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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Evaluating The Babes of Studio Ghibli Films (Part 2)

Continuing my MUCH OVERDUE (and probably underappreciated *sob*) contribution for the Miyazaki Fest.

Go to Part 1 to read my evaluations of the female characters in Nausicaa and Laputa: Castle in the Sky.

My Neighbour Totoro

My Neighbour Totoro (1988) remains one of those rare Ghibli films that got little love from me despite it being loved by everyone and their grandmothers. Perhaps it was the saccharine sweetness, or perhaps my memories of it were marred badly by the Cantonese version. (most probably the latter)

According to IMDB, the film was originally going to feature just one girl, but because Miyazaki wanted to add more suspense in the second half of the film, and knew that he couldn't do it with just one girl, so he split them into two. And we got Satsuki and Mei. The original girl would have had the characteristics of both Satsuki and Mei, and halfway between the age of Satsuki (8 according to IMDB, 11 according to Wikipedia) and Mei (4).

By finally finding out their actual ages, I knew immediately that it's impossible for me to add them into this feature. After all, I'm supposed to be evaluating BABES, not BABIES.

Mei and Satsuki from My Neighbour Totoro

Despite thus, I think Satsuki easily has the funkiest hairstyle among all Ghibli heroines. And Mei will most probably becomes an even more deadly headbutter than Zinedine Zidane if her oversized head remains oversized after she's grown up.

Kiki's Delivery Service

Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) has only one major female character, and she's the title character. At the age of 13, Kiki may be too young for me to judge as well, although there she may not be more older than Sheeta of Laputa.


Kiki is a kind-hearted young witch whose only magic power is flying on a broom, which kinda sucks because if she were more powerful, she could've exploited them for world domination and such. However, she has an entrepreneurial mind, capable of running an air courier service by herself. By acknowledging the forces of capitalism, she has a brighter future in the contemporary society compared to Sabrina the Teenage Witch.


Or Samantha from Bewitched.

Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) from Bewitched

Or the hotties from Charmed.

The witches from Charmed

She's perpetually dressed in her witch garb, despite the mockery and ridicule she has to endure. That's good because she shows great inner strength and character. But bad because she's too stubborn to actually pay attention to her own looks. Being a Ghibli heroine, she has above average looks, but besides attracting the attention of nerd boy, I don't really think that she's a stunner. For now anyway.

- Can fly on her broom.
- Can communicate with familiar/pet cat, Jiji.
- Instead of intimidating anyone like usual witches do, she is universally loved for being nice.
- Manages not to get annoyed to death by nerd boy.

- Brought happiness and love to her customers after starting her air courier service
- Saved nerd boy from plummeting to his doom. Rare Ghibli heroine who doesn't need any saving from romantic interest. Semi-hardcore.

She's the kind of person your mother will simply adore, nice, kind-hearted and polite, what's not there to like about her? Of course, she has a bit of a temper, and can easily show her displeasure (when fending off the advances of that nerd boy), but ultimately, this witch is more angelic than an angel, which makes her kinda boring. But once again, anyone's parents will probably love her. People like her make me feel rather uncomfortable because you just don't feel like joking around when she's nearby (besides, she is pretty sensitive and doesn't have that much of a sense of humour)
6.5 out of 10

Nice girl. But boring. Needs to tap into her darker side like Sheeta of Laputa did. Considering how bad she has been mistreated by some of those snobbish chicks she stumbled into, a swift act of vengeance (like kidnapping them and tossing them into a cauldron for boiling, and later mincing their meat for sale in the bakery she works for) would've made her cooler. Go to the dark side, baby, so I can love you more!

Porco Rosso

Whoa, Porco Rosso (1992) is definitely a grower. I started out feeling rather disappointed when I first watched it, but that was when I was thirteen, and I absolutely did NOT 'get' the story AT ALL. The subtle, understated, repressed emotions from the bittersweet romance between Porco and Gina flew RIGHT OVER my head. I didn't even know there was anything going on between them (or mebbe Gina has just a mere crush on Porco, that's all), assuming that Fio was the love interest because of the goodbye kiss she gave him... yes, I was stupid. But upon repeated viewings as I grew up, I was bowled over by the sheer greatness