Spirited Away

As this edition of Funga is centered on Japan, it is the perfect excuse to finally write an article about Studio Ghibli and its magical animations. I recommend watching all the below talked about films, although if you only have to pick one, I would go for Spirited Away. Few animations have left such an impression on me.



Spirited Away


Studio Ghibli – the name “Ghibli” refers to the Italian word for the “Hot Sahara Wind,” because the studio wanted to “blow new wind through the anime industry”- was founded in 1985 by animator Hayao Miyazaki, film director Isao Takahata, and producer Toshio Suzuki. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was their first feature film, a post-apocalyptic fantasy adventure based on a manga of the same name published by Miyazaki. Laputa: Castle in the Sky was released the following year. 


Laputa: Castle in the Sky


“Not like the classic animation studios, Studio Ghibli was born with one goal: to explore the depths of the human soul, and to offer Japanese and international audiences poetic stories that would translate all its complexity. No international commercial strategy, but a concern for integrity and exemplary quality, for which its productions are renowned.” (Text from here)

The studio’s first real success was Kiki’s Delivery Service, although My Neighbor Totoro is arguably Ghibli’s most widely recognized film.


My Neighbor Totoro


Then in 2003, Ghibli’s iconic Spirited Away became the first non-English-language film to win the Oscar for Best Animated Film. The first film to gross $200 million before opening in the U.S., Spirited Away became the highest-grossing film ever released in Japan. (Read more here)



Princess Mononoke came after, which was also supposed to be Miyazaki‘s last film before he retired. However, those plans were discarded, and Studio Ghibli fans can be very excited about the 2023 release of his latest project – How Do You Live? “60 animators are currently working on the film.”



As Indiewire reports, Isbrucker illustrates that the animation house’s major asset is its “immersive realism.

Although parents being turned into pigs (Spirited Away), warrior princesses raised by wolves (Princess Mononoke), and fighter-pilot pigs (Porco Rosso) may not be the pinnacle of what we think of as ‘realism,’ it’s the animator’s ability to create in-depth magical narratives that feel real because of their detail and fervor. This is what Isburcker refers to as ‘world-building’ – we suspend our belief and buy into the world of Ghibli when even the most imaginative aspects become immersive and grounded.