Aesthetic Exploration: Studio Ghibli Movies

Studio Ghibli is a Japanese animation studio that was created by Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki, Isao Takahata, and Yasuyoshi Tokuma in 1985. Some of their more notable films include My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Ponyo. Although each movie is different in terms of storyline, they all have themes within them that tie them together and make them undeniably recognizable as Studio Ghibli films.

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The first theme that makes up the Studio Ghibli aesthetic is the use of female protagonists. Studio Ghibli, and Hayao Miyazaki more specifically, make a concerted effort to create female characters that feel real. They are strong-willed, critical thinkers, who take charge of their destiny. These character dynamics differ from many other films that have a similar audience demographic, such as the classic Disney Princess movies.

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The second theme is the balance between the natural and man-made worlds. Many Studio Ghibli films include the use of airplanes, blimps, or other such machinery. At the same time, those same movies often include scenes of beautiful, untouched landscapes. An example of this is in Howl’s Moving Castle, where the Castle itself is a monstrous mish-mash of buildings and scrap metal, but the Secret Garden is pristine and filled with wildflowers.

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One final piece of the Studio Ghibli aesthetic is the food. While the food is usually an important plot device used to bring characters together, it is also amazingly delicious looking. When you look up how to recreate the meals that are seen in Studio Ghibli movies, you get 16,800,000 results.

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While there are many other aspects of these films that can go into the Studio Ghibli aesthetic, these are the ones that stick out me.

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Thomas Buckholtz
    January 24, 2020 1:53 pm

    I am a huge fan of Studio Ghibli, and really appreciated the part of your post that highlighted Miyazaki’s tendency to create strong female-lead characters. I had somehow not really noticed this despite seeing nearly all of them! I also chose an aesthetic that has Japanese origins, so this aesthetic really resonates with me. I’m curious to see how you will apply this aesthetic to your work – i.e. I would have liked for you to describe more about which particular aspects of this you will be applying to your project. I’m having trouble discerning which *visual* elements you will be capitalizing on. Maybe the dichotomy of pristine nature and mish-mashed man-made invention? This was a great read, thanks!

    • I think one of the reasons that the strong female character aspect of this aesthetic is so successful is due to its subtlety. It isn’t a theme that is right up in your face, it just IS. It feels very natural, which is (in my mind) a sign of a very well thought out and executed vision on Miyazaki’s and Studio Ghibli’s part.

      When I originally chose this aesthetic, I hadn’t actually put much thought into how I would be applying this to my projects. At this point I’m still unsure what exactly I will be doing for either the upcycling or the final project. But that is an interesting idea to bring in the dichotomy between nature/manmade items into my projects, just like Studio Ghibli does. I will definitely keep that in mind as I move forward in the ideation and planning process!

  • Patrick Bodine-Ellison
    January 22, 2020 8:15 pm

    I, like many of us, grew up with the Studio Ghibli films. The warm feeling from these movies contributed significantly to the person I am today. As I’m typing this I have a little stuffed Gigi from Kiki’s Delivery Service on my desk. I really enjoy seeing someone use this aesthetic for their exploration and would love to see more of it used for art in this class! If you or anyone else wanted to run a movie night using these movies I would definitely attend. I think we could all use a little bit of the warmth and good feelings from movies like these to get through the semester.

    • I’m glad that my choice of aesthetic resonated with you! Personally, I didn’t get into Studio Ghibli films until middle school, but I have loved them ever since. I haven’t decided whether I will use this aesthetic as inspiration for either of my projects, but I will definitely keep it in mind moving forward.

      Also I think a Ghibli movie night would be awesome! I can talk to Professor Hertzberg about it if there is still time to sign up to run a movie night.


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