WoodwindWhistler

Does Studio Ghibli seem to have a strong aromantic slant?

Recommended Posts

WoodwindWhistler

In case you didn't know, all this year there are special screenings of Studio Ghibli movies in certain theaters (I don't know if it's going on outside America) every month. Where I am at least, there are only three showings: one on a Sunday that is dubbed, one on a Monday that is subbed, and one on a Wednesday that is dubbed. 

Practically all the ones they were showing I had never seen before, so I jumped on that!

I'm noticing a strong trend, that many of the 'crushes' that go on are not resolved at the end. The protagonist in Princess Mononoke, for example, after the princess says she doesn't think she can be with him, calmly accepts this with no apparent negative emotion whatsoever. Even though it's been stated many times in the movie that he is in love with her and he nearly dies several times trying to rescue her (in fact he spends I think several days recovering from one of the close calls). 

You may say, oh, that's just a healthy averting of the usual Western romantic trope. It should be hailed as feminist, as the rest of the Miyazaki films are. And normally I would nod my head and agree that more movies should realistically end with the 'hero' not ending up with his object of affection, b/c that happens all the time IRL. 

However. The fact that his face does not even change, he does not have to wrestle with it, even momentarily, seems off. He's been fighting down a demon-imposed rage as a major part of the plot, so it would make sense for him to also have to deal with his own desires. 

Since I'm aromantic spec, I strongly identified with his response- he cares enough to do the right thing and encourage her, but does not truly seem invested in pursuing a relationship. It reads to me as a person *thinking* they are in love with a person . . . and using that vocabulary because that's what heteronormative society has given them to express themselves with, yet not actually feeling that specific emotion and attachment. Most importantly, not the sting of rejection! 

As any romantic person will tell you, even if they had to be mature at one point and let go of a person, or remain friends, it still hurt. 

It could be that this is just a first, wobbly attempt of a narrator at how to resolve a story in this way, like a newborn's first steps. And that it will become more believable in the future. Maybe it has nothing to do with Miyazaki himself. Then again, Wiki says his home life was strained: "Miyazaki's dedication to his work harmed his relationship with Gorō, as he was often absent. Gorō watched his father's works in an attempt to "understand" him, since the two rarely talked. During the production of Tales from Earthsea in 2006, Gorō said that his father "gets zero marks as a father but full marks as a director of animated films".

And taking into account all the other averted crushes that happen in the other movies, it doesn't seem like an isolated event. Even in Pom Poko, the girl raccoon seems ironically *turned on* by the fact that the guy tries not to mate with her (and they end up being too bad at self control). And in Porco Rosso, uncomfortable as the one-sided crush is, due to the age difference, it is still based around a relationship that from the get-go is not "supposed" to go anywhere. 

I really don't think this is merely me projecting. I think this is significant. 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Grimalkin

I think it's got a very strong innocent slant. The movies tend to be fully of childlike wonder, and that is inherently less sexual than other themes. It wouldn't really be the same if any of those featured crushes were like "Well, the day is saved. So are we going to go do it, or..."

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
InariYana

These films are full of very subtle romantic feelings (Howl and Sophie for example), but often I wouldn't even call them romantic because relationships portrayed there are more like close friendships, with some "magic" in them, like in Arrietty or in Spirited Away (Chihiro and Haku). There's definitely a deeper connection between the characters, but more like a soulmate vibe, not anything sensual or physical. Studio Ghibli films very often show familial love too. 

 

I remember the time "When Marnie Was There" was in cinemas and people were going "ohhh is it going to be a lesbian crush story?" but it really wasn't anything remotely like it - it was a story about a wonderful close friendship and... family love. Studio Ghibli films accentuate deep and somehow magical connections between people or people and magical creatures, whether they maybe could develop into romance or are just childhood friendships (like in Ponyo). Even the relationship between Ponyo's mother-sea and her father isn't really shown as anything physical, it's more like father's deep admiration and romantic love (I do think there is a romantic element there) towards the sea goddess and her being the loving, life-giving force of the element of water.  

 

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
WoodwindWhistler
2 hours ago, Grimalkin said:

I think it's got a very strong innocent slant. The movies tend to be fully of childlike wonder, and that is inherently less sexual than other themes. It wouldn't really be the same if any of those featured crushes were like "Well, the day is saved. So are we going to go do it, or..."

Well, among kid's movies, they either don't go into romance at all, or it's at least hinted that they will eventually get together later. Or a simple kiss. That sort of thing. Most of Ghibli movies are more, let's say, lovingly firm, (?) about the deliberate averting of the crushes. And it's also a closed-the-book-on-it sort of thing. It isn't elaborated on in any way. Simple statements dismiss it, and that's that. (Not sure what my point was there, just a plain observation) 

 

1 hour ago, InariYana said:

I remember the time "When Marnie Was There" was in cinemas and people were going "ohhh is it going to be a lesbian crush story?" but it really wasn't anything remotely like it

. . .

Even the relationship between Ponyo's mother-sea and her father isn't really shown as anything physical, it's more like father's deep admiration and romantic love (I do think there is a romantic element there) towards the sea goddess and her being the loving, life-giving force of the element of water.  

 

Yeah, amatonormativity at its finest. *eye roll*

Yes, and I believe the second bit there feeds into my overall point. Even the *adults* in an *already established* relationship don't seem to have physical chemistry with each other, per the very mechanics of the story, really. Although, we've seen that she can turn into a smaller (more managable? *snerk*) size. In contrast, say, The Incredibles, there is all sorts of sexual tension (that isn't aimed at kids understanding it, sure, but still, it's a similar genre and therefore comparable to the aims of Ghibli) 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Philguin Baggins

Moved from World Watch to Off-A.

 

Philguin Baggins

World Watch Moderator

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
LadyWallflower

Miyazaki's strained relationship with his family is unfortunately semi-normal in Japan. In the newspaper this phenomenon has been referred to as the absent father phenomenon. Many workers are expected to work overtime, and sometimes companies will move workers around. I know many people who don't live in the same house as their spouse or family, because their workplace moved them. In comparison, there is still this societal expectation that women quit their job when they marry or have children. This is in part why those medical schools who changed the exam grades of students in order to have less female students are convinced what they were doing is right. There is still that gender divide in Japan. Many older women colleagues I know have the desire to have children, but keep putting it off, because it seems impossible with their job. They always seemed to be depressed about it, talking to me (a younger woman about to hit the so-called perfect age of marriage). They don't like to think about their birthdays, because they are hitting or reaching the age where it starts to become dangerous. So with some families, men work overtime, and never see their wives or children. The women often raise their children alone. The family aspect of Miyazaki's films fills that gap that many people have. Many people desire for more familial and platonic relationships in their lives.

 

I now have a desire to re-watch Princess Mononoke. I've only watched the film once.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Vampyre Dani

Wait, is THAT why I love Studio Ghibli movies so much? And here I thought it was the beautiful animation, the wonderful stories, the adventure, the magic, etc. 😜

 

Okay, now I have a very strong desire to watch all of those movies all over again! 😆

 

*races over to the library to check them out; yeah, I'm a poor nerd... 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The Dryad

I understand what you're saying, but I disagree, the romance is there, but very understated and not forced- like friendship is the main storyline, but then romance follows. But usually the focus is on the adventure and magic, which , in my opinion, is the best of Studio Ghibli films and why I like them so much.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now