While the rumors of Studio Ghibli’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated (the studio will take a break and rethink its entire structure), it still made me think about how much I love the production company and Hayao Miyazaki’s cinematic imagination. I’ve said before how I can’t wait until my future-kids see My Neighbor Totoro, but there are a few other reasons why it’ll be a shame Studio Ghibli closes up shop for good.
1. The characters
The characters that exist in Ghibli’s world are breathtakingly weird and amazingly complex. Where else can you see a fish girl who loves ham (Ponyo), or a giant rabbit-like forest creature with a penchant for umbrellas (My Neighbor Totoro), or a teen witch with a talking black cat (Kiki’s Delivery Service)?
2. The imagined worlds
While the stories stem from familiar old-as-time tales, like Ponyo to A Little Mermaid or The Secret World of Arrietty to The Borrowers, the worlds within Ghibli’s movies are so fully formed and detailed. In the fantastical Spirited Away, a little girl gets trapped in a spirit world where people turn to pigs and babies morph into fat mice, and that’s nothing compared to Porco Rosso, where a war veteran/bounty hunter is a pig.
3. The voiceovers
While I’m Team Subtitles, at least the actors and actresses Ghibli casts for their English translations are appropriate. Of course Liam Neeson would play the king of the sea to Cate Blanchett’s queen and goddess of mercy in Ponyo, and Christian Bale would be an eccentric wizard who can turn into creatures in Howl’s Moving Castle, and Amy Poehler and Will Arnett would be married (*sob*) borrowers in Arrietty.
5. Better children’s movies
Studio Ghibli films work both for adults and children because of their dual dark and light nature. There are grand lessons to be learned about environmentalism and letting the forest be (Princess Mononoke), or being open to change (Spirited Away). But they’re dark, too, like in The Wind Rises, when Jiro realizes his creations are being used for evil. Plus, none of the films end with a CGI rat dancing to a Black Eyed Peas song.
Nadia Chaudhury periodically gets the Ponyo theme song stuck in her head.