Evaluating The Babes of Studio Ghibli Films (Part 1)

Sometime in late April, Walter of Quiet Bubble announced his intention to call for a Hayao Miyazaki blog-a-thon, which I had initially wanted to participate, until I had to suddenly take over the production of my last short film Vertical Distance (originally just the screenwriter, I ended up directing the damned thing). As I had to work on my own film for weeks, I had to miss Quiet Bubble's actual Miyazaki Fest when film blogs around the world were writing articles dedicated to the legendary Japanese director.

I first discovered Hayao Miyazaki back in 1992 when I was eight. Laputa: Castle In The Sky was the first film I've ever watched by him, and until this very day, it occupies a special place in my heart, it's unlikely that anything can supplant its position as my all-time favourite Miyazaki/Ghibli film. Laputa: Castle In The Sky definitely changed my life then, I spent four consecutive nights watching and rewatching it, too blown away by its flawlessness and greatness. Since then, I collected every single other film Miyazaki did after he formed Studio Ghibli (most of his pre-Ghibli works are too obscure for me to find, though I do own a considerable amount of them as well). He is a part of my life, through the years, from a child til today, where I have embarked upon a filmmaking path of my own.

This entry could've been a nostalgic look at the list of Miyazaki films I've seen that helped shape and redefine my beliefs and views in life, of how I grew to love Porco Rosso, of my personal indifference towards My Neighbour Totoro, of my unexplainable affection towards Kiki's Delivery Service, or my mild sense of disappointment with Howl's Moving Castle. It could even be detailed articles or reviews of these movies, where I attempt to articulate my readings and interpretations of them.

However, this isn't such an entry.



Instead of focusing on the films, I will focus on the characters of the films. But instead of doing a deep psychoanalysis upon the characters for a lengthy piece of character study, I am doing something utterly shallow by evaluating and rating the female characters of Studio Ghibli films based on their personalities ("if she does exist? Will I be attracted to her?") and looks ("yes, they all look the same, but there is something about San that makes her hotter than Chihiro...")

Enough talk (even though I know that what I'm doing now is highly admirable and worthy of praises), the numerous candidates I am evaluating for this feature are from Nausicaa until last year's Howl's Moving Castle. Female characters from Ghibli films NOT directed by Hayao Miyazaki will not be listed here.

I evaluate them based on four different categories in a point system value. From a scale of 1 to 10, I will judge their appearances, personalities, skills/talents and achievements, then adding them up for the overall score.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984) has two important female characters, one being the title character, Nausicaa, and the other's the antagonist, Princess Kushana. The tandem of Nausicaa/Princess Kushana is very similar to the San/Lady Eboshi in Princess Mononoke (1997). one represents nature, the other represents modernization/ civilization/ industrialization, both ended up on different sides during a war, and had to cross blades. And yeah, both Nausicaa and Princess Kushana are hot in their own different ways.

Nausicaa


Nausicaa


Overview:
A question that had lingered in my mind ever since I first saw Nausicaa was, well, whether Nausicaa was wearing pants whenever she's in her usual blue military garb. I always thought that they were white pants, but as time went on, I started noticing that they might not be pants, and that they only seemed so because of the colour of her skin (which is really really fair). This means that she was actually wearing just a small skirt all these while, even when she was flying on her Mehve (the glider). Incredible! Of course, my little sister had protested against this numerous times, saying that the whole theory is just a product of my overactive imagination and dirty mind.

Could it be?

Appearance:
Technically, Nausicaa's free-spirited ways of living would have have robbed her of her chance to groom herself more properly, and being in a postapocalyptical world that's ravaged by pollution and war, I doubt she would have the time to really pay attention to her own looks. Fortunately, there's no need for grooming or making up, Nausicaa's blessed with natural good looks, which contributed a lot to her popularity in the Valley, I guess. While I'm not the type who comments on fashion, if my suspicions about her perpetually wearing nothing but a miniskirt (and nothing underneath), then she's definitely hardcore.
8 out of 10


Skills:
- Can talk to insects which is a plus since she can save money on insecticides or bug sprays.
- Reasonable fighting skills.
- Can fly on her Mehve.
7 out of 10

Achievements
- Fulfilled prophecy of saving the world.
- Possibly wears only a miniskirt during her adventures.
9 out of 10

Personality:
Unfortunately, my impression of her is tainted by the horribly butchered cantonese-dubbed version of the film, Warriors of the Wind. I've only seen the full version once a couple of years ago, but during my childhood, I've seen way too many times of the lame butchered version, so my impression of Nausicaa had always been nothing more than a feral, overserious, overbearing, tree-hugging perpetually sullen goody-two-shoe. And I hate goody-two-shoes who take themselves way too seriousy. So sorry dear, She doesn't impress me that much in this department.

But then, being in a Miyazaki film, almost every single protagonist is (sort of) a Luddite. So her tree-hugging ways isn't really that bad a thing if you think that technology is EVIL as well. And it's unfair of me to judge her based only on the Cantonese dubbed version when she's probably a really complex lady with deep emotional depth that was never explored in the butchered Warriors of the Wind. Yet she bores me. Don't think I can really hang out with her that much.
6.5 out of 10

Overall
Too bland and boring for one as dark-natured as I.
30.5 out of 40



Princess Kushana

Princess Kushana

Overview:
Warmongering babe who destroyed the peace in the Valley of the Wind with her large powerful army. Tried to seek weapon of mass destruction (that God of War thingie) to aid her in her quest to eradicate all Ohmus (those huge armoured gigantic insects) who cost her an arm and leg, and destroy the Fukai (Sea of Corruption, badly polluted wastelands that cover most of the world) Not really a villain, just a person with different viewpoints and different methods of dealing with her enemies.

