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Studio Ghibli Movies – A Deep Analysis of the Themes

If the words Studio Ghibli mean something to you then you are probably a big fan of their work. Over the past few decades, since the early 1980’s, Studio Ghibli has created some of the most visually stunning animated features films the world has ever seen. Some of the movies have gone on to become some of the highest grossing movies in the world and have earned accolades and honors as well. Not to mention awards such as an Oscar.

The technical advancement in animated movie production over the years has not diverted this legendry production house from its roots. There is no doubt that Studio Ghibli movies belong to a different world. There is certain magic in the making of these movies which no other type of animated movies can create.

Let’s explore the beautiful themes of the studio Ghibli movies.

The Magician called Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki is the reason why Studio Ghibli is such a legendary movie production house. He is the master story teller, script writer and director of most of the movies. The studio consists of Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and the producer Toshio Suzuki.

Hayao Miyazaki is a master story teller. The recurring themes in the movies he has directed are environmentalism, friendship, love, family, culture, Japanese history, war and all sorts of human emotions. His movies also have anti-war themes and he believes in human emotions and authenticity rather than technical superiority while making the movies. Some of the movies are based on popular Manga (a graphic novel or comic book series popular in Japan), and others topics that he feels are close to his heart especially nature.

Themes in Studio Ghibli Movies

Whether the stories have been adopted from the Manga comics or written from scratch, they all have the tendency to connect with the audience on a human level. Studio Ghibli movies are mostly hand drawn using rich water and acrylic colors and the movies have less than ten percent use of modern technology such as CAD. Even today, with the technological advancement in the field of movie making, the studio still believes in using the old and the traditional method of making animated movies.

All the Studio Ghibli movies are rich in color, vivid greens and attention to details are one of the key features of the movies. The main focus of the movies is on emotions, characters strength and flaws as they go through hundreds of emotions. Each emotion is wonderfully shown in subtle strokes of the brush that painted it. This feat cannot be achieved with the Computer Aided Design (CAD) technology. The stories of the Studio Ghibli movies usually focus on the life of the youth, especially school children.  Whether it’s the Whisper of the Heart or My Neighbor Totoro, the characters are young and restless, eager to prove the world.  The stories beautifully show the ups and downs of the lives of the characters. The human emotions that come into play when dealing with problems of life are wonderfully shown in the movies.

Major Studio Ghibli Movies

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Studio Ghibli has produced a number of wonderful movies, but some of them are more popular and more revered than the others. Here are some of the best movies from Studio Ghibli and what makes them so popular:

  • My Neighbor Totoro

This movie talks about the innocence of children. The two little girls Satsuki, and Mei, along with their father move to the countryside so that they can stay close to their mother who is being treated in the hospital nearby. The movie depicts the everyday life earnestly, bringing alive rural Japan. Plus there is a mystical Totoro, straight from the Japanese folklore. This makes for a fascinating story line.

  • Spirited Away

Spirited Away is not only one of the highest grossing animated movies in the world; it is also a one of the best Studio Ghibli movies. The 10-year-old Chihiro discovers the world of magic and a whole new world. When she is on her way to her new home with her parents, they stumble upon an alternative world where her parents get converted into pigs. Instead of running, screaming and getting frustrated Chihiro shows kindness, learns to accept the reality and comes out with flying colors. The rich vivid settings just take your breath away.

  • Princess Mononoke

Even with its lush greenery, beautiful landscape and play of colors, this movie takes a darker look at the conflict between nature and humans. Like many other Studio Ghibli themes, this movie delves deep into nature and how people are hell bent on destroying it. The protagonist is caught between the two sides: the one who wants to destroy the beautiful forest and the one that will do anything to save it. The hero eventually succeeds in preventing a bloody war.


  • Kiki’s Delivery Service

This is another coming of age movie with a strong female protagonist. You get to see the magnificent hand painted scenery and characters that come alive. Here the protagonist finds herself- both her strength and weakness as she tries to make her delivery business work. This is another popular theme that Studio Ghibli is popular for exploring.

5) The Wind Rises

Did anyone think that Studio Ghibli has deviated from the theme of human, emotions and nature to technology with the movie The Wind Rises? They were wrong of course. The biopic movie takes you through the journey of Jiro Horikoshi, the inventor of the Mitsubishi A5M Zero fighter, on a human level. What inspired him, what difficulties did he face, the movie covers it all with such beauty you would want to applaud Hayao Miyazaki even more.

  • Howl’s Moving Castle

This one deviates from the usual protocol. Here you have a young woman instead of a child. The story follows the journey of Sophie who has been cursed but she is happy and content in the new avatar. The movie also explores the theme of war which isn’t mentioned in the Manga from which the movie has been adopted from.

Studio Ghibli is known for movies that take you through places with human emotions and themes that are so real. The background of the movies seem similar and different at the same time because that is the beauty of the films Studio Ghibli produces.


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