Panic spread on the internet this week after Studio Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki told Japanese television that the studio would likely halt film production to restructure the company in the wake of Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement. The end result of this process would be the creation of an environment for the next generation, the Anime News Network wrote. But by Monday there were rumours that the studio would dismantle its production department or even shut its doors.
As our own columnist Linda Hägg wrote in her analysis of the rumours, Studio Ghibli has become an iconic and integral part of anime and Japanese culture in both East and West. It has made a lasting impression on millions around the world, and the 16bitkings are no exception. Below, we share some thoughts on what Studio Ghibli means to us.
Studio Ghibli’s films to me have always been a great source of escape and you were never out of imagination growing up with Ghibli, both fortunately and unfortunately. Experiencing Ghibli films throughout my childhood and teen years has let me forge a great attachment to Japanese animation and find myself subconsciously using Ghibli’s films as a standard of comparison to other animations. Although I am a great fan of popular Ghibli films such as Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro and Princess Mononoke, a film that I find very humorous and intriguing is The Cat Returns. The Cat Returns is one of my favourite films for its wonderland persuasion, manner of melting the heart and whimsical characters starring man’s best (when convenient) friend. Undoubtedly differing in pace amongst Ghibli films, I find it refreshing to see a film that as a ‘pseudo sequel’ to Whisper of the Heart, is not continuing a story on life support but rather extracting elements of an original story into a different one altogether. Despite the hearsay of ‘dismantling’ or ‘restructuring’ Studio Ghibli, I hope it will go on to continue producing films but, with Miyazaki retiring, there will be large shoes to fill. Although I feel sequels in Ghibli are out of the question, existing works are fully welcome in future animations, so that fans like me will never forget the films that were and still are close to our hearts.
Raquel De Aguiar Cassiano
For almost twenty years, Studio Ghibli has bestowed us with unforgettable adventures, magical forests and ghostly creatures alongside heartfelt and quirky characters. Reflections are often made on our relationship with nature and each other, and a recurring theme of the films is that despite how bad things may seem, there is always hope beyond the horizon. Ghibli tells us that it is not only the love of friends and family that will see you through the day, but the trust and belief you have to find in yourself. That is probably why I always end up watching Kiki’s Delivery Service for the millionth time whenever life feels overwhelming and I’ve got a serious urge to curl up in a ball somewhere and sleep until the world is a happy place. My heart strongly resonates with Kiki (and not only because I have a black cat, fashion myself a witch of sorts and feel like a bit of an oddity amongst other people), and her adventures with Jiji always manages to magically remind me that despite how bad things are right now, it will be okay and happier times will come as long as you believe in yourself. So when ball curling is not an option, I turn to Kiki to cheer me up with her magic and charm. And it always works.
Like many Westerners, my first encounter with Japanese animation was through Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. I was struck by the emotional depth and maturity of these stories told by Studio Ghibli – and by the antipathy towards wars and authority that they express. Worlds conjured by Miyazaki embody his reverence of all life and it is this that sets them apart: the use of Japanese folklore like the Kodama (forest spirits) grants nature agency and lays bare the brutality of adults who fail to live in harmony with the beings around them, and require the guidance of children to find their way. In cultures that too often either patronize or sexualize women, films like Princess Mononoke, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Howl’s Moving Castle are a breath of fresh air, with complex and highly capable female characters. Studio Ghibli gave me a second childhood: at the end of each film it feels as though I see the world for the first time. Hollywood’s predictable and clichéd plots rarely manage the same.
Miyazaki’s retirement signals the end of an era, but I hope that when Studio Ghibli pauses and reflects on its future, its younger talents find their voice and continue to tell stories that delight and stretch our collective imagination.
If you don’t know why you should care if Studio Ghibli might be closing down, or you’ve never seen a Miyazaki film, that’s a shame – I believe they are the greatest living animators on the planet, and I’m not the only one. Film directors, animators and artists all over the world pore over their works, studying and analysing every frame and exploring every hidden meaning. The likes of Disney have often made their admiration clear, and the Pixar staff were known to study Ghibli films as they worked on the Toy Story trilogy (even including a cameo from Totoro as a tribute).
“When we made Totoro, I made it so that I could encourage little children to walk out into the woods and pick up acorns”.
I think this quote from Hayao Miyazaki sums up perfectly why I love the dazzling works of Studio Ghibli. I’ve always had the impression that his movies prioritise in telling you a powerful message first, and if the resulting work is entertaining too, then it’s great. But it just so happens that more often than not, they end up being masterpieces. They have profound and long-lasting effects and question audiences in ways Western studios wouldn’t dare. Whatever the case may be with Studio Ghibli, their closure would be seen as nothing short of a disaster for the world of cinema and anime.
What does Studio Ghibli mean to you? Let us know in the comments below.