Aug 14, 2016 12:37PM

Studio Ghibli's 11 Greatest Girl Heroes

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

Studio Ghibli's magic animation and meaningful storylines always draw us in, but it's the day-saving girl heroes that keep us coming back for more. Under the direction of important dude Hayao Miyazaki, the most revered studio has improved our lives immeasurably with its fantastical storytelling and complex characters. Studio Ghibli turns 30 this month, and to celebrate them being them, and chicks being cool, we decided to give a little appreesh to all our #1 Ghibli girls

Out of Hayao Miyazaki's 13 films, nine feature a female central protagonist, often as the titular character. These roles help to smash down ~the patriarchy~, stereotypes and expectations of women, and all the dereks who still think girls need to be rescued by boys. Like every other Ghibli character — dude, villian, spirit — these leading ladies are also nuanced, deep and multidimensional. 

Hayao has described them as "brave, self-sufficient girls that don't think twice about fighting for what they believe in with all their heart." AKA total ledgends. 

So to celebrate 30 years of Studio Ghibli being the best, here are just a few of its most bomb female characters.

1. Nausicaä in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

No list of chick heroes would be complete without the inclusion of Nausicaä — the least precious princess in the world. The lil' eco warrior is a friend to all creatures big and small, and, on top of having a heart of gold, she does everything she can to big up environmental issues and save her people (including jumping on the front line). The fact that this movie was made in 1984 is legit unbelievable; Hayao was way ahead of that curve. 

Special props for making us feel mushy about giant bugs, Hayao, and even more special props for straight up body bagging the defenceless princess stereotype. Definitely here for it.

2. Sophie in Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

Howl's Moving Castle has gotta be one of the most heartwarming movies of all time. The modest Sophie handles being turned into an old lady like a total champ — she even ends up forgiving the witch who dun it.

To reverse the spell put on her, she hunts down the powerful wizard Howl and winds up living in his magical castle as the cleaning lady. While there, she secretly learns some new spells of her own, and transforms from being a timid young girl into a fierce old lady. Props, props, props. And while Sophie needs saving, she also sorta saves Howl in return.

3. Satsuki and Mei in My Neighbour Totoro (1988)

My Neighbour Totoro is probs Studio Ghibli's most child friendly film — which is not to say we don't still appreciate it as fully-grown adults or that it doesn't still carry some pretty strong messages of sisterhood. Aside from cutest forest spirit Totoro, the main characters are two curious, adventurous and brave girls, and they are surrounded by a largely female supporting cast. 

Most importantly, My Neighbour Totoro doesn't rely on that catty sister stereotype — Satsuki and Mei depend on one another, and they always have each other's back <3.

4. Princess Kaguya in The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013)

While the entire premise of Cinderella is for her to lock down a husband, Princess Kaguya straight up refuses to accept any marriage proposals no matter how rich the suitor is. That's more our flavour. 

Princess Kaguya also gives minimal phucks about her dad's/society's stupid expectations of her, preferring to get amongst nature rather than studying calligraphy. Pretty much the whole film is a giant fist in the air for non-conformity. 

5. Kiki in Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)

Before the Harry Potter franchise there was humble witch tale Kiki's Delivery Service. The movie centres on little enterprising legend Kiki, who sets up her own delivery service at age 13. Talk about an independent woman. The true coming-of-age story sees her face heaps of setbacks — the worst being her witch equivalent of writer's block — but her hella resilient spirit always comes through. 

The movie is stacked with friendship #goals, from Kiki's strong bond with the pregnant breadshop owner to the kooky artist who lives by herself in the woods. Above all tho, Kiki is a little lesson in feeling yourself, and encourages all the misfits/weirdos to let their freak flags fly. Cheers, mate!

6. San in Princess Mononoke (1997)

San is the baddest — she's a human who was raised by wolf gods and who has the soul of a wolf. Pretty much enough said.  

Like most of Ghibli's films, a strong pro-environmental message weaves throughout Princess Mononoke and San is mostly concerned with saving the forest from evil humans. Even though she's mega-fearless and often short-tempered, she also has a soft side, and is probably the best example of the complexities inherent in all of Ghibli's female heroes. San gets these ~layers~ from her mum — the most bomb wolf god in the forest who, despite being super self-sacrificing and nurturing, is feared by humans and gods alike. 

7. Fio in Porco Rosso (1992)

Fiesty/brave Fio proves that girls are just as adept at being engineers and pilots as men are. She proves how down to slay she is by joining man-turned-pig Porco Rosso on his mission, before sort of falling in love with him, despite his insistence that "all middle-aged men are pigs" (we see what you did there).

Fio is well-respected because of her smarts and ingenuity, not because she is pretty, which is a bloody good alternative to the messages Walt Disney was serving up at the time. 

8. Anna and Marnie in When Marnie Was There (2015)

Hayao may have exited the building, but his pro-female legacy lives on in Hiromasa Yonebayashi's When Marnie Was There. The story centres on the tight friendship between two young women — Anna and Marnie. Anna is a lonely, anxiety-ridden and incred socially awkward young teenager who finds her first ever friend in Marnie, a mysterious girl from across the pond that only she can see. 

Other than the studio's standard bucolic landscapes and enchanting vibes, When Marnie Was There truly captures the joy and pain of learning to like yourself, navigating new/unfamiliar territories, and how it feels to succeed. It's also about finding how many tissues you can burn through in one movie (heaps). 

9. Lisa in Ponyo (2009)

Ponyo is another notch on Hayao's progressive/feminist directorial belt. Like Totoro, it's pretty heavily geared towards the kids but it still kicks major goals when it comes to its accurate represenation of females — in particular, the character Lisa. 

Even though Lisa is a très supportive mum, this role isn't what defines her as a person. She works at an old folk's home, argues with her sailor husband using Morse code when he's out at sea, and is also the undisputed master of driving — taking on tidal waves and floods in her tiny car. Legend. 
10. Sheeta in Castle In The Sky (1986)

Confident gal Sheeta is always the brains behind her and Pazu's operations, even though he's kind of cast as her ~saviour~. She's always the one calling the shots — whether that's making the decision to run into the village, hide in railway tunnels, or use the mines as place to hide from trackers. She can also def hold her own on a ship full of pirates, which is pretty bloody baller.

11. Chihiro in Spirited Away (2001)

Spirited Away is Japan's highest grossing film, having pulled in even more cash than Titantic. Casual. The film's female protagonist Chihiro starts out as an entitled, whiny brat of a child, but is forced to go on a journey of enlightenment after her parents are turned into pigs.

Chi takes on gruelling work in a bathhouse, and in order to free her parents and find her way back home, she doesn't throw the towel in even when things get really real. 

Okay, ladies, now let's get in formation. 

Photos & GIFs: Tumblr

Madeleine Woon