The Dark Underside of Studio Ghibli

No offense to Disney and Dreamworks, but Japan is and has been the world capital of animated works for quite some time now not only in the east but also in the west. And while there are plenty of amazing animation studios and genius animators widely known in Japan, many of them don’t actually get to enjoy the same amount of notoriety and success in the west. This, however, isn’t true for the renowned Studio Ghibli, who have proved time after time that they are the undisputed kings of blockbuster animations. And while many best-selling works tend to ‘sell their soul’ for marketability, Studio Ghibli has done the exact opposite: they have refused to compromise on the ethical and critical undertones of their work, often making films with bold moral statements which many Western filmmakers would be too terrified to even dream of.

One such film is Spirited Away, which tells the story of the young Chihiro, who is transported to a magical realm, isolated from her parents who were transformed into pigs when they let their gluttony overtake them while chowing down on a mountain of stolen food. Chihiro is forced to work in a bathhouse for a witch named Yubaba, who gives her a new name. Bathhouses in Japan often double as brothels, and the female workers often sported new names to suit their newfound occupation.

Basically, the whole film is a sharp criticism of not only the Japanese streetwalking but also of the prevailing culture which allows for such horrendous acts of trafficking and manipulation to occur in the first place. Miyazaki, screenwriter and animator of Spirited Away and the very embodiment of Studio Ghibli, has stated that the film truly was his effort to criticize these sunless facets of Japanese society that are often kept under covers.

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