Hey! Hallie here!
Studio Ghibli movies are films I constantly return to, especially when I’m in the mood for comforting entertainment. This week has made that especially true, both because it’s been a rough week for me and because it’s finally getting cool enough to get me in the mood for some of my more cozy Fall traditions. So today I’m looking back at some of my favorite Ghibli films to see whether or not the romantic couples we’ve seen in these movies would last beyond their time on screen. We’ve done a similar post on Disney couples in the past, but this one will be a bit different. Namely, not all of these couples have been confirmed to be romantically involved. Miyazaki has always been much more focused on crafting strong friendships between characters that could or could not be interpreted as romantic. This is especially true when it comes to child characters. So know going forward that while all these couples could be interpreted as romantic, I’ll be talking just as much about whether a friendship would last between some of them. Also, if for any reason you want to avoid plot points for any of these movies, SPOILERS AHEAD!
Shizuku and Seiji, ‘Whisper of the Heart’: This is one of the Ghibli movies where the romance is pretty obvious. While Shizuku and Seiji are still pretty young, the entire story is about the two developing their crush on one another through supporting each other. They even promise themselves to each other at the end of the movie, though they do so because they decide to spend the near future apart. While their romance would be easy to scoff at given that these two are both still very young, the entire movie’s goal seems to be to prove the credibility of their relationship. They do start out their relationship with immaturity. Shizuku initially finds Seiji infuriating because he specifically goes out of his way to insult or irritate her, meanwhile he also checks out books before she can though she doesn’t know it’s him at first. But as the relationship goes on they very quickly put these first awkward moments behind them. Shizuku discovers that Seiji has a passion for making violins, admires him for it, and decides that she should also have something that she’s passionate about to ensure that she can come to a relationship with Seiji as a fully-developed person. We rarely see romances in media address the idea that the healthiest romances occur between two fully-formed individuals rather than two people who “complete” one another. It’s so nice to see something like this in ‘Whisper of the Heart’. And while I wouldn’t say their relationship is fully developed by the end of the movie, there’s certainly hope for the future. There’s even a moment at the end of the film where Seiji attempts to ride his bike up a hill with Shizuku on it to prove to her that he can support her, but she instead hops off and helps push the bike to prove to him that she can be just as supportive in their relationship.
Final Verdict: Yes. They will definitely last once they actually get together.
Pazu and Sheeta, ‘Castle in the Sky’: These two are left pretty ambiguous over whether or not they’re a couple by the end of the movie, but there are definitely parts of the film where it feels like they care about each other romantically. Pazu most certainly has a crush on Sheeta the moment that he meets her, and he puts everything on the line to protect her. Unfortunately, Sheeta isn’t quite the hero that other Studio Ghibli heroines are. She very often plays the damsel in distress, which makes it feel like Pazu contributes much more to their relationship. I’m not saying Sheeta’s completely useless. Pazu is the one to help Sheeta escape from pirates and rescues her from the clutches of Muska not once, but twice. But Sheeta also plays a role in the defeat of Muska and does all she can to keep Pazu out of harms way, although admittedly sending Pazu away wasn’t the most effective way to protect him. In any case, both spend a lot of the movie trying to keep each other from harm. This relationship definitely reads as though Pazu is more interested in Sheeta than Sheeta is in Pazu, though. While he’s invested in finding Laputa because of his father, he’s much more devoted to helping Sheeta realize her goals and stay away from the people who might hurt her. Meanwhile, Sheeta’s definitely most interested in finding out what she can about her ancestors. Pazu is a supportive and sweet potential partner for Sheeta, but Sheeta doesn’t really prove she’d be a great partner in turn.
Final Verdict: A solid maybe. I’d like to believe Pazu deserves someone just as excited about him as he is about them, though.
Ponyo and Sosuke, ‘Ponyo’: These two are extremely little kids. As such, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that they have romantic feelings for each other. They clearly care about one another a lot. Their mothers obviously seem to think they’ll get together at some point in the future. But while I find the way that Sosuke looks after Ponyo endearing, or the way Ponyo fights against her father in order to get to Sosuke heartwarming, they’re really little. They love each other in the same way many little kids love their friends. I can absolutely see them continuing to look after each other in the future. But especially since the movie ends with their mothers agreeing that Ponyo will now live with Sosuke and his mom, it sounds much more like the two are being set up to be raised as siblings. And their love for each other could just as easily turn into a sibling-like love.
Final Verdict: It’s hard to determine, but I’m going to say not as a couple. They would stay together as friends, though! I think it’s more likely they’ll end up sibling-like.
Chihiro and Haku, ‘Spirited Away’: Chihiro is quite young, though nowhere near as young as Ponyo or Sosuke. Haku, as a spirit of the river, is pretty much ageless. There are definitely moments in this movie where it feels like they may have romantic feelings for each other, but they could just as easily be friends. They do very clearly care for each other. Haku risks his existence at the very beginning of the movie to protect Chihiro from the other spirits and get her a job. And Chihiro spends much of the last half of the movie healing Haku’s wounds, worrying about him, and helping him escape Yubaba. They’re very gentle with each other and very cute together. But she’s a kid. And he’s the spirit of a river she once got swept away in as an even younger child. I love these two, but they can’t even see each other unless Chihiro rather unfortunately stumbles into the spirit realm, or Haku rather metaphorically appears to Chihiro in the living world.
