When I want to relax, I don’t have a bath, or go in for some meditation, or listen to soothing music or clean my cluttered room. Instead, I watch Ghibli movies.
For those living under a rock, Ghibli movies are animated movies created by Studio Ghibli, a Japanese animation film studio headquartered in Koganei, Tokyo which has produced notable films such as Howl’s moving castle (2004), Grave of the fireflies(1988), and the widely known Spirited away (2001).
While the founder of Ghibli Hayao Miyazaki created these films for children, their appeal lies in their universality:the films are adored by children and film critics alike. Using strong likeable protagonists, Miyazaki offers commentary on heavy ideas such as pacifism, environmentalism and human nature. Miyazaki is a genius, and his films succeed on many levels – technical, emotional, intellectual, philosophical, artistic, and political. Animated films are often aimed at the young, and similarly with the exception of his anti-war fable Porco Rosso—all of Miyazaki’s films are aimed at children or young teenagers.
Miyazaki does not underestimate the intelligence of children or their powers of understanding; characters in films like Castle in the Sky are not protected from the horrors of life—they experience loss and sadness, a joy, despair as well as hope, in a way that is relatable for both children and adults.
Similarly, Miyazaki does not shy away from addressing adult themes like militarism and environmentalism. He believes that children should be exposed to such ideas and will understand them if they are presented correctly.
But what makes his films so well-liked is his ability to animate human emotions in such a way that the film leaves the viewer with a deep appreciation of the world. While his films do tackle heavy themes such as war and death, they also contain ‘mundane’ and ‘slice of life’ scenes that are equally as important and impactful.
A lot of Ghibli movies feature the characters cooking, eating, and cleaning up, and as someone who loves food and the social aspect of it—it is glorious. There are heaving tables full of home-cooked food from ramen to rice balls to spaghetti. Their giant meals are always devoured with pure pleasure and enjoyment of the food and the company is equally important. It is here, where Studio Ghibli displays its charms beautifully. Watching a group of people enjoy the simple things in life and just being the best of friends is so relaxing that it’s even spawned a funny ‘better than therapy’ meme that regularly pops up across the fandom.
(Note: Ghibli movies are great, but actual therapy cannot be replaced).
It romanticizes life such that the viewer, too acquires a newfound appreciation for life.
But the true heart of these movies, and the reason they’re so excellent is because at their core is a demonstration of affection, a friendship of the kind so rarely seen in movies especially between people of the opposite gender. Instead of prioritizing romance, Miyazaki displays human relationships in an unfiltered light and focuses on the beauty of platonic and familial love.
Such is the power of Ghibli movies. Let them soothe you too.