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Studio Ghibli: Art That Transcends

As children of the 2000’s and later, we’ve all grown up with cartoons, especially the Japanese variety known as anime. Some of my favorite shows to watch were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Flintstones, The Last Airbender, Pokémon, Digimon, Beyblade, Dragon Ball, Looney Tunes, and Dragon Tales etc.

It was in my teenage years that I discovered Anime other than what was shown on Cartoon Network. Some of the movies that I saw will remain with me forever, and I’m glad that due to their availability online I can access them anytime and show them to the young ones, so they can also enjoy what I did. One of the blessings of the modern age is that everything can be found dubbed or subbed on the internet. This has made watching foreign movies a breeze and has allowed artists to transcend boundaries. So, if anyone would ask me for a recommendation about movies for children, I wouldn’t go with the newer ones coming in.

Let’s admit it, Minions was slightly terrifying. I would point them towards my all-time favorite, Studio Ghibli.

Studio Ghibli was co-founded by Isao Takahata – who is sadly no longer with us – and who was already a legendary director, alongside the much celebrated Hayao Miyazaki, and Toshio Suzuki in 1985. Five of Studio Ghibli’s films have been nominated for Academy Awards and Spirited Away has grossed over $290 million USD worldwide. Studio Ghibli is known for its realistic, yet adventurous and often paranormal movies that never fail to amaze viewers. The animation is nothing short of pure artistic features, and the plot-lines are some of the best the world has seen. Studio Ghibli never fails to deliver twists and turns and surprises in their plots, and have some of the best characters everyone can benefit from.

Some of the best movies, as well as my personal favorites, are as listed.

Spirited Away

This is one of Studio Ghibli’s highest grossing and appreciated movies. It is a coming of age story of a ten-year-old girl, whose parents are turned into pigs by the witch Yubaba while moving to a new neighborhood. Chihiro Ogino, the protagonist enters the spirit world and begins working at Yubaba’s bathhouse, to find a way to free her parents. The film is mesmerizing with all sorts of fantasy creatures like witches, spirits, and monsters etc. and is one of Miyazaki’s best works up to date. I would highly recommend watching this to inspire the spirit of adventure in kids.

Grave of the Fireflies

This movie is one of the saddest movies I have watched, yet. Five minutes into the movie and I was ready to bawl. The art featured is some of the greatest by Studio Ghibli and a definite tearjerker. The story revolves around a brother and a sister surviving on their own in World War II-era Japan and features famine, Japanese nationalism and the cost of pride. The movie is considered a masterpiece and is something everyone should watch, at least once.

Howl’s Moving Castle

This a bit of a dark movie, and doesn’t sit well with many fans of the studio, but it is highly impressive either way. The movie is about a hatter named Sophie who is turned into an old lady by a witch and Howl, a half-man and half-bird magician. The love story is unconventional but beautiful nevertheless. One of the things that pique the viewer’s interest is the combination of 20th Century technology and magic, with a backdrop of a kingdom at war. The film promotes anti-war themes as well as feminism, compassion and old age. In 2013 Miyazaki said the film was his favorite creation, explaining,

I wanted to convey the message that life is worth living, and I don’t think that’s changed.”

It was one of the Studio Ghibli movies nominated for an Academy Award, specifically the 78th Academy Awards.

When Marnie Was There

Another coming of age story, When Marnie Was There is a ghost story that will have the viewer’s perched on the edge of their seats, curious for what will come next. Some critics have claimed that the picture doesn’t hold the same kind of magic as other Studio Ghibli movies, but I beg to differ. The movie imposes on your emotions with such nostalgia, as it explores themes of love and female friendship. It a great story for all ages. The film follows Anna Sasaki living with her relatives in the seaside town. Anna comes across a nearby abandoned mansion, where she meets Marnie, a mysterious girl who asks her to promise to keep their secrets from everyone. As the summer progresses, Anna spends more time with Marnie, and eventually, Anna learns the truth about her family and foster care. It was also nominated for an Academy Award.

Today’s cartoons can’t match the simplicity and classic animation style of the old ones. Yes, the graphics have improved by a margin and provided us with visual masterpieces but most of what children watch on television lacks originality and doesn’t invoke thought or creativity.

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