Final Verdict: No. I think their determination to keep in contact would make them good friends, though!
Kiki and Tombo, ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’: Tombo and Kiki very obviously have crushes on one another. Tombo takes large chunks out of his day to try to cross paths with Kiki. He often ditches his friends just so he can spend the day with her. He asks her how her work days are and worries about her when she falls sick. When he invites her to a party, he has literally no hard feelings over the fact that it turns out she can’t make it. Tombo is completely smitten and in awe of her. Kiki’s much more subtle about her crush. She initially finds Tombo’s constant desire to be around her kind of irritating, but whenever pressed about him she would instantly start blushing. She also accepted his invitation to a party immediately despite having expressed irritation with him only days beforehand. And, of course, there’s something to be said about the fact that Kiki drops everything at the end of the movie to rescue Tombo, and even finds within herself the ability to fly once more after weeks of losing her magical abilities, in order to save him. In the future I do think Tombo would have to be a little less doting in order to keep Kiki comfortable in the relationship. He’d also have to get rid of so many of his friends because, oh my gosh, how can you listen to the way your douchebag friends talk to your crush and not intervene? But, in the end, I think they’d be able to work something out.
Final Verdict: It would take some work, but yes!
Haru and Baron, ‘The Cat Returns’: Haru admits she has a crush on the Baron, but whether or not those feelings are reciprocated is never revealed in the movie. As a pretty low-stakes movie, I can’t say there’s a ton of examples of these two showing care for each other under extreme circumstances. The Baron does protect Haru a few times from the King’s forces in the Cat Kingdom, leading to some romantic moments where he carries her bridal style through a chase scene or steps in front of her during a sword fight. But really, it’s up to Haru to find self confidence in order to escape the Cat Kingdom and stop herself from turning into a cat. And in the moments where the Baron helps her out, like when he manages to sneak into the castle to dance with her and remind her who she really is, the Baron really only sees himself as being helpful or heroic. It’s Haru who perceives these things as romantic. And can you blame her? The English voice for the Baron is Cary Elwes! Who wouldn’t fall in love? By the end of the movie Haru tells the Baron that she’s developed a crush on him, but his only response is that he admires a woman who speaks her mind. Which really isn’t an answer. Maybe the Baron just knows humans and cats shouldn’t be in a relationship.
Final Verdict: No. But thank you, Cary Elwes, for making me have a crush on a cat.
Ashitaka and San, ‘Princess Mononoke’: Ashitaka and San are another couple where it isn’t completely clear whether or not their relationship is romantic or platonic by the end of the film. That said, there is evidence that seems to point to a more romantic relationship. For one, there’s their first real interaction, where San nearly kills Ashitaka but stops when he comments that she’s beautiful. From that moment on the two place a lot of trust in one another. They place their lives in each other’s hands on multiple occasions and both deliver at keeping each other safe. Ashitaka, as the wisest party in the story and as the hero, is given more moments to protect and help San. He saves her from being corrupted, stops her from getting into a deadly fight with Eboshi, and consoles her when Moro, her adoptive mother, dies. But, in turn, San helps Ashitaka see the importance of keeping the forest and the spirits inside safe. Unlike with other couples on this list, these two don’t feel like they help each other because of major crushes or undying devotion. Instead, the two have a lot of respect for one another in the way a healthy couple would respect each other. At the end of the movie the two separate, with San going back to help nurture the forest and Ashitaka helping out the humans with the promise that he’ll return to San and the forest. But even this separation feels like a mature relationship in action, with both parties having clear paths that are different from one another (We’re back to the concept of two people complimenting each other rather than completing each other), but knowing they care about each other enough to come back together.
Final Verdict: Absolutely. Their relationship is amazing, especially for one that just started.
Howl and Sophie, ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’: Yes, I saved my favorite one for last. Howl and Sophie are the most blatantly romantic couple in all of Studio Ghibli. They have one of the only kiss scenes in any of Studio Ghibli’s films. But the fact that they’re an obvious romantic couple doesn’t instantly make them good, so let’s look into this more. Sophie starts out extremely exasperated by Howl. Howl’s selfish and shows himself capable of easily insulting others without even noticing he’s doing so. He also gets in the habit of throwing dramatic temper tantrums, resulting in one of the only scenes where Sophie gets so angry at him that she leaves to cry. But Howl’s well meaning, and Sophie knows this. The very first time he meets her he saves her from some men who are heckling her in the street, and whenever he sends her out to do something dangerous, such as sending her to the castle to talk them out of recruiting Howl for the war, he never sends her without protection. In fact, he goes himself to ensure she remains safe. He even gets over his cowardice to fight back against the war occurring because he wants to protect Sophie. But Sophie gives as much as she gets. Not only is she one of the only people who can keep Howl on the right track, she’s also the only person who figures out how to return Howl’s heart to him. My favorite thing about their relationship, though, is the way they encourage one another. Sophie struggles with self confidence throughout the whole movie, and Howl always offers words of encouragement whenever she disparages herself. He even sounds shocked when she does so. And Sophie, though exasperated by Howl, knows he’s not at heart as bad as he believes, and tells him so. Neither character is perfect, but they help each other become better. And neither enter into a relationship until they better themselves, making their relationship feel mature.
Final Verdict: Hell yes. Did you expect anything different?
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!