"Why must fireflies die so young?" The Picturesque of Caution in the Works of Studio Ghibli
Keywords:picturesque, Studio ghibli, Anime, William gilpin, war ruins
As opposed to most contemporary usage of the word “picturesque” – which is generally taken to mean visually attractive in a quaint or charming way, or else something that resembles a picture – William Gilpin introduced this term to the English cultural debate in 1792. Gilpin used “picturesque” to typify an aesthetic ideal wherein roughness, raggedness, and ruins would be privileged over smoothness, symmetry and perfection. Over time, his conceptualization of “the picturesque” led to a celebration of disorder, decay, and ruin, a kind of glorification of violence also familiar to the Gothic romances of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. However, following the unimaginable havoc and mass destruction caused by the two world wars, ruins and images of ruins started to be viewed very differently. This paper seeks to explore how the picturesque mode has been used as an instrument of caution in the works of Studio Ghibli, spearheaded by two creative artists and directors, Hayao Miyazaki and Takahata Isao, who have experienced the horrors of WWII firsthand in their own childhoods. This paper specifically looks at two famous anime feature films produced by Studio Ghibli – Grave of the Fireflies (1988) and Howl's Moving Castle (2004) – that deal with the impacts of war and convey strong anti-war messages by uniquely employing the picturesque mode of representation.
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