I woke up excited on a hot August morning. I took a shower, got dressed and rushed into the car with a wide smile feeling like a 5-year-old on Christmas day. I was headed to the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum to see a special exhibition that explored the inner workings of my favorite Japanese filmmaking studio, namely, Ghibli.
As I sat with my eyes closed trying to make the car drive feel a little quicker, my excitement began evolving into imagination. A marshmallow-soft yellow fur started growing out of the car seat under me and I felt my body sinking into its warm embrace. I looked outside my window and caught a glimpse of a white and emerald dragon fly across the sky as if it were swimming effortlessly in a crystal-clear river. This is precisely what Ghibli movies taught me. Imagination is powerful. Imagination is magic.
I finally arrived at the museum, and the first section of the exhibit explored multitudes of original posters of every Ghibli movie including Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle, just to name a few of my favorites. What most intrigued me though, was reading the original handwritten notes that had been edited among the top illustrators to decide the best catchphrase for each movie poster. For example, the catchphrase on the poster of Princess Mononoke was “Live.” Despite its simplicity, in reality, there was a complex process of examining and editing that took place by a variety of illustrators that eventually led to this expression. I loved this peek into the behind-the-scenes process because it made me realize that every decision was carefully and deliberately thought through. This realization made me appreciate the art of creation on a much deeper level.
As I walked along the walls decorated with numerous hand drawn sketches by various Ghibli artists, I was reminded of why I love their movies so much; They exert a certain warmth that is unique to creations made entirely by hand. I truly believe that the purely handmade, human quality of Ghibli’s visual storytelling enhances the ability to sympathize with the characters’ emotions and feel intimately with them in the story. I can only imagine the amount of time, physical strain, patience and perseverance that went into creating every shot by hand, but in the end, the result is unlike any other.
There were other fun exhibits that followed, like being able to see the evolution of Ghibli products over the years, a closer look at different advertising strategies, insight into some challenges that the crew encountered during production, and of course, the famous cat bus that anyone could board and take photos.
At the end, I came out of the exhibition feeling proud. Proud to be born and raised in a country where such creativity is respected and celebrated.
This exhibition continues until September 24, 2018, and I strongly urge you to make time to experience this Ghibli magic for yourself!