I think we all know that I am a die hard Studio Ghibli lover. Anything that Hayao Miyazaki puts his hands on turns to gold in my eyes. He created the ubiquitous Totoro, a forest spirit that became the friendly face of the company, and took many other pieces of work and brought them to life.
What I love best about Studio Ghibli movies, aside from the wonderful watercolor landscapes and simplistic animation, are the lessons told in each story. So many of them are about respect for nature and life in general. They teach us that life can be fragile, such as with My Neighbor Totoro or Arrietty. They teach us that anyone can be loved and love in return, as with Howl’s Moving Castle. Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa show us that humanity is too harsh on nature, too selfish.
Stories, lessons, like these are what help to build children with respect and love. But Miyazaki went one step further. In just about any Ghibli film there has been a female and a male protagonist. The female was never wholly a damsel in distress. Same as the male was never wholly the hero figure. Instead, the two found that working together made them stronger than before. They saved one another anytime the world turned against them, being both the hero and distresser (so not a word, but it works).
The older Disney movies were about retelling fairy tales in a way that squarely put the damsel in distress and the hero without much personality needed to ride in and save her. While that has changed recently with movies such as Big Hero Six, Lilo and Stitch, and Brave they still don’t pack the oomph that I think Ghibli movies do. Only recently has one touched a subject as pressing as depression.
Maybe my future children won’t see Princess Mononoke for a while (that might cause some creepy ass nightmares in a toddler), but you can bet that they’ll be starting off with Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service. Then we can add Ponyo and Arrietty. We’ll save Spirited Away to go with Princess Mononoke.
This is one of the things that makes me look forward to becoming a mom. Now, if only hubs will let me get away with a Ghibli nursery. He likes the idea of the LOTR nursery.