Thinking about Studio Ghibli

Posted on Wednesday, Jun 17, 2020
Scott and Jack talk about Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, and their own experiences with some of the famous films.

Show Notes


Show Topic

Scott and Jack talk about Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, and their own experiences with some of the famous films.

  • An overview of why we like Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli films
    • Scott was introduced to these movies by his father Jack.
    • Recently many of these movies have been appearing in theaters in the US.
    • We lived in Japan for much of Scott’s childhood. Our understanding of these movies was probably well informed by our familiarity with Japanese culture.
    • In the case of Miyazaki movies, we didn’t discover them until we were already back in America for a long time.
  • How Jack discovered Studio Ghibli movies
    • Jack found a movie theater in Tacoma WA that showed foreign films that was showing Studio Ghibli movies.
    • Jack’s first Studio Ghibli movie was Princess Mononoke.
  • Princess Mononoke
    • Contains a lot of Japanese cultural thinking, more so than some of the other films.
    • Buddhism, animism, honor, shame, the importance of nature are all in this film.
    • It had an interesting view of the industrial humans VS. nature and the defenders of nature. It’s not as black and white as it would be in an American film.
  • Jack’s favorite Miyazaki film
    • Favorite: Princess Mononoke
    • Second Favorite: Spirited Away
  • Spirited Away
    • It’s weird and very enjoyable.
    • It is very Japanese and Americans may have a hard time understanding it as a result.
  • Is Miyazaki pro-feminist or just good at portraying female characters?
    • It seems like his female characters are always the main protagonists, but they do get help from male characters in several of the films.
    • Japan is still sexist in many regards and in most anime and manga, the female portrayal is very definitely as objects of desire.
    • He does seem to like the Warrior Princess theme.
  • Cultural differences in storytelling
    • No need to explain – Miyazaki doesn’t explain why witches or wood spirits exist, they just do.
    • The story is enhanced by the lack of need to start at the beginning of why these worlds are what they are.
    • American superheroes and their non-stop origin stories – bludgeoning us to death with endless explanations we don’t want.
    • Japanese stories start nowhere, goes nowhere, and end nowhere.
    • Rich lush environments that are detailed beyond what is needed just to convey the plot.
  • The poetry of Miyazaki
    • Miyazaki keeps himself in sharp observation mode.
    • Poets see things we don’t, and see that it’s part of life.
    • Miyazaki can see the points of view of people different than himself.
    • Miyazaki is full of contradictions – seemingly romantic and endlessly insightful, yet also completely harsh and distant from his own family.
  • Endo Shusaka
    • Shusaka sees the complexities of life and doesn’t necessarily attempt to solve things.
    • Catholic in a culture that doesn’t allow integration of Christians.
    • He struggled with how to be both fully Catholic and fully Japanese.
  • Scott’s favorites
    • Kiki’s Delivery Service
    • My Neighbor Totoro
    • They might not be as deep as something like Princess Mononoke, but the slice of life aspects are so rich and vibrant that they’re worth it.
    • These films do contain more drama and character arc than meets the eye. Again with the subtlety.
  • It’s in the details
    • You can find something new every time you watch.
    • The fullness of Miyazaki movies provides a piece of life rather than just a sketch of life.

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Scott Willsey

Scott Willsey

Scott is an old school semiconductor industry professional, and is a host of many now defunct podcasts as well as some current episodes of BubbleSort TV. In his spare time, he does a lot of work on his iPad and his Mac, which you can read about at He also, sadly, writes odd-sounding autobiographies like this one.

Jack Willsey

Jack Willsey

Jack Willsey is a professor, a linguist, and also a podcaster. He dragged his family to Japan for 8 years at a crucial time in their young lives, forever enabling them to see the world outside of the box. Jack currently hosts Enjoyable with his much less accomplished son Scott.