Posted by: Jusuchin (Military Otaku) | 03/11/2010

Spring Break Blog Post

Studio Ghibli and Their Love for Strong Women, the Environment, and Capturing My Imagination

-more after the jump-

Ah the magic of Hayao Miyazaki. Him I credit as one of the big names to introduce me to anime, the others being Tadao Nagahama (Voltes V), Shoji Kawamori (Macross), and Yoshiyuki “Kill-em-all” Tomino (Gundam). But wait. The last three were all directors most notably known for their mecha/robot series. Why have Miyazaki on my list? Well, Miyazaki has always held a special place in my heart due to My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro). It was that lighthearted series that first interested me in Anime. It was different from the other cartoons, and it…well, it was just different. At this time, I watched looney tunes and whatnot, bugs bunny, and there was this…similarity. This sense of “I can relate” to the initial anime I grew up watching to. So, when I was given this awfully difficult task of blogging on my spring break, I took time from watching a particularly well done space opera, to watching a lighthearted family movie. So, what about my thesis. It’s just looking at the latest of the Studio Ghibli film, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (Gake no Ue no Ponyo). In it, Studi Ghibli continues their tradition of headstrong leading women, an environmental theme, and most importantly, keeping me entranced with their beautiful and well done animation, down-to-earth characters, and story.

In Ponyo we are introduced first to a rather strange sight. A submarine with flippers that resemble those of seaborne dinosaurs, with a large bubble where a man is supposedly making jellyfish? We are then introduced to the titular character. We know it would be her mainly because she is the largest of the fish-girls, and seem to be taking extraordinary care of her sisters, hiding them from her dad when they ventured out. She would then go explore the world, eventually ending up stuck in a bottle to be found by our main male protagonist. It was during this scene, where Ponyo evades the fishing vessel that trawls shallow water of both fish and debris. It touches on a point that Studio Ghibli often makes. About the interactions of humans and their environment. In here we see the main character nearly suffocating to death after being trapped in a bottle. Kind of a subtle scene.

Ponyo, having been saved by her future love, licks the boy’s finger after its cut, something to have repercussions later on in the film. After some initial interactions with other people, Ponyo would end up being recovered by her father, the weird fellow from the beginning of the film. Its here that we find out her true name, ‘Brunhilde’, after the Shieldmaiden and Valkyrie of legend. We also see how she got that name, her father has become something akin to Captain Nemo, someone who detests the humans above the surface for polluting the world. But all this comes to naught as Brundhilde prefers to be called Ponyo, trying to break free of her sheltered life. This can be seen on screen with her attempts to turn into a human and breaking out of the protective water bubble in which she is placed into. Finally as her father wins this small triumph, her sisters come to free her from her bubble. In a chain reaction in which the well that is slowly being filled for the return of the sea back to the Devonian period is filled with a massive ammount of water, leading the way towards an imbalance. This would be seen later, after Ponyo reunites with the male lead. After experiencing human life for a night, she starts to reverts back into a fish. In the end though, regardless of the consequences of turning into a human would bring to her (no magic, dying to be comes Sea Foam as in the original Little Mermaid), she nonetheless decides to live out her life as a human.

Wow…kinda of long winded. In the end, Studio Ghibli returns to give us a rather excellent film. Ponyo is a quirkly little fish-girl that gets into trouble but works hard to be adventurous, the environmental themes was there, going so far to show the pollution in shallow water. But the true reason I watched it?

It was a Studio Ghibli film, done by Hayao Miyazaki, and that just clicks in my brain as something that says ‘quality’ and ‘childhood memories’.

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Responses

  1. I really do need to see Ponyo, but I completely understand what you’re saying about Hayao Miyazaki/ Studio Ghibli bringing subtle themes and aesops about the environment in their movies. They’re very effective about getting their point across without being too preachy about it. For the strong capable women characters in these films, I do think that girls in Japanese anime are either too girly, or if they’re tomboy-ish, they’re labeled as ‘tsundere’. Miyazaki, a known feminist, just wants to show a female character (or characters) who walks that line between character archetypes.

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