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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogCommon Themes: Unveiling the Magic of Studio Ghibli Films!

Common Themes: Unveiling the Magic of Studio Ghibli Films!

By James Lau
July 21, 2023
A collection of characters from Studio Ghibli movies that discuss common themes.

Studio Ghibli films are famous for their captivating storytelling and beautiful animation. They tackle common themes that resonate with audiences, transcending cultural boundaries. These themes offer insights into the human experience and explore what it means to be human. Let’s delve into these themes and discover the magic of Studio Ghibli films!

They also have profound messages and attractive narratives. Additionally, these narratives break cultural barriers, engaging audiences with their ability to address complex themes in a relatable manner. Therefore, each theme explored in these films presents stories that delve into the essence of being human.

Environmentalism

Studio Ghibli films spotlight environmentalism, emphasizing respecting and preserving the natural world. Princess Mononoke stands out as a prime example of this theme. Set in feudal Japan, the film revolves around the struggle between industrialist humans and the forest spirits.

A colorful scene from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. It shares the one of the common themes of environmentalism.
Nausicaa focuses on protecting the environment. Image via Alpha Coders

The narrative powerfully depicts the effects of human greed, deforestation, and industrialization on nature. Ashitaka seeks harmony between humans and the natural world. Moreover, the film urges audiences to reflect on their connection with the environment and sustainability.

Another notable film that explores environmentalism is Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, following the journey of Nausicaä, a young princess. Nausicaä fights to protect her people and live in harmony with the toxic jungle. The film emphasizes her compassion for all living beings and the connection between nature and humans’ need for environmental harmony.

Friendship

Friendship is another recurring theme that shines brightly in Studio Ghibli films.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is a delightful tale that follows a young witch named Kiki as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, Kiki forms a deep bond of friendship with a kind-hearted boy named Tombo. Their friendship beats their differences and provides unwavering support through the joys and challenges they encounter. Through their adventures, Kiki’s Delivery Service reminds us of the magic that can unfold when we open ourselves to real connections.

A scene from Kiki's Delivery Service, which focuses on one of the common themes of friendship.
Kiki’s Delivery Service focuses on friendship and pursuing your passions! Image via GetWallpaper.com

Another film that explores the theme of friendship is Castle in the Sky. This epic adventure follows Sheeta and Pazu, two children brought together by fate. They navigate a world of airborne pirates and a mysterious floating city. The bond between Sheeta and Pazu drives their quest, showcasing the power of friendship. Overall, it demonstrates the support and loyalty friends can provide even in the face of hardship.

Family

The family theme holds a special place in Studio Ghibli films, capturing the warmth, complexity, and love within the family.

One iconic film portraying the family theme is My Neighbor Totoro. The story revolves around two young sisters, Satsuki and Mei, who move to the countryside with their father while their mother recovers from an illness. They encounter a lovable forest spirit named Totoro as they explore their new surroundings.

Together, the sisters and Totoro go on adventures, providing comfort and support to each other during uncertainty. My Neighbor Totoro reminds us of the strength and joy found within our own families through the film’s heartwarming display of the love between siblings and the protective nature of family.

The two main characters from Ponyo. The girl is floating down from the sky and she looks at the little boy's eyes.
The movie Ponyo focuses on family. Image via Imgur

Also, in the film Ponyo, the theme is evident through the relationship between the young goldfish-turned-human Ponyo and her family. Ponyo’s father, Fujimoto, is strict and overprotective. He is driven by concerns for nature’s balance and his daughter’s safety. However, as the story unfolds, we see Fujimoto undergo a transformation. He learns to embrace Ponyo’s desires and support her growth.

Whereas Ponyo’s mother, Gran Mamare, represents the caring aspect of family, giving wisdom and guidance to her daughter. Through their interactions, Ponyo celebrates the importance of love, acceptance, and allowing family members to pursue their paths, showcasing the importance of familial bonds on personal growth and happiness.

Japanese History and War

Studio Ghibli films often explore Japanese history and the impact of war, delving into the complexities of the past, offering unique perspectives and thought-provoking storytelling.

Grave of the Fireflies is an emotionally charged film set during World War II. It follows the story of two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, who are struggling to survive the destruction caused by the war. The film explores the harsh realities faced by innocent civilians, capturing the toll of conflict and the strength of the human spirit. Grave of the Fireflies is a powerful reminder of the awful effects of war and the importance of compassion and empathy in times of hardship.

A scene from "Grave of the Fireflies", which tackles one of the common themes of Japanese history and war.
Grave of the Fireflies is one of Studio Ghibli’s hardest-hitting movies. Image via Wallpapers.com

Another Studio Ghibli film that delves into Japanese history is The Wind Rises. This animated masterpiece, inspired by the life of aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi, takes place in pre-World War II Japan. It portrays Jiro’s passion for aviation and his journey to create beautiful airplanes while dealing with the moral problems surrounding his creations. Through Jiro’s story, The Wind Rises explores the historical context and the personal struggles faced during a chaotic era.

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Love

Love, in all its forms, is a powerful and captivating theme that weaves its way through Studio Ghibli films, touching the hearts of audiences.

Howl’s Moving Castle is one film that beautifully portrays the theme of love. This enchanting tale follows the journey of Sophie, a young woman cursed to become an old lady, and her encounter with the mysterious wizard Howl. As Sophie navigates the world of magic and self-discovery, she discovers a love that goes beyond appearances and expectations. Through the bond between Sophie and Howl, the film explores themes of acceptance, growth, and the power of love in our lives.

A scene depicting the cast of Howl's Moving Castle, which discusses one of the common themes of love.
Howl’s Moving Castle focuses on love regardless of looks! Image via Pinterest

Only Yesterday is another Studio Ghibli film that delves into one of the common themes of love. It tells the story of Taeko, a young woman who reflects on her childhood while on a trip to the countryside. As she reconnects with her past, Taeko explores the difficulties of love through her memories and experiences. The film examines the impact of first loves, one-sided affection, and familial love, highlighting the influence that love has on our personal growth and understanding of ourselves.

Studio Ghibli films excel in exploring common themes that touch the hearts of viewers around the world. Through appealing storytelling and thrilling animation, these films, with their common themes, transport us into imaginative worlds where environmentalism, friendship, family, Japanese history/war, and love take center stage.

A scene from Studio Ghibli's Kiki's Delivery Service. Kiki is resting in the grass, starting at the clouds.
Which of these common themes resonates with you the most? Image via Rare Gallery

Through their timeless stories, Studio Ghibli films continue to captivate and resonate with audiences, reminding us of common themes that connect us all! Have you ever watched any of these films? What themes have you discovered in your favorite Ghibli films? Let us know in the comments below!

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