Japan’s Studio Ghibli is known for making deeply distinctive, original, and heart-warming animated films that tell compelling, universal, and often very moving stories. These movies have caused a cultural sea change, both in Japan and worldwide – so, in this article, we’ll be discovering the ways in which Studio Ghibli has impacted the entertainment industry.
The Magic of Studio Ghibli in the Age of Digital Entertainment
As the role of technology in our lives continues to grow, so too does the kind of media we consume. Many of us now turn to social media to keep ourselves occupied, and streaming services like Netflix are bigger than they’ve ever been.
This had led increasingly more of us to engage with more diverse forms of entertainment than we previously have, too. Gone are the days when we’d all spend our evenings glued to whatever was being shown on free-to-air TV. Now, many of us prefer to watch videos on YouTube, play video games or live crypto casino games, watch streamers, and so on.
However, the magical appeal that Studio Ghibli films have for many of us continues to endure. With outlandish, wildly charming characters, animation that is, to this day, almost entirely hand-drawn, and gorgeous, otherworldly cities and landscapes, it’s not hard to see why Studio Ghibli’s movies still attract audiences, both young and old, in droves.
How Hayao Miyazaki Revolutionized the Way We Watch Movies
The director and animator, Hayao Miyazaki, is perhaps one of the best-known names in entertainment at this point. Over a lengthy, illustrious career working as one of Studio Ghibli’s co-founders, Miyazaki has been at the helm of the production of many of the studio’s greatest successes, including masterpieces like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Princess Mononoke.
Spirited Away – an Overnight Sensation
While Studio Ghibli has released a number of wildly successful films, none of them have performed quite as well as Spirited Away, released by the company back in 2001. Incredibly, Spirited Away actually outperformed Titanic in Japan, going on to become the country’s highest-grossing film of all time.
With its zany story, where a young girl, Chihiro, gets trapped in the spirit realm and is forced to work for the many spirits and demons that inhabit one of its bathhouses, Spirited Away is probably up there among some of the best anime to watch while stoned.
However, there’s more to the film’s success than meets the eye. It may come as a surprise to us now, but when Spirited Away was first release, animated films were seen as somewhat childish, being more or less on par with cartoons more generally.
Spirited Away changed all of that. Its incredible success across the globe exposed swathes of people to the brilliant filmmaking that animated features often display, completely changing the way the genre is perceived in the West. In fact, Spirited Away even went on to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, making it the first and only non-English language film to be awarded the accolade.
Now, anime and animated features both receive far more respect and attention than previously in the West. In the same way that David Lynch’s Twin Peaks resulted in serial TV dramas obtaining far more critical acclaim, Spirited Away saw anime enter the collective consciousness in the Western World in a manner not dissimilar to its ubiquity in Japanese culture.
While anime will likely never have quite the same appeal outside of Japan as it does in the country, it’s far more socially accepted nowadays to watch and appreciate anime, even as an adult. Perhaps we have Spirited Away to thank for that.
Why Studio Ghibli is One Of Japan’s Greatest Cultural Exports
Arguably one of Studio Ghibli’s greatest strengths is the respect their films give viewers. Hayao Miyazaki’s movies are noted for their realism; no mean feat, given that they’re animated. Miyazaki has explained that he finds the exaggerated mannerisms and facial expressions often exhibited by characters in Western animated features to be condescending; children, he feels, don’t need their entertainment to be dumbed down to this extent.
Miyazaki has also shown an ongoing commitment to creating brave, headstrong female protagonists in his work. They are never hypersexualized, and, like the other characters in his films, have plenty of depth and humanity to them.
Combine this with the often complex themes that Studio Ghibli films so deftly navigate – Princess Mononoke is inspired by environmental destruction and exploitation, for example – and it’s more than safe to say that the studio has truly carved out a niche for itself in creating animated features that anyone can watch, enjoy, and learn from.
What’s more, newer Western animated features are increasingly showing similar levels of profundity and complexity, likely having been inspired by Studio Ghibli’s work to do so. In this sense, Japan has left a far wider mark on international entertainment, via Studio Ghibli, than you may have realized.