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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSB chapter.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead

“Many of my leads have strong female leads–brave, self-sufficient girls that don’t think twice about fighting for what they believe in 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.” – Hayao Miyazaki

As a kid, I grew up watching Studio Ghibli movies that my parents would show me. When I think back on it now, instead of understanding the true meaning of the film, I would remember the parts that scared me. For instance, in Spirited Away when Chihiro’s parents turned into pigs or in Howl’s Moving Castle when Sophie becomes old. The weird magic that happened freaked me out. Although I am not scared of those parts anymore, my fear of no-face remains to this day.

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When I rewatch the movies from my childhood with my best friend now, however, there’s the unmistakable ache of nostalgia. Whether it’s when the songs One Summer’s Day or Merry Go Round of Life comes on in the background or when I think back to when I was a kid watching the movie. I believe that Studio Ghibli movies have an enchanting way of reaching you whether you watched the movies as a kid or not. They take you back to those innocent memories of when you were a kid as you embark upon an adventure with these strong female leads.

They also teach you some life lessons that you should live by:

1. Don’t be greedy! (Spirited Away)

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One of the most well known of Miyazaki’s film is Spirited Away. Spirited Away is about a girl named Chihiro who stumbles into a different realm. Near the beginning of the movie, Chihiro’s parents feast at an abandoned buffet and they later turn into pigs as a consequence of their greed. The plot of the film shows Chihiro trying to find her parents so they can go back into the human realm. One of the film’s most prominent theme is greed which we see from the beginning when her parents turn into pigs. Another consequence of greed is seen when no-face offers gold to the bathhouse workers and they, in turn, get eaten because of it. In other words, don’t be greedy! (Or you’ll either turn into a pig or get eaten, maybe both?!)

2. “Once you’ve met someone, you never really forget them.” -Zeniba (Spirited Away)

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Another life lesson that comes from Spirited Away is the idea that you can never truly forget someone once you’ve met someone. By the end of the film, Chihiro realizes that she has met Haku before, a long time ago. The quote foreshadows the end of the film as we do not know whether the memories Chihiro has created in the spirit realm carry over with her when she is back in her own world, but we can assume that she does or will remember her time in the spirit realm because of this quote. After meeting someone who has impacted your life so greatly, do we ever truly forget them?

3. “They say that the best blaze burns brightest when circumstances are at their worst.” -Sophie Hatter (Howl’s Moving Castle)

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Howl’s Moving Castle, another of Miyazaki’s well-known films, features a girl named Sophie who becomes an old lady due to a curse that a witch places on her. The film shows her embarking on a journey as a housekeeper in Howl’s Moving Castle. When Sophie is struggling to get to Howl and needs help from the fire demon, Calcifer, she says to him, “The best blaze burns brightest when circumstances are at their worst.” This not only relates to flames but also to us as humans because we don’t know what we are capable of until the worst situation comes our way.

4. “No matter how many weapons you have, no matter how great your technology might be, the world cannot live without love.”  -Sheeta (Castle in the Sky)

Image via Open Source Studio

Castle in the Sky is a film about a girl named Sheeta who ends up joining Pazu onto an adventure with pirates in the sky. The film depicts themes that are very relevant to our society today, concerning technology. The premise of the entire film is protecting the mysterious powers that Sheeta and the Castle in the Sky have so they don’t fall into the wrong hands.

5. “Sometimes you have to fight for the things that are worth fighting for.” (The Secret World of Arrietty)

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The Secret World of Arrietty is based on the book The Borrowers, where tiny people live within the walls of a human’s house and “borrow” items from their home to stay alive. The Secret World of Arrietty focuses on Arrietty, a tiny person living with her family within the floorboards of a home with a young boy named Shawn. The whole storyline focuses on the friendship that develops between Shawn and Arrietty.

6. “Life is suffering. It is hard. The world is cursed. But you still find reasons to keep living.” (Princess Mononoke)

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Princess Mononoke is about a prince who is cursed in his right arm and is forced to leave his homeland to try to find a cure before it spreads through his body and kills him. Princess Mononoke highlights human corruption as they exploit resources from the environment. Prince Ashitaka becomes the mediator between Lady Eboshi who represents human interest and San (Princess Mononoke) who represents the environment’s perspective. Very relevant to today’s society, Princess Mononoke represents the environmental consequences of human development.

7. “Always believe in yourself. Do this, and no matter where you are, you will have nothing to fear.” -Baron (The Cat Returns)

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The Cat Returns is about a girl named Haru who stumbles into a world of cats. She ends up getting tangled into an engagement that she wants out of. As the film progresses we see that as she starts becoming more cat-like and we hear from the Baron, her friend, that if she does not discover her true self then she will essentially lose herself to the cat kingdom. The film takes us an Alice in Wonderland-esque adventure as Haru becomes more confident in herself and successfully escapes the cat kingdom.

8. “Whenever someone creates something with all their heart, then that creation is given a soul.” – Baron (The Cat Returns)

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When we put all our effort into something, that creation becomes an inspiration to others!

9. “We each need to find our own inspiration. Sometimes it’s not easy.” -Ursula  (Kiki’s Delivery Service)

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Kiki’s Delivery Service is about a witch who moves to a city to live on her own for the first time. We follow Kiki as she transitions into living in a place on her on. We recognize her struggles as she tries to find purpose as she is becoming an adult.

10. It’s okay to not know what you are doing with your life. (Whisper of the Heart)

Image via MovieQuotes

Whisper of the Heart, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated Studio Ghibli movies out there. A coming-of-age story of a girl named Shikuzu whose world changes when she meets a boy named Seiji. She becomes inspired by his goal of wanting to master the art of creating violins. We join her as she tries to figure out what she wants to do in her life. We learn that even if we do figure out what we want to pursue, it takes time to master that craft.

Over spring break, my best friend and I were talking about how Studio Ghibli films. She was trying to describe the inexplicable feelings you felt as you were watching a Studio Ghibli film. A few days ago, I stumbled upon a post on Facebook:

Image via Weheartit

I sent it to my best friend asking if that’s what she meant when she was trying to explain to me how Studio Ghibli movies made her feel. She responded to me saying, “YES, EXACTLY.” As a kid, I had no idea of the underlying values that Hayao Miyazaki was trying to convey through his films. As I watch them time and time again with my best friend, however, I realize that the life lessons that Miyazaki tries to convey in each of his films have reached me and that the little things are worth living for.

Tiffany is a first year pre-Psych and Brain Sciences major from San Francisco. She is a huge fan of kpop, studio ghibli movies, and webtoons. She loves to penpal and read whenever she can find the time. You can always find her daydreaming as she stares up at the sky, whether its during the day or at night.
Adar Levy

UCSB '19

Adar is a fourth-year student at UC Santa Barbara, studying Sociology. She is an avid creative writer, podcast listener, music enthusiast, and foodie. Loving everything from fashion and lifestyle to women's empowerment, she hopes to work for a major women's publication one day. See what Adar is up to on Instagram @adarbear.