At my university in Germany there are hardly people who didn’t get into Japan through Japanese popculture and in most cases that would be manga and anime. For me, naturally this applies as well.
During my elementary school years I got heavily into detective stories and consumed the German books and audio dramas of “The Three Investigators” and the like. So it really was simply a question of time until I discovered the anime “Detective Conan” on German television and got hooked.
And although anime had been present even before that in my life, “Detective Conan” really marked a turning point for me. I saw the movies on YouTube at that time and bought my very first manga at a small comic store. I also soon found out that most episodes had never even been translated to German, which resulted in me convincing my parents to sign me into a Japanese class at an evening school, which, looking back, actually triggered everything that happened since then in my life until now.
Today, as sad as it is, I haven’t read a manga in years and hardly find the time to watch anime as much as I once used to. However one passion really stayed throughout all those years. I love the movies by Studio Ghibli. The stories are always beautifully told, the characters have very likeable flaws and show so much strength despite those, and the animation is simply breathtaking.
I grew up with “Spirited Away” (2001), “Kiki’s Delivery Service” (1989), “My Neighbor Totoro”(1988) and “Howl’s Moving Castle”(2004), that were aired in Germany after 2000. And when I was older I cried my eyes out while watching “Grave of the Fireflies” (1988), bought the DVD for “Arietty”(2010) and tremendously enjoyed watching “From Up on Poppy Hill” (2011) at the movies. As you can tell, I always felt really connected with these stories.
So of course, one of the most important things on my list during my first time to Japan was visiting the Ghibli Museum of Mitaka. I clearly remember how excited I was during that trip, organised by my exchange organisation. Already at the entrance I took so many pictures of the building and the Totoro figure and was nearly stunned by my ticket, which was designed as a filmstrip and depicted a scene from “Spirited Away” when held against light.
At the museum however, taking pictures was forbidden and unfortunately my memory fails me about the details and the samples exhibited.
The architecture inside was amazing though, that much I remember.
When I heard this summer, that an exhibition about Ghibli was to be held in Roppongi, which is really close to where I live, it went without saying that I had to go.
And although it wasn’t as breathtaking as the museum, it was still a very nice exhibition. The main parts were of course the famous cat bus from Totoro and a special installation of an air ship from “Castle in the Sky” (1986), which was almost entirely constructed from wood and was lifted to the ceiling every now and then.
Right now, another animated movie is very popular in Japan: “Your Name”, which just came out last month.
This is not your typical love story and it has a lot of twists, I did not expect and that left me continuously crossing my fingers for a happy ending.
Although this is NOT a Ghibli animation, this movie is definitely a recommendation and if you have the chance to see it at the movies or buy the DVD later in your language, you absolutely should!
I’m being very bold here, but I would definitely say that this movie was even better than all the recent movies made by Ghibli.