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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogWhat Makes a Story: Studio Ghibli Edition

What Makes a Story: Studio Ghibli Edition

By James Lau
August 01, 2023
Chihiro in the rain. She is part of what makes a good story in a Ghibli film.

Studio Ghibli has enchanted audiences worldwide with its captivating and imaginative films. What sets Ghibli apart is its ability to create masterpieces that connect with viewers of all ages. A good Ghibli film has breathtaking animation, rich storytelling, and empowering themes. Let’s answer the following question for these films: “What makes a good story?”

Breathtaking Animation

One of the signature aspects of Ghibli films is their breathtaking animation. Each frame is carefully hand-drawn, resulting in visually stunning sequences that transport viewers into magical worlds.

Ghibli animators pay attention to detail and carefully craft every movement, expression, and environment in their feature films. The animation is beautiful, whether it’s the fluttering of a character’s hair or the subtle play of light and shadow.

The attention to detail is particularly evident in the enchanting spirits in Spirited Away or the mystical creatures in My Neighbor Totoro. These imaginative designs brought to life through animation, create the charm and wonder of Ghibli films.

A scene from My Neighbor Totoro, which is an example of what makes a good story.
My Neighbor Totoro is a Ghibli classic! Image via Wallpaper

Additionally, Ghibli’s animation style highlights the beauty of nature and landscapes. The studio has a remarkable ability to capture the essence of natural elements, whether it’s the swaying of trees, the play of light on water, or the changing seasons. These breathtaking depictions of nature serve not only as a background but also as a character of their own, adding to the overall atmosphere and mood of the film.

They also shine in conveying a sense of movement. From the soaring flights in Castle in the Sky to the dynamic action sequences in Princess Mononoke, the animation captures the energy and excitement of the storytelling. The movement of characters and objects feels natural, immersing viewers in the narrative.

Each movie tells a great story.

Ghibli films are famous for their rich storytelling, which blends fantasy and reality to create narratives that touch their audience. The studio weaves complex plots, memorable characters, and thought-provoking themes into their films.

At the heart of Ghibli films are relatable experiences. The stories explore love, friendship, self-discovery, and complex human emotions. For example, in My Neighbor Totoro, the film centers around the bond between the two sisters and their encounters with forest spirits. The film beautifully captures the innocence of childhood and the importance of imagination.

A shot from "Grave of the Fireflies" which is an example of what makes a good story in a Ghibli movie.
Grave of the Fireflies has one of the hardest-hitting stories in Studio Ghibli history. Image via Zerochan

Ghibli films also address deeper topics, like environmentalism, the impact of war, and social issues. In Princess Mononoke, the film delves into the relationship between humans and nature, focusing on the consequences of human greed and the need for harmony.

In the film Grave of the Fireflies, Ghibli explores the devastating impact of war through the eyes of two siblings struggling to survive in wartime Japan. The narrative confronts the harsh realities of conflict, showing the emotional toll it takes on individuals and the strength that appears in the face of hard times. Through these themes, Ghibli films prompt viewers to reflect on broader societal issues and the consequences of human actions.

Ghibli films stand out for their rich storytelling that covers human experiences, intense themes, and a perfect balance of emotions, connecting with audiences of all ages.

By addressing these themes and creating relatable characters, Ghibli films offer more than just entertainment. Not to mention, their ability to transport audiences to magical worlds and evoke a range of emotions continues to captivate and inspire generations of viewers worldwide.

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Empowering Themes

Empowering themes are characteristic of Ghibli films, inspiring viewers with messages of self-discovery, resilience, and the celebration of individuality. The studio’s protagonists are often strong-willed characters who overcome challenges and achieve their goals.

“Believe in yourself!”

Ghibli films emphasize the importance of self-belief and staying true to oneself. In Spirited Away, the main character, Chihiro, transforms as she navigates a spirit world and learns to be courageous and independent. This personal growth and self-empowerment theme resonate with audiences, particularly young viewers who find inspiration in the characters’ journeys.

Chihiro and Haku from Spirited Away, a movie that shows an example of what makes a good story.
Chihiro and Haku are a strong example of friendship. Image via Alpha Coders

Furthermore, Ghibli films often explore the power of human connections and the impact of kindness. In Kiki’s Delivery Service, the film portrays the protagonist’s journey to find her place in the world and the importance of friendship and support. These themes remind viewers of the significance of compassion, empathy, and building meaningful relationships.

Additionally, Ghibli films also promote environmental awareness and social responsibility. Pom Poko addresses environmental issues through the story of shape-shifting tanuki (raccoon dogs) fighting to save their habitat from urban development. These films encourage viewers to reflect on their relationship with nature and inspire a sense of stewardship.

Girl power

Ghibli films celebrate the strength and resilience of individuals, particularly young girls and women. The studio’s female protagonists often defy traditional gender roles, showcasing their determination, courage, and capability.

Films such as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke feature strong female leads who embody bravery and compassion. These characters serve as role models, inspiring viewers to challenge gender norms, pursue their aspirations, and positively impact the world.

A shot from Nausicaa the Valley of the Wind.
Nausicaa is all about girl power! Image via The Hunchblog of Notre Dame

Ghibli films also encourage viewers to embrace empathy and compassion. They often have complex characters who evolve throughout the story, showing personal growth and understanding. For instance, in Howl’s Moving Castle, the selfish wizard Howl gradually learns the value of empathy and the power of love. All in all, Ghibli films highlight the importance of empathy, encouraging viewers to embrace compassion in their own lives.

What makes a good story?

A good Ghibli film is a masterful blend of breathtaking animation, rich storytelling, and empowering themes. The studio’s commitment to precise animation creates visually stunning and immersive experiences for viewers. The narratives, with their relatable characters and thought-provoking themes, touch the hearts of audiences and leave a lasting impact. 

So what makes a good story? Ghibli films empower viewers by celebrating individuality, resilience, and compassion. They also highlight the importance of self-discovery and care for the environment.

Through their enchanting storytelling, Ghibli continues to captivate and inspire audiences worldwide, making their films timeless works of art! What do you think makes a good Ghibli film? What’s your favorite Ghibli film? Let us know in the comments below!

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