Studio Ghibli VS University

I hated university. Oh sure, I gained a lot from the six years I was there! But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t frequently arduous. Whether it was the strike halfway through my first year, losing me 85 days of class, the poor mapping of the colleges, the daily routine that messed with my sleeping and eating schedules, or the sheer volume of readings, books, assignments and exams on areas that didn’t interest me at all, it felt like I was fighting an uphill battle that I could never win. Like Sisyphus of Greek mythology, it was like I was doomed to an endless punishment of lifting a rock that wouldn’t budge up a long, tiring hill.

There were many instances where I felt like giving up. In my second year, I dropped my favourite class, American Poetry, so that I could focus on one of my tedious electives. In my third year, I spent half of the first semester anticipating another strike. Even in my fourth year, as I was starting to get the hang of everything, I argued with my mom about the inherent value of staying in university, suggesting that leaving would be a better option. But I stayed anyway.

I mention this because it was also when I discovered Studio Ghibli. I still remember the night I watched that copy of Spirited Away lying around in the living room of my house, left there accidentally by a friend of my brother’s. It was a week before my third year began, a fact made easier by school starting late to atone for the strike, and I was bored out of my mind. Yet there it was, tempting me. I’d already heard that it was great, so I figured that I had nothing to lose. The disc was scratched, meaning that part of an early scene was missing, but it sucked me in anyway.

Right after that, I made it my mission to look up aka Hayao Miyazaki’s other work. I went to my local Blockbuster and rented Castle in the Sky and Howl’s Moving Castle, as those were the only two films that were available. The former wowed me from the get-go, prompting enough renewals that the store eventually let me buy it for a discounted price. The latter disappointed initially, but even amidst my criticism I ended up learning to love it. Both were Miyazaki, so I had to give them a chance.

It didn’t stop there. For my 20th birthday, I’d received a gift card to my local mall for $25. I spent it all at HMV on Princess Mononoke and Kiki’s Delivery Service, even going over-budget, but I didn’t care. They too were Miyazaki, so I had to own them. I’d even go back several times to buy the remainder of the Miyazaki stock, as I was hooked. And I was hooked because they were that good.

I remember the stories that often came with these films. After a mid-class excursion to HMV to purchase some non-Miyazaki Studio Ghibli films, I returned to an angry professor who called me a “disruption”. The professor was a jerk anyway, and that the class was a bad fit, so I dropped the course that evening. For my first Gender Studies essay, I wrote a paper on classism and the status of women in Princess Mononoke, to which I received an A-. It remains one of my proudest moments.

Studio Ghibli was also influencing me personally. As I was getting more and more sucked into their work, so too was my chatter with friends and family becoming consumed by them. My writing on ScrewAttack was also becoming Studio Ghibli-centric, to the point where it was all I could write about. It was a drug, and I couldn’t stop. But it was keeping me going, so I wasn’t going to stop anyway.

In hindsight, Studio Ghibli kept me from dropping out of university. Whether direct or indirect is uncertain, but the power and messages of those films gave me hope and courage. Kiki’s Delivery Service taught me to persevere through bouts of creative blockage, and I’d give it a watch whenever I needed creative rejuvenation. Whisper of the Heart spoke to me as a writer, inspiring me to keep writing. Princess Mononoke challenged me to think critically, such that I’ve been striving to do so ever since. And then there was Spirited Away, which, aside from being my favourite film of all-time, reminded me that it was okay to be myself. All of these films taught me to work hard toward my goal even when the going got tough, hence eventually making it through university and graduating in 2014.

Studio Ghibli did all of that for me, and I thank them for it. It’s also why I write about them so frequently on Infinite Rainy Day, as there’s simply too much to talk. Perhaps it’s unhealthy, and maybe I need to diversify my tastes a little more. Maybe I’m casual trash, perpetuating a toxic fanbase that claims that no other anime but Studio Ghibli is worth your time. It’s even possible that I may one day annoy everyone to the point of complete isolation and abandonment. But if Studio Ghibli is responsible for my succeeding through the nightmare of university, ensuring that I’d come out with a double-major, then perhaps it’s worth it to sing their praises; after all, so long as I’m passionate, then who cares?


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