The Japanese film house Studio Ghibli produces some of the world’s most enchanting animated films. Its work is lovingly hand-crafted, with an eye for subtle, everyday details and moments of quiet wonder… a far cry from the bombastic “anime” serials that most people associate with Japanese animation. The studio has become synonymous with the work of one of its directors – co-founder Hayao Miyazaki. From Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind in 1983 to The Wind Rises in 2013, Miyazaki has informed close to three generations of animated films. His characters are household names. Households where the fireplace is haunted by a cheerful soot spirit, and the garden is tended to by a gentle robot. It’s easy to recommend a Miyazaki film – just pick one. Any one. My own love for Studio Ghibli goes back almost 15 years, from watching Nausicaa as a wide-eyed 12-year-old. Fed on a steady diet of action-packed superhero cartoons, the film’s slower pace should have bored me. But I was riveted, and haven’t missed a single Ghibli film since. Every single glorious feature is lodged indelibly in my head, as if magicked there by one of the mysterious spells that remain a Ghibli stock-in-trade. So much so that I’ve tried to embody the spirit of these films (curious, pacifist, feminist, ecologically mindful) in everything I do. So when I travelled to Tokyo for the first time in 2013, the Ghibli Museum (which Miyazaki put together) was one place I had to visit above all else.
It wasn’t just a nostalgia trip, or a fan’s journey. It was a pilgrimage.