Studio Ghibli is Still the Fuel of my Imagination

Photo by Artem Kovalev on Unsplash

I must have been about 5 years old when I first watched Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro. The second time I’ve watched them would be more or less 7 years later. I spent seven whole years without really knowing the name or the meaning of those films. All that I carried with me throughout that time was a sense of complete amazement. I dreamt of the characters, scenes in real life transported me back to the images in the films, but I never really found out that Studio Ghibli was a thing until I was about twelve.

I remember being at a summer camp, hanging out with kids outside my immediate group of school friends and talking about the things we enjoyed doing as little kids.

“I mostly played with my friends in my room. The giant grey cat and the funny little ghost that kept offering me coins.”

“Oh, you must be talking about Spirited Away! So you’re also a fan of the movies!” — said one kid.

“No, she’s talking about Totoro, GIANT CAT! Duuh!” — said another giving the first kid a light push.

“Maybe she’s talking about both!” — screamed the first. “DUH!”

“Movies? Wait? No. I’m not talking about movies.” — I said, very confused.

“Yeah, the Studio Ghibli movies! Never heard of them?”

“Not really.” — I think that my young mind had created a sort of Frankenstein storyline that combined both movies, but as I wrote before, all that remained with me for all those years was a sense of wonderment and a couple snippets of image, which became part of my reality.

“Do you guys really know what I’m talking about?” — I asked, still unable to distinguish fiction from reality.

“Of course! We are hardcore Ghibli fans!” — said the first kid.

When I got back home from the summer camp I rewatched both movies, and all the other Ghibli movies. There was a strange feeling of familiarity. As if I had lived through all of that.

What I think happened was that, being an only child, and spending most of my time in imagination land by myself, it became hard for me to discern reality from fantasy. In a way, everything I saw in those movies became part of my reality, especially because I wasn’t aware they were movies at all.

Today as an adult, it’s extremely hard for me to put into words what Miyazaki’s films mean to me. And I know that that’s the case for many of my contemporaries. A lot people in my generation grew up exposed to his art.

The other day I spent two hours watching Joe Hisaishi’s concert in honor of 25 years of Ghibli and crying like a little baby. I highly recommend watching it or at least leaving it playing in the background.

Not to give many spoilers, but at the end of the concert, Miyazaki stands up from his chair and walks up to Hisaishi to give him a bouquet of flowers, right after the orchestra just played Totoro’s theme in the most impeccable way possible. I couldn’t think of anything else but how both of them are absolute geniuses, and stand in awe of their infinite imagination.

Relying on my creativity to write and paint, I do kind of need to keep living in my little world of imagination. The only way I can transport other people away from their everyday mundane lives with a piece of art, is to live in that far away land myself, or at least have a beach house there.

The problem of having a body that is stuck in routine land is that I need to constantly force my mind to travel. Away from the useless bureaucracies, the traffic, the pollution of the world.

As an adult, I’m forced to participate in all of that.

Somehow, Ghibli gives me an instant escape. A quick fix.

I watch a scene, hear the music, and I’m there.

I wonder where Miyazaki’s dream land is.