seen so far. The 1991 Studio Ghibli film Only Yesterday, directed by Isao Takahata, has only just been given a United States release with an English dub, 24 years later.