With a near 100% positive audience and critic response on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s no wonder that Studio Ghibli’s “Spirited Away” has made its name as one of the best anime films out there. Studio Ghibli is one of the most acclaimed animation studios in the world, and the home of some of the most revered and beloved animated works to have ever graced the screen. I’ve been faithfully watching their charming creations since I was a child, so you can imagine how overjoyed I was to hear that they’d finally made their way onto our most popular streaming platform – Netflix.
Studio Ghibli films are a delight to watch. Brimming with breath-taking scenery and accompanied by enchanting music, they transport you to new worlds that you’ll be sad to leave when the credits start to roll. The storylines are incredibly diverse – from an unhappy schoolgirl being abducted by the servants of a cat kingdom, to a family of little borrowers living under the floorboards of a terminally ill boy’s house – and the characters are often heart-warmingly relatable. But it’s not just their impressive cinematics, plots and protagonists that have kept me hooked all these years – although they certainly would have been enough – it’s also the environmental themes they so efficaciously explore.
Let’s take Princess Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind, my personal favourite, as an example. The story follows the life of Princess Nausicaa and the people of her valley who live in fear of the ever-growing “toxic jungle” and its wild, equally toxic inhabitants. Harm, however, comes instead from an invading nation who intend to burn down the entirety of the toxic jungle and all life within it. If you haven’t already watched it you are, of course, going to watch it now that I’ve told you about it, so I won’t give too many spoilers. Essentially, the film explores how a loving and respectful relationship with nature not only fulfils a person but also is key to protecting us from environmental catastrophises that occur when humans abuse nature and its resources.
Princess Mononoke again surrounds the relationship between humans – especially those in power looking to expand their geographical control – and all other living beings and their habitats, with our young, angry protagonist crying out, “What I want is for the humans and the forest to live in peace!” A sentiment that I’m sure hits home for many of us. In Ponyo, an exasperated, eccentric wizard leaves the world of humans after encountering endless environmental abuse.
Tales of Earth Sea speaks of the importance of a true and respectful connection to our planet and reminds us of just how much there is to gain, emotionally and physically, from re-establishing this ancient relationship.
As a (very much self-proclaimed) environmentalist, these films were always so influential to me as a child and remain so to this day. They are a beautiful yet harrowing reminder of how the way we live our lives affects so much more than what we immediately see, and a great stepping-stone to engage in meaning conversations about the environmental crisis with children (or anyone who is yet to be exposed to these issues!). So if you’re still a Studio Ghibli virgin, then please do join the rest of us in watching these wonderful creations, and ground yourself in the refreshed reminder that no matter how much we damage, destroy and disrupt nature, we are a part of it and if it goes down, we go down too.
Image Credit: Medium