Studio Ghibli – a refreshing wind through the Japanese motion picture industry?


Whether you are a big anime fan or not, you should not underestimate the legacy of legendary Studio Ghibli*, a Japanese animation studio based in Tokyo. It creates stories that “bring the child out of all of us” and inspires to be open and fearless in realizing unique and original ideas. I am simply amazed by the creative potential of Studio Ghibli creators and would like to encourage SAE students to watch at least one anime movie produced by them. 

Text and picture by Joanna Wroblewska

When it comes to anime, I was a always very skeptical. However, this fall I watched a wonderful documentary about Studio Ghibli called The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness and decided to get over my concerns and give some movie of theirs a try. My first choice was Princess Mononoke released in 1997. It is relatively old, but discusses universal truths about the world, which makes it up-to-date. I cannot say that I fell in love with anime, but I definitely appreciated the amazing work done by Studio Ghibli. I could recommend their movies to anyone who needs visual inspiration, in particular SAE Animation & Games students. If it does not sound convincing, at least watch the documentary, which shows very clearly how beautiful and at the same time complicated is the creative process behind each big movie production.

From idea to performance
For quite some time, I am fascinated by creative processes happening on the way from generating an idea to completing an artwork, whatever it is. Studio Ghibli is a place where great ideas become the reality. Sometimes, it takes years to develop them, but this is what defines a successful artist. Hayao Miyazaki, a director at Studio Ghibli, is shown as an eccentric creator who controls all the aspects for making the animation. He mastered his skills in storytelling, plot building and sketches making. It is fascinating to watch him constructing the narration and at the same time navigating the work of the whole Ghibli team. I have learned from him that big success does not come easily: it costs time, energy and is emotionally demanding. Moreover, in most cases it is not possible to work alone. A support and feedback from other professionals make a huge difference.

Looking at Studio Ghibli, you can easily imagine how hard it is to work under pressure! As a SAE student, you have an opportunity to face the reality of animation and film production. You are lucky enough to work in a safe environment. Use your time at school to prepare for bigger challenges and build your confidence as an artist. It will pay off later on, especially when collaborating with a demanding group of professionals.

Group work, good work
Working in a team is sometimes really hard. Artists are mostly individualists and it is not easy for them to compromise. Studio Ghibli proves, that group work leads to good work, something that is meaningful and inspiring, a masterpiece, a work of art, a remarkable and influential creation.

SAE students often take part in diverse collaborations. It is good to remember that this kind of experience is the most valuable one. Working in a team makes us more tolerant, open-minded and help us to deal with criticism. Yes, it is hard and yes, sometimes there is a lot of tension in the group, but it is worth to get over it and accept the differences. Studio Ghibli shows that both being a leader and a specialist is equally important.

Do you get the message?
Liking anime or not, you will probably appreciate the metaphorical stories told by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. The use of archetypes, common believes and universal truths brings their animations to a higher level. Feeling love to living creatures and connection with the world, respecting nature, taking care of weak and elder are only examples of what the creators of Studio Ghibli try to tell the audience. I truly like this way of telling abstract stories influenced by Japanese culture. In this imaginary world, everything is so abstract, but at the same time so close to the reality.

Using hidden messages and metaphors creates a space for the viewer to find new meaning of an artwork. As a creator, you get a chance to communicate with your audience. Train yourself in building inspiring and dynamic plots that will engage people and cause a reflection. After all, good artworks are those that we memorize as meaningful.

Watching a movie by Studio Ghibli and a documentary about their work inspired me to look at anime productions from a different perspective. I feel a connection with Hayao Miyazaki, a dreamer and a perfectionist, a bit decadent visionary with a big, creative heart. Now, every time I look at flowering nature, I can feel the presence of a “forest spirit” that holds it all together – is it what master Miyazaki wanted?

* The Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli was an Italian aircraft used in World War II. Its nickname served as the inspiration for Studio Ghibli’s name.

Learn more:
The Movies of Studio Ghibli, Ranked From Worst to Best
Studio Ghibli: its final films, the future of 2D animation
Total Recall: The Best Of Studio Ghibli


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