Studio Ghibli: An Introduction

After the release of Dragon Ball in the mid-1980s, the world of Japanese animation has been open to the world. Since then, many animes like One Piece, Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist have gained fame not only in Japan but in the rest of the world as well.



After the release of Dragon Ball in the mid-1980s, the world of Japanese animation has been open to the world. Since then, many animes like One Piece, Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist have gained fame not only in Japan but in the rest of the world as well. While animators like Makoto Shinkai are making movies such as Your Name and Weathering with You -- two of the highest-grossing anime movies – Studio Ghibli crafted spellbinding movies since the early 90s.


Studio Ghibli was founded in 1985 by directors Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and producer Toshio Suzuki. It was temporarily shut down in 2014 because of Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement. In the span of its 29 years run, Ghibli has produced movies like Spirited Away which won an Academy Award for the best feature film in 2003 and five other movies that received Academy Award nominations.

Behind such aesthetical frames, quirky and beautiful characters and soul-stirring stories in a variety of academic approaches to studying those elements. None of these elements are ever just accidentally put in a frame. Each character, each object has a purpose. Even though they won’t be crucial in the main plotline of the story, they help in creating a world for the story to sustain in. A realistic world for a fantasy story. To strike a balance between fantasy and reality is one of the key features of Ghibli. Hayao Miyazaki said, “Anime may depict fictional worlds, but I nonetheless believe that at its core it must have a certain realism. Even if the world depicted is a lie, the trick is to make it seem as real as possible. Stated another way, the animator must fabricate a lie so real, the viewer will think the world might possibly exist.”


The animation is a movement. In the fictional world, there must be a sense of things like gravity and momentum in a scene to resemble the real world. Ghibli achieves this with precision. These movements also help in establishing the character and its motives. Glenn Keane, Supervising Animator at Disney Feature Animation mentions a scene in Spirited Away, “the scene where Chihiro puts her feet into her shoe and it would just be a very simple scene. But [Miyazaki] observed the way a real little girl does it, she doesn’t just put her feet in the shoes she makes sure it’s snug and tight and, in this scene, you can see her kind of tap her toes into there and then she goes running off. And it’s these little just magic moments that convince you that this is not an imaginary world this is real.”


It is common to find a certain color palette in movies that defines the mood of the story while narrating other details about the characters and locations. Studio Ghibli is usually found exploiting these palettes and the associations of it to certain feelings it evokes. Ghibli aesthetics are visually rich. Each frame is drafted with scenic beauty. According to the book, Ikigai, the Studio is one of the only studios in the world where almost the entire production process is carried out using traditional techniques.

Shreyansh Gautam, an anime enthusiast remembers his first encounter with Ghibli movies “I love anime but for some reason, I averted from watching anime movies. But one day while scrolling through the internet looking for an anime to watch I stumbled upon the movie "Grave of fireflies”, and that film completely shattered my opinion of anime movies. After that, I saw many more of Studio Ghibli's films and every one of it was as mind-blowing as the last one.” Aditya Dinesh, a graphic artist, says “One cannot be a student of modern animation or a concept digital artist without studying the masterpieces crafted by studio Ghibli and Pixar. History of Animation would be dogma without the mention of Studio Ghibli. Let me phrase it like this ‘Pixar is Studio Ghibli of the west’.”


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