September 15, 2021

The Great Studio Ghibli Marathon, Part 1

One of the items on my summer bucket list was to watch (or rewatch, in some cases) all of the films Studio Ghibli has ever released. It's definitely a commitment considering there are twenty films in total, but it was worth my while to see all of the different stories that the studio has brought to life. I wanted to make sure to share my thoughts on each film and that's how this blog post series came to life!

NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind

What is it about? The world’s ecosystem has been devastated by an apocalyptic conflict, and the last of the surviving humans live in scattered settlements in mostly semi-hospitable conditions amidst the “toxic jungle” that exists throughout the rest of the world. NausicaƤ lives in the Valley of the Wind with her people, and her greatest desire is to understand the world they live in and to bring peace among the surviving humans.

My Thoughts: Rewatching this film reminded me of all the reasons I love it: the terribly devastated setting that still contains pockets of hope for a better future, the spunky gifted heroine who has a heart for others and a fighting spirit, a plot that ties together power struggles, attempts at bridging differences and a prophecy coming to fruition.

Castle in the Sky

What is it about? When the military plane Sheeta is on is attacked by air pirates, she escapes with the help of the magic crystal around her neck. She winds up crossing paths with fellow orphan Pazu and the pair work together to figure out the secret of the mystical floating city of Laputa while being pursued by their enemies.

My Thoughts: Personally, I didn’t find this film as enthralling the second time around. But I do appreciate that it has a touch of my favorite set-up in any SFF story: two individuals with similar backgrounds drawn together in an epic adventure that takes them to incredible places and involves unlikely allies.

Grave of the Fireflies

What is it about? Siblings Seita and Setsuko must rely solely on one another for survival in the days about a firebombing during World War II that separates them from their parents.

My Thoughts: I was warned beforehand that this film was heartbreaking – and it’s true. The film was an emotionally difficult reminder that not even a century ago, the world was at war and many civilians struggled with terrible consequences. It broke my heart to watch Seita and Setsuko try to make a life for themselves amidst the rubble of all they’d ever known, and the tragedy of how it ends still lingers with me.

My Neighbor Totoro

What is it about? Satsuke and her younger sister Mei settle into a country home with their dad as they wait for their mother to recover from illness in a hospital nearby. In their explorations of their new home, they run into and befriend the playful spirits around.

My Thoughts: It’s been some time since I last watched this one, and I was charmed all over again by this slice-of-life fantasy. I adored the whimsical adventures of these siblings as they embrace the world of the friendly spirits around them (including tumbling into their domain), all while set against the experiences of a family coming to terms with the absence of a mother and wife for a prolonged amount of time. (Also, I’ve now come to realize that the end credit theme is the hold music in my head.)

Kiki’s Delivery Service

What is it about? Young witch Kiki sets out to find a new town to call home for a year in keeping with the witch’s tradition at the age of thirteen. Despite the obstacles in her way and her struggles with self-doubt, Kiki eventually carves a place for herself in her new seaside town home.

My Thoughts: I can’t imagine a time will come where Kiki isn’t my favorite Studio Ghibli film! It’s just so incredibly charming, from the seaside town setting (I would like to live there too) to Kiki’s coming-of-age experiences to Kiki herself (who is a delightful girl and one I would have befriended) and the rest of the cast of characters we are introduced to. While I know the series of events that make up the plot from start to finish, I’m still always invested in Kiki’s story no matter how many times I rewatch this film. (And I’ve rewatched it plenty of times at this point!)

Only Yesterday

What is it about? Taeko takes an extended trip outside Tokyo to visit her sister’s family in their rural town during the annual safflower harvest. She reminisces about the highs and lows of her childhood, wondering if her current life is what her younger self would have aspired to.

My Thoughts: This is the second Ghibli film that is wholly without any fantastical elements to it, and it’s a contemplative slice of life story. I felt empathetic towards Taeko and her feelings about her past, and it was relatively interesting to see her reflections to what led to her present circumstances. There’s no definitive ending for this one (though perhaps there is a beginning), but I didn’t mind too much.

Have you seen any of these Studio Ghibli films?
Part two will be going up soon!


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