Wednesday 29 August 2012

My Top 5 Favourite Studio Ghibli Characters... Who Aren't People

Spirited Away. Howl's Moving Castle. Arrietty. My Neighbour Totoro. Anyone who has watched a Studio Ghibli film knows just how incredible they are. Full of depth with stunning animation, most of these films are not just for kids but are really adult animations that children can also enjoy, so if you're one of those people who say they don't like 'cartoons', you obviously haven't watched a Ghibli film before. Watch this clip below, which is like a trailer for almost every Ghibli film that has been released so far, up to Howl's Moving Castle.

Many of my favourite Studio Ghibli films were created by Hayao Miyazaki, who co-founded the studio in Japan with Isao Takahata almost 30 years ago. Here is Miyazaki.

Anyway, I really wanted to share my favourite Ghibli films on here but didn't want to do a generic list of just my favourite films. What I love about the fantasy world each film creates is that every character has their own charm and is fully rounded, even if they don't have dialogue. So, if you haven't guessed already from the title, I'm going to share my favourite Studio Ghibli characters... who aren't people.

Number 5:

So at number 5 is a character from the film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1985). This was an early hit for the Studio, set in a post-apocalypic wasteland, and features a strong female heroine who fights to protect her kingdom and the environment of the planet itself. Nausicaa is possibly my favourite of all the Ghibli films and this is due in no small part to the relationship that Nausicaa has with her pet fox-squirrel thingy (what the hell is it?) called Teto. The way Nausicaa treats Teto helps demonstrate her general attitude towards nature and the environment, a key message of the film that Miyazaki wanted to promote.

Also, isn't he cute ha!

Number 4:

In the number 4 slot, I wanted to share with you the most trippy character from any Ghibli film, who coincidentally appears in Miyazaki's most child-friendly  feature, My Neighbour Totoro (1988). There were loads of weird freaky animal like things in this one but the clear favourite for me is the CatBus. The CatBus is basically a giant cat that has headlights for eyes and when people need a ride, its stomach opens up so that people can step in and sit down. It even has windows and everything. Sure, it ignores every health and safety regulation in the book but it sure as hell looks fun to ride!

Number 3:

This whole thing has started getting a bit too Disney so moving away now from the cutesy animals, Howl's Moving Castle (2004) has plenty of bizarre characters to choose from, centring around the exploits of a wizard who lives in a castle with legs, but in the end I had to pick Calcifer for third place, everyone's favourite fire demon (sorry fat dog and jumping scarecrow). Calcifer can wield powerful magic but is unable to leave the fireplace he lives in, otherwise his flame will go out, so he is constantly worrying about the log supply. Also, he's hilarious in a grumpy, mean-spirited sort of way which is exactly what you want from a fire demon right?

Number 2:

We're reaching the end now and for my second favourite Studio Ghibli Character... who isn't a person, I've gone for everyone's favourite talking cat, Jiji from Kiki's Delivery Service (1989). I know what you're thinking; 'Oh look, another cute animal that wouldn't look out of place in a Disney film' (no offence Disney) and yes, he is ridiculously cute but Jiji also has a dry wit that makes him the perfect counterpoint to the optimistic Kiki. He is also extremely loyal to his owner, helping Kiki survive in a new city while she trains to be a witch. I found a very short clip of Jiji but its in Japanese so I'll translate underneath.

"Kiki, it's me!"

Clever. Clever cat indeed.

Number 1:

Ok, we're now at number one and this choice is possibly the most iconic of all characters from Studio Ghibli, aside from Totoro. Yes, its the weird black spirit-demon with a white mask thingy, known as No-Face, from Spirited Away (2001), one of the most successful Japanese films in history. Film scholars have interpreted the character of No-Face as being representative of the corporate greed and excess of modern Japan, while other people have just thought he looks freaky. Whichever way you look at it though, No-Face is a fascinating character; a lonely spirit who initially causes mayhem in the incredible bathhouse scene by eating everything in sight, before becoming obsessed with the protagonist Chihiro, following her around everywhere and giving her gifts.

Spirited Away is set in a fantastic fantasy world in the vein of Alice in Wonderland and if you're new to Studio Ghibli, then this is a good film to start you off.

So that's it then. Hopefully I've given you a slightly different glimpse into the world of Ghibli but if you think I've left out any other awesome characters  from other films like Princess Mononoke and Pom Poko, then let me know with comments below and don't forget to tell me who your favourite is!


  1. you didn't pick Totoro? i am shocked, and that fancy dressed cat man who's name i can't remember, loved him.

  2. I know, I love the fancy dressed cat man from The Cat Returns too but I didn't want too many talking cats and no one beats JiJi!