Studio Ghibli- Movies to Make Your Heart Happy

"Whenever someone creates something with all of their heart, then that creation is given a soul." - "The Cat Returns", 2002

This is a quote from the movie "The Cat Returns", one of the many films produced by the Japanese animation studio by the name of Studio Ghibli. In every single one of their films, you can find beautiful hand-drawn scenes, a mesmerizing score playing in the background, and heart-warming, inspirational words like the ones above. I grew up with these movies, and stepping into adulthood I find myself coming back to rewatch them time and again- and I'm certainly not the only one. "Spirited Away", released in 2001, was the first in film history to gross $200 million before it was even released in North American theatres. "My Neighbour Totoro"'s titular protagonist remains one of the most lovable and well-known characters all around the world to this day.    

So what, then, makes these movies so magical?

I have a number of ways to de-stress when my mental health is down and I need a pick-me-up, and I can tell you that my personal favorite is to sit down and watch a Ghibli movie. It's a way to escape from the real world into a fictional universe created with heart and soul, one where you can soar with dragons and meet forest spirits, or just journey to the countryside to experience simpler times. Maybe it's the hand-draw animation that evokes all the nostalgic feels, or maybe it's the incredible music from the legendary Joe Hisaishi, but the combined endproduct is always something that leaves me inspired, touched, and smiling.  Ultimately, I think the magic comes back to what was said in the quote. Director and creator of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki, dedicated his life, his dreams, and his whole heart into his works. As a child, he watched his father build airplanes and was awestruck by the intricate work that went into each machine, and so flight became a motif throughout all of his movies. In almost every single film, you can spot characters on broomsticks or fantastical aircrafts taking to the sky, and it's absolutely beautiful. You can tell that Miyazaki wanted every child to experience the joy he had derived so many times from flight, even if they couldn't fly themselves. So it's exactly that- because he embedded a piece of his dreams into all his creations, we too are able to feel his heartbeat.

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Something else I will admire Miyazaki endlessly for is his characters. I found myself relating so much more to Miyazaki's predominantly-female leads than Disney princesses while I was growing up, and I gradually understood why. It's because every single one of Ghibli's female protagonists are resourceful, independent girls and women. They rarely need a love story to spice up the story (although when there is a romance subplot it's always handled with class and grace) because they themselves are diverse and interesting and you root for them to achieve whatever they desire. I could go on forever about how much I love and aspire to be like these characters, but the man himself summarizes it perfectly. 

“Many of my movies have strong female leads—brave, self-sufficient girls that don't think twice about fighting for what they believe with all their heart. They'll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a savior. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man.”

And that's what really inspires me about these movies. Ten-year-old me watched ten-year-old Chihiro save her parents in "Spirited Away" and I thought to myself that I wanted to be strong like her when things got difficult. Fifteen-year-old me watched Kiki lose her magic and find it again in "Kiki's Delivery Service" and I realized that I, too, could find my way again after being lost. I'm 18 now, and as I rewatched "Howl's Moving Castle" for the millionth time, aspired to have Sophie's courage and take-nothing-from-anyone attitude. Isn't it amazing, how, all these characters with vastly different ages and personalities and worlds can inspire so much? It's also always about appreciating the little things in life. Everything is so pure in these movies that you can literally feel how happy a character is as they take a bite of their sandwich. I feel as though at times we all need that- a reminder that even the tiniest of things can make life oh-so-good.   


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