Jun 08, 2016 9:42AM

Studio Ghibli Director Talks Girl-Heroes, 'When Marnie Was There' & Anime Feminism

"Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man."

Hayao Miyazaki protégé and current director of Studio Ghibli, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, recently sat down with fellow Ghibli filmmaker Yoshiaki Nishimura to go deep on his epic film When Marnie Was There. In the interview, the pair touch on loneliness in Japan, why Hiromasa continued the studio's legacy of assigning a girl as the narrative's hero, and the different ways in which women and men approach fantasy.

Aside from Studio Ghibli's knack for universal, fantastical and emotive storytelling, there's always a big emphasis on women and the environment in its films. Hayao Miyazaki was one of the most progressive feminist filmmakers of his time, and has famously said of his choice to predominantly cast girl heroes in his films: "Many of my movies have strong female leads — brave, self-sufficient girls that don't think twice about fighting for what they believe in with all their heart. They'll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a saviour. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man." Truth.

When probed, Hiromasa had a slightly different reasoning for choosing Anna, "an androgynous character, in the transition between child to adulthood, a very sensitive age", as When Marnie Was There's lead, saying, "I'm male myself, and if I had a central character who was male, I'd probably put too much emotion into it, and that would lead to difficulty in telling the story." 

He then points to the similarities between Anna's issues and the issues faced by Japanese people in general, saying, "Anna is a lonely girl. At the moment, so many Japanese people feel lonely even though they're connected by technology. I'm not sure if Anna and Japan itself are the same, but people in Japan should be able to understand her."

But then Yoshiaki makes us put our palms to our faces by explaining that he thinks that men are better suited to telling fantasy stories, which is why Studio Ghibli's directors always tend to be male:

"It depends on what kind of a film it would be. Unlike live action, with animation we have to simplify the real world. Women tend to be more realistic and manage day-to-day lives very well. Men on the other hand tend to be more idealistic — and fantasy films need that idealistic approach. I don't think it's a coincidence men are picked." Alright, mate. 

Looks like we'll have to settle for fictional girl-heroes for now.
Via: The Guardian 

Photo: Studio Ghibli 

Madeleine Woon