Hey! Hallie here!
I pretty much always have Studio Ghibli on my mind, so let’s continue this series! I’m focusing specifically on characters that I don’t see talked about. Bonus points for characters who don’t get any merch at all. The majority of movies I’ll be referencing this time around are also underrated. Unlike ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ or ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’, they aren’t as commonly enjoyed or brought up. But, as usual, every single movie referenced here is one that I highly recommend watching. There will be some light spoilers ahead. Let’s get into it!
- Pazu. Pazu is one of the protagonists in ‘Castle in the Sky’. This movie is the first movie to be released under the name Studio Ghibli. Because of it’s age, it doesn’t seem to be as recognized as many other Studio Ghibli films. In my opinion, this is among the best of Studio Ghibli’s films and Pazu is one of the best male leads I’ve seen in any animated movie. Pazu is an orphan who lost his father when he was young. His father was looking for Laputa, a large castle floating in the sky, when he died. Because of this, Pazu has vowed to find Laputa and prove that his father’s claims of its existence were correct. However, he doesn’t have much money or resources, meaning he spends most of his time helping the miners that live in his small town. During one job he sees Sheeta floating down from the sky by her glowing necklace. From that moment on he resolves to help her. He gives her shelter for the night and immediately lends her his clothing so she can hide once he discovers she’s on the run. Anytime she attempts to tell him that helping her will be too dangerous for him, he refuses to leave her side. He offers Sheeta both comfort and emotional support, but he also trusts her to take care of herself. On top of all of that, he doesn’t have any explicit romantic feelings for her. He just wants to help her because she needs help and he enjoys her company. He’s hands-down one of the kindest characters Studio Ghibli has ever created.
- Kushana. Here’s the first antagonist on this list. Kushana is one of the main villains in ‘Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind’. This movie is now considered Studio Ghibli’s first film, but at the time, it wasn’t even released under the Studio Ghibli name. Because of this, a lot of people miss out on this movie. I could say all of it’s characters could justifiably be considered underrated, but for now I want to focus on Kushana. This movie spends most of it’s time setting up the Ohmu, or large bug creatures, as the villains. But as it focuses on the preservation of nature, the true villains are the humans who are attempting to wipe out the Ohmu, led by Kushana. Kushana lost her arm in an Ohmu attack when she was a young girl. She’s sworn vengeance on them since, but she isn’t senselessly violent. She expresses her admiration for Nausicaa and her pacifist nature many times. She’s simply scared of the Ohmu. She also wants to keep her men safe. Despite her violent tendencies she cares very much for the people who work for her. She may be an antagonist, but even Nausicaa has a large amount of respect for her.
- Jiro Horikoshi. Jiro Horikoshi is yet another male protagonist, this time form ‘The Wind Rises’. ‘The Wind Rises’ is one of Studio Ghibli’s more realistic animated films. Because of that, it doesn’t get as much attention as the movies with fantasy elements. Still, it’s a very emotional film with an engaging main character. Jiro dreamed of flying planes as a young boy, but because of complications with his vision, he comes to learn that it’s impossible. He turns, instead, to spending his life designing aircrafts. During his study of airplane designs, he arrives in Tokyo during the Great Kanto Earthquake. After the disaster he meets Naoko, his future wife, and her friend who has broken her leg. Without giving his name, he carries Naoko’s friend to safety and helps them get together all of the belongings they had with them. This isn’t the first of his uncommonly sweet actions. Throughout the movie he also attempts to offer his food to two orphans, and helps Naoko as her health begins to decline. Jiro is easy to like from the first few scenes of the movie, but he isn’t above making mistakes. He struggles to believe his designs are good enough, and he morally questions himself for creating designs that will inevitably be used for war. Miyazaki wrote his struggles with his own art, as well as his pacifist nature, into the character of Jiro. His writing allows the audience to admire him and still question every move he’s making at the same time.
- Granny. Granny is one of the side-characters from ‘My Neighbor Totoro’. I don’t have to explain this movie because you’ve probably already seen it. I still find, however, that many viewers overlook Granny. She’s introduced as the neighbor of Mei and Satsuki when they move into their new house. She helps them move in when she sees them arrive and creates a quick connection with the girls over the soot sprites they saw. Afterwards, she becomes a very helpful and kind presence in their lives. She watches Mei when her father can’t and shows her just as much kindness as she does her own grandchildren. When the girls hear that their mother is sick, she does her best to comfort them and make sure they’re alright. She’s also extremely concerned when Mei goes missing. She does all that she can to search for her and rally others to do the same, while still worrying for Satsuki’s health. Granny acts as another guardian to both Satsuki and Mei even when she doesn’t have to. For that, she deserves respect.
There are so many more characters that deserve more recognition among Studio Ghibli’s films. Several more are in my first post in this series. Studio Ghibli has created only a handful of bad characters amongst their long list of films. Their female characters are almost always excellent female representation. They’re able to hold their own without losing any of their femininity. Their male protagonists have amazing personalities and are allowed just as much emotion as their female characters. Even their antagonists are relatable characters. Studio Ghibli does a very good job of making their movies both magical and realistic, and their characters are no different. I hope that I helped you find something new to watch or a new character to obsess over. You can never like Studio Ghibli too much, after all.
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!