Appearance:
Princess Kushana is a good-looking chick. Exquisite fashion sense too. Look at the tiara she wears, look at her chiseled features, the time she probably spent on her hair. Like what her second-in-command said, when she's not dressed in her battle armour, she is strangely attractive, even with that robotic limbs, if you don't find them too eerie, that is. I think she's more attractive than Nausicaa, but I, er, did find the robotic limbs too eerie.
8.5 out of 10


Skills:
- Also a competent fighter, though instead of using primitive weapons like Nausicaa, she's probably better with firearms and stuff.
- Ability to command a huge army, must probably have good leadership skills.
- Can go through violent massacres without flinching.
7 out of 10

Achievements:
- Killed Nausicaa's dad. Hardcore.
- Setting Nausicaa to a path of saving the world. Meaning that she indirectly saved the world too even though her actions could've actually destroyed it.
7 out of 10

Personality:
Ambitious, driven to success, manipulative, Princess Kushana would've been my kind of woman. Lacking the flawless qualities of Nausicaa, Kushana's flaws make her more human than her deitified nemesis. And one as dark-natured as I would've been more interested in her. However, she IS a pretty selfish bitch who is incapable of listening to warnings and opinions, thus making her a lot less smarter than she thinks she is. Having an ego is cool, I don't mind that, being an egomaniac myself, but she lacks the smoothness (that Nausicaa has) to have people serving her without question, which can be quite problematic. In simpler terms, she has bad social skills and can only resort to death threats and such. Bad girl. Bad bad girl.
6 out of 10

Overall:
Bad girls can be interesting. Unfortunately, Kushana is way too single-minded to be one of them. Besides death and destruction, revenge and war, it's highly improbable that Kushana could talk about, or think about, anything else. Which is boring for an intellectual peace-lover like me.
28.5 out of 40


Laputa


There are only two important female characters in Laputa: Castle In The Sky (1986), one is the heroine Sheeta, the other is Dola, the old woman who leads a bunch of air pirates. Obviously, for the sake of not wanting to haev any of my readers lose their lunches, I will focus only on Sheeta.


Sheeta

Sheeta from Laputa

Overview:
Mysterious girl who possesses a magical crystal and a hidden identity that make her a target for government agents and pirates. Sheeta is blessed with a rather shitty sounding name that til this very day I can't stop myself from making fun of, and so much misfortune had befell upon her that she seemed as if she were from a Korean melodrama, but ultimately, her growth throughout the film made her an entirely wonderful character that might or might not have been my very first anime crush back when I was 8, I don't know, I'm not sure and this is getting a bit too creepy. How old is Sheeta? Pre-teen if based on the Japanese version, but mid-teens when you look at the Cantonese or English versions, I hope it's the latter since it'll make things less creepy here.

Appearance:
Despite her eternally somber demeanour (which MIGHT have enhanced her delicate features), Sheeta has the fortune of being better-looking than everyone around her (or the only girl of her age around), since her only competition is the aged Dola. However, she still looked too young for me to judge how pretty she'll become, but being an anime heroine, she's unlikely to become a cow. 7.5 out of 10

Skills:
- Can cook.
- Can command powerful, destructive robots.
- Can levitate thanks to her magic crystal.
- Can convince any non-evil person to aid her in her quest even though they've only met her three minutes before.
- Grows a spine at the right time during face-off with film's badass.
8 out of 10

Achievements:
- Saved the world.
- (indirectly) destroyed her own homeland.
- Earned the eternal love and friendship of pirates.
- (indirectly) killed the film's badass.

8 out of 10


Personality:
Sheeta is an angsty gal. And it is scary when she is angsting because when she does that, she spaces out, and will accidentally mutter words that can trigger powerful robots that destroy things in sheer berserk rage. She is a girl who is constantly plagued with bad luck, that any places she goes would end up getting destroyed, and that people are so moved by her sheer innocence and naivete that they would easily do all kinds of things to protect her, including giving their own lives. That makes her rather fascinating because despite her gloomy fate, she remains unirritating, and does not seemingly take herself as seriously as, say, Nausicaa.

The aforementioned climatic face-off with film's evil arsehole Muska is definitely inspiring. From a girl who is initially weak and helpless, she finally gathers her courage and stops running, bravely condemning the villain for his evil ways and does not flinch at all even when the guy shot her, er, pigtails off. Yeap, she turned hardcore, and instead of being your generic Miyazaki heroine who would hesitate to take anyone's life, she actually had the guts to mutter a magic word of mass destruction that indirectly murdered the evil Muska (and his underlings who may have still remained in Laputa). And even when she is riding off into the sunset with the pirates, she does not seem to have any complaints about them stealing treasure away from Laputa. Hell, she's even happy for them! Your generic Miyazaki heroine would've reprimanded them for their greed, AND make me yawn.

Therefore, I have many reasons to believe that Sheeta is NOT some boring holier-than-thou goody two shoe and that she can pretty much does anything just to survive. Such women fascinate me.
9 out of 10


Overall:
Watching Sheeta grow from annoying damsel in distress to courageous heroine adds much to the amazing experience of watching the great film.
32.5
out of 40


In the next part of this feature, I will evaluate the female characters of My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service and Porco Rosso.

One of the greatest challenges of this is illustrated well by my little sister's question. "Er, how can you even say who is more pretty than the other when they all look the same?" Well, little sis, all these requires true discipline and art.


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