Studio Ghibli is a Japanese animation studio that has been making films since 1985. They are known for creating hugely-successful anime feature films like Spirited Away (Sen To Chihiro No Kamikakushi) and My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro). Many of their films are suitable for children with their whimsical characters and magical/anthropomorphic elements but they do handle some pretty tough subject matter and adults can definitely appreciate these films too.
As a big fan, I thought I’d share a few important lessons from some of my favourite Ghibli movies and a few bits of merchandise that I have!
A little bit of independence is a good thing
Many of Hayao Miyazaki’s stronger characters are women and girls. Even the younger girls have a sense of independence and act heroically or stoically at times. Take Satsuki (My Neighbor Totoro) for example. She is a great big sister to stubborn little Mei, explaining that their mother is sick in hospital and keeping Mei busy when their father is at work. Satsuki is an important role model not just for Mei but for little girls everywhere (including me when I was younger) as she faces up to having responsibilities.
Ponyo (in the titular film) is a little sea princess and wants to be independent so she goes ashore… think a bit like The Little Mermaid story! Her father is very worried about her fraternizing with a human boy but her mother (a magical sea spirit) is not as she trusts Ponyo and the boy.
Being vain/greedy/rash wont get you very far
In Spirited Away, we see many examples of greedy and rash characters around the bathhouse. Even in the first scene, Sen’s parents are turned into pigs for gorging on a buffet!
Another good example of this is in Howl’s Moving Castle. The wizard Howl is a troubled soul who even goes as far as to say ‘I see no point in living if I can’t be beautiful’. As his friendship with Sophie blossoms, she shows him that there is much more to who you are than what you look like!
Death and suffering are difficult parts of life that we cant ignore
There are some tragic deaths and scenes of suffering in Ghibli movies. I won’t spoil any of them but I think one film that really stuck out for me was The Wind Rises.
Miyazaki’s final film before his retirement in 2013, it tells the story of the designer of the Mitsubishi A5M and A6M fighter aircraft and it’s a very moving one. War and disease feature in this tale but I wouldn’t discourage parents of older children from letting them watch it as it’s very thoughtfully and beautifully done.
Friendship and supporting one another is important!
In Ghibli, we see some great and unlikely friendships between humans, animals and spirits. The Cat Returns shows us the Cat Bureau, a team of detectives (two cats and a raven) who help a human girl get back home from the Cat Kingdom. In Ponyo, her and Sosuke prove their friendship to their parents in a rather interesting test involving the ocean. When Marnie Was There tells a beautiful story of how Anna, suffering with depression, finds a friend in the countryside who lifts her spirits. The young witch Kiki (Kiki’s Delivery Service) has a great friend in her cat Jiji but also develops a good friendship with a local boy Tombo too.
We can find some comfort in nature, good food and music
The landscapes in many Ghibli movies are so beautifully detailed. Whether it’s the lights of the bathhouse in Spirited Away, the flight of the aircraft in The Wind Rises or the incredible forest in Princess Mononoke.
There is also a lot of yummy looking food shown in the films including ramen, steamed buns and herring pot pie… Buzzfeed even did an article showing you how to replicate the recipes!
The music of Joe Hisaishi really captures the magic and mystery of Ghibli. My favourite is ‘The Path Of Wind’ (also from My Neighbor Totoro because it’s just lovely) and you can listen to that being performed here.
Do you like Studio Ghibli or any other animation?
What are your favourite films for teaching important life lessons?
Let me know and leave me links in the comments below.
If you liked this post, you should check out:
10 Life Lessons Learnt From Rupaul’s Drag Race – body positive, self-esteem boosting advice on how to slay, as told by drag queens
10 Kids Shows That Teach Kick-Ass Lessons In Morality – I get nostalgic and remember where our life lessons came from in childhood