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Alissa at the apex: what each Studio Ghibli movie taught me

Loc Dang
Studio Ghibli’s “Spirited Away” is best known for the shy ghoul, “No Face.”

As the 2023 Studio Ghibli Fest nears its end, I have decided to reflect on the four Studio Ghibli movies that I’ve watched during my lifetime. This festival, hosted by Fathom Events, has been showing at select Regal Cinemas since March. It closes on Nov. 1 with my personal favorite, “Spirited Away.”

Other timeless films created by the animation studio include classics such as “Princess Mononoke,” “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and “Howl’s Moving Castle.” Even though I did some serious brain-racking for some of these movies due to it being a while since I’ve seen them, I will never forget their simple, yet sanguine messages.

“Howl’s Moving Castle:” Love conquers all

Sophie, the main character in this movie, has a curse placed on her after forming a friendship with a handsome wizard named Howl, who also has a curse which removed his heart. Did I mention that he lives in a magical moving fortress?

While extraordinary creatures and bizarre abnormalities appear throughout this film, the honest theme shines incandescently: love. Not to spoil too much, but Sophie’s love saves Howl and the world from their vices.

“The Secret World of Arrietty:” Kindness goes a long way

This 2010 film was my first taste of any Studio Ghibli movie. As a young girl, I remember seeing commercials for it on the Disney Channel since Studio Ghibli and The Walt Disney Company partnered for this film. Shocker–it’s another movie about love. This time, the message is that kindness goes a long way, going as far as saving people by giving them hope.

Based on the children’s novel, “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton, ant-sized Arrietty, who is supposed to avoid human contact, accidentally befriends a human named Shawn. With its breathtaking animation, Arrietty and Shawn embark on a blood-pumping adventure. Both of their lives are in danger for various reasons. The film ends with the two parting their ways, evoking in one another courage and hope as a result of their small acts of kindness.

“Spirited Away:” Believe in yourself

After 10 year old Chihiro Ogino and her parents trespass on a foreign land, Chihiro must overcome her cowardice to save her pig-turned parents. Alone, Chihiro hides in fear until her spirit guardian, Haku, instills her with the confidence and love she needs.

Originally, the townsfolk shun humans. With compassion and mercy, Chihiro changes the town’s hearts and leaves a more mature, confident young woman. Along the way, she befriends many outcasts, the most famous being “No Face.”

“Whisper of the Heart:” Take baby steps to achieve your dreams

As someone who feels like time caves in, I have trouble with pacing and giving myself room to breathe. I like to be busy, but sometimes I overbook myself. This movie reminds me that it’s okay not to get it the first time. Skills take practice; allow time to polish your skills.

Intuitive middle schooler and avid reader, Shizuku, dreams of becoming a writer. Throughout the film, Shizuku’s burgeoning relationships with a sharp-tongued boy, Seiji Amasawa, and his eccentric grandfather change her life and motivate her to write a novel. While she works day and night to perfect her novel, she later experiences a humbling lesson: she needs more schooling and experience. While at first she is discouraged, her determination flourishes after accepting this fact.

Even though I have plenty more Studio Ghibli movies on my watch list, these poignant movies encase my heart indefinitely with priceless lessons. Perhaps the next Studio Ghibli movies that I watch will be in theaters before the end of the year. Regardless, I expect to update this list with more animated favorites in the future.

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About the Contributor
Alissa Van Dress
Alissa Van Dress, Campus Editor
Alissa Van Dress is a junior English major from Amherst, Ohio. She has a concentration in professional writing with minors in business, creative writing and Spanish and Hispanic Studies. Previously, Alissa served as the copy editor at The Carroll News. In addition to her current role as campus editor, Alissa is a JCU football and basketball cheerleader, a writing consultant at the JCU Writing Center, works as a digital engagement ambassador for the JCU Carroll Fund, and serves on the visual arts committee for The Carroll Review. Also, she is honored to have co-founded the Theatre Club at John Carroll University. Other than writing, some of Alissa's favorite hobbies include musical theater, vocal performance, fashion, dance and cheerleading/acrobatics. After graduation, Alissa plans to write for children's entertainment.

To contact Alissa, email her at [email protected].

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