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Love, from Ghibli’s Perspective

What Studio Ghibli characters teach us about love

By Aabusad PathanPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
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Iremember the first time I was introduced to a Ghibli movie, I was 9 years old and until that time the only cinematic love stories I was exposed to was Disney princesses movies, most of which felt somewhat similar to me, just a different color dress and a different prince to save the helpless princesses, I did enjoy them as a child not gonna lie, yet Ghibli brought something else, something I couldn’t as a child put my finger on, but I felt there was something special about these characters, the way their love was presented to us, there’s a magical connection and their friendships evoked warmth and security.

Hayao Miyazaki wrote in his book Starting Point 1979–1996 “I’ve become skeptical of the unwritten rule that just because a boy and girl appear in the same feature, a romance must ensue. Rather, I want to portray a slightly different relationship, one where the two mutually inspire each other to live — if I’m able to, then perhaps I’ll be closer to portraying a true expression of love.”

Theoretically, some of these love goals may sound obvious, yet they’re not only difficult to find in real life, but also surprisingly absent in a lot of pop culture representations of love.

Maybe we can learn what a healthy relationship looks like from a closer look at Ghibli’s love stories.

Hayao Miyazaki tells us that true love is based on a spiritual connection, the commitment to helping others improve, and equality.

Ghibli’s love stories often focus on a spiritual connection rather than a physical one; they almost have that platonic sense to them. You’ll get to watch their journey normally going through their day-to-day lives, and then love simply happens to them. The switch between love and friendship feels so pure and natural. At times, it even seems like there’s no defined line between the two.

A memorable moment for me is Haku and Chihiro falling from the sky when Haku finally remembers he’s a river spirit who saved Chihiro when she was a child, even though they have been deeply connected their whole lives, and the word love was used by Kamaji to describe their relationship, it still felt like a wholesome friendship throughout the movie.

Even in a more romantic story, like Howl’s Moving Castle, their relationship had the chance to grow because it wasn’t focused on physical attraction. When they first met, Sophie was nervous and anxious about her looks, but once she was cursed to be an old woman, she was no longer worried about her looks and became much more confident and straightforward with Howl.

Another cerebral romance is portrayed in Whisper of the Heart, a love story between two teenagers Seiji and Shizuku, based on their mutual love to read and their artistic interests.

And what's interesting about Ghibli’s romances is that they don't always end up together, and this shows us that it doesn't always mean you should give up your life to be with the person you love. This might make us reconsider our understanding of coupledom not just as a comforting companionship but more of who we could become with their inspiration and learn something about ourselves through the eyes of our loved ones.

Love, according to Ghibli must transform us into the best version of ourselves, whether it’s a platonic relationship like Haku and Chihiro or a more romantic one like Seiji and Shizuku, they want good things for each other and help each other realize their full potential.

When Chihiro first lost her parents to the spiritual world, she had Haku’s guidance to get by, after that, we get to see Chihiro learning her way through this mysterious world, she started to work and became more confident and fearless.

Haku wasn’t her prince charming and savior; instead, he was the friend she needed; he provided her with the tools and guidance she needed to thrive. He helped her grow so much and made sure she wouldn’t end up forgetting her name, while he himself is a prisoner of Yubaba, who has stolen the most fundamental part of his nature, his name. He was only able to transform back into his true self when Chihiro remembered his real name, the Kohaku River.

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