Have you ever read a book, watched a film or listened to a piece of music and wondered why you haven’t been doing this your whole life? That’s the feeling I got last year when I sat down and watched my first Studio Ghibli film. The second I turned on My Neighbour Totoro I fell in love, and I still can’t figure out what I had been doing for the previous twenty-three years. It’s a sadness that is compounded by them releasing what they say is their final film, When Marnie Was There.
Since falling in love with Ghibli I have gone back and discovered even more of their catalogue. The recent Studio Ghibli Forever season has even allowed me to see some of them in the cinema. In that time, I have come to fall even in deeper in love with the worlds that Ghibli creates. They write films almost from the eyes of a child. Worlds where fairies and ghosts exist comfortably alongside real issues. Whether it’s the dust creatures from Totoro or the witches in Kiki’s Delivery Service Ghibli’s film are full of magic, and they never feel the need to justify that.
And yet despite these fantastical elements, Ghibli are not afraid of tackling real world issues. Young love, leaving home or even the loss of a family member all fall under their gaze and are treated with the respect they deserve. It’s a quality they share with Pixar, a feeling that just because something is nominally a children’s film does not mean that it can’t deal with big ideas. When Marnie Was There provides the perfect final example of this. A film that follows a young girl caught in the grips of depression as she tries to figure out who she is; it bears resemblances with the universally adored Inside Out.
All of this doesn’t even touch on the art style which to this day is still distinctive. Which is a strange thing to say because it is by no means one-dimensional. If you were to sit down and compare the flags and seascapes of From Up On Poppy Hill with the watercolour delicacy of The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, you would never guess they were from the same studio. No matter what you think of any of the countless Studio Ghibli films you can’t for a second proclaim that they do not look stunning.
In the year or so since I sat down to watch My Neighbour Totoro, I can’t claim to have seen every Studio Ghibli film. There are people a million times more qualified to write this farewell than me. However, every time I watch one of their films the world feels like a brighter and better place. They are a film studio that has brought joy to millions. I mean I read this back, and I haven’t even mentioned Spirited Away, arguably their most celebrated film. They leave behind a legacy that will brighten a thousand more nights for me alone, and I will miss them.