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Column: Finding comfort in animation

This year has been overwhelming for the obvious reasons: a pandemic swept the globe, social issues became more apparent and we have to live through another recession. It’s stressful to say the least. With the free time that I had in the last half of the spring semester and summer, I had to find something to distract myself while cooped up at home.

I picked my poison, which ended up being TV series and movies. Yes, that did include “Tiger King,” but a special niche that stuck was Studio Ghibli films. These whimsical and bright films brought me great nostalgia; however, I wasn’t seeing them as a child anymore.

When I first watched these movies, I loved the funny spirits and creatures that would accompany the main character’s journey through their fantasy world. It all just seemed like a magical story at the surface.

Studio Ghibli films’ wide-eyed and colorful characters are a juxtaposition to their real-world topics of war, mental health, environmentalism, family values, burnout and so much more. It was strange how I wanted to numb myself from life’s problems, yet the things I wanted to ignore just came back to me in captivating storytelling.

In my marathon of Hayao Miyazaki’s work, I really enjoyed “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and “Howl’s Moving Castle.” I won’t go into heavy details about these films, but the messages were exactly what I needed.

With “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” I identified with the main character Kiki. She’s a young witch in training who moves to a new city by herself, but feels like life isn’t getting her where she wants to be and gets stuck in a career rut.

I judge my progression based on my peers’ accomplishments, wondering if my skills are enough to take me where I want to be in the future. It’s almost a paralyzing fear of mine, that it sometimes even gets in the way of current projects that I have and ignoring any growth I’ve made so far.

In the end, Kiki learns that she should go at her own pace. Her progress is her own and the lesson that she doesn’t have to go through it alone was my biggest take from the film.

For “Howl’s Moving Castle,” their world was going through mayhem as well. It could have been so easy for the main characters to give up and just magically leave behind their troubles.

Rather than that, they went out of their way to stop a war, change people’s hearts and to protect their loved ones. I’ve thought about the possibility of leaving the country almost permanently after graduation, though, not everyone will have that luxury. Much of society’s problems will still persist no matter where I go.

While I don’t exactly plan on halting armies, Studio Ghibli taught me that I should be doing my part with my voice and my privilege. To stop the pain and greater injustices of the world, we should be going for the root of the problem rather than burying it up.

Even though I wanted to forget the world, these films gave me a fresh perspective on what I’m facing. I may not be able to solve everything, but I can at least be hopeful and have the spirit to overcome the rest of 2020.

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