If you are really an anime fan or an ‘Otaku’ especially anime by Studio Ghibli, reading meanings into every message Hayao Miyazaki and his creative crew leave in their anime production may not be hard for you. Watching simple but beautifully illustrated characters will boost your obsession with Studio Ghibli’s anime but have you ever really thought deeply about the underlying messages the creators have left for you to ponder on?
This might be a spoiler for people who are just getting into Studio Ghibli anime, however, this breakdown might also be helpful to you in order to understand the complexities of what may seem relatively simple to watch. Here we go!
Howl’s Moving Castle
Let’s get into how aesthetically pleasing this anime is. As much as it had very weird looking figures, we can’t possibly ignore how attractive the main characters are. While seeing these aesthetically pleasing visuals and the romance between Howl and Sophie, one can easily be distracted from getting the underlying message that the creators needed the viewers to see and understand.
The anime focuses very much on the wisdom and astuteness that comes with ageing. Love and Youth are other key themes; when you love, your aging process pauses. The anime emphasizes on appearances and how they do not really matter. After the Witch of the Waste curses a young and vibrant Sophie who turns into an old lady, we can see that in as much as this transformation made her a lot wiser as an old lady, her youthful spirit still remained. Regardless of this old lady façade, Howl still inadvertently falls in love with Sophie.
The matter of appearance being misleading is also seen when Turnip Head transforms into the Prince and also when the Witch of the Waste withers away into her true appearance, an old and shrivelled lady.
My Neighbor Totoro
While this may seem like kids’ anime as it involves two little sisters who become friends with a rabbit-like creature that you would think is an imaginary friend of two little girls but is actually a spirit, one might be distracted and think it is a tale for little kids. The anime has a hidden context to it that not just kids may not be aware of but adults too may likely ignore.
The rabbit-like figure called Totoro simply signifies the ‘god of death’, in other words, the ‘grim reaper’. When little Mei goes missing and her sandal is found in the pond, that meant she had drowned in the pond and after her sister, Satsuki came looking for her, in the real sense of things, only a spirit can see a spirit and for Satsuki to have seen Mei and Totoro, it only meant that she had died too.
The Cat-bus character you eventually see actually leads to the grave or the underworld. Their mother is terminally ill, hence why she can see them. However, we can’t ignore the key themes in this anime; hope and optimism.
Another very beautiful creation by Studio Ghibli. Chihiro moves with her parents to a new environment, and along the way, they find a strange looking amusement park.
In this strange place, the first key message you are likely to notice is gourmandism which will bring about different occurrences that’ll lead to the manifestation of the two emotions man struggles with – fear and anxiety.
Spirited Away explores individual identity (not forgetting who you are), adapting to unfavourable changes and most importantly, greed. As you continue seeing the anime, you will realize that growing up isn’t really about the constant addition to the number of your age and physical changes but it is about how you comprehend things/situations and show compassion and love others.
Grave of the Fireflies
First thing that has to be said about this anime is how teary you would get while seeing the anime. It is a must see anime as it emphasizes greatly on life and death which are the very inevitable factors of man’s existence. It is another anime, just like My Neighbour Totoro that Hayao Miyazaki made death the central message. The anime is about these two siblings who struggle to survive in Japan during the Second World War.
The anime depicts the emotional and psychological trauma that war brings. It also subtly focuses on the futility of outright jingoism because Seita (the boy) was so obsessed with his own pride and Japanese nationalist movement that if he had acted differently and came face to face with reality, he wouldn’t have lost his sister, Setsuko, who on the other hand was too young to comprehend the conflict surrounding her.
Fireflies in the anime signifies the children who had died at a young age during the war.
This is a very subtle and relatable anime that every youth should see. The anime brings a flush of nostalgia as it revolves around a 27 years old Taeko. As much as nostalgia brings happy memories which makes it seem like the past was better than the present, it also comes with mini tragedies of the past and how it has shaped you into the person you are in the present.
Taeko reflects on her life with flashbacks to her childhood – menstrual periods and the stigma that comes with it, not feeling good enough or generally just feeling like a fraud, idealism, dreams, reactions to your first love, heartbreaks, triumphs and basically everything that is associated with coming of age. It emphasizes the need to not sorrow over what might have been if certain actions were taken but to focus on the present while learning from the past as well as utilizing the lessons learned in moving forward.
There are more interesting and intriguing anime by Studio Ghibli that’ll leave you thinking and trying to uncover the hidden meanings behind every scene you see, however, this is where I stop. If you enjoyed reading this article and found it helpful, kindly leave a comment, like and share!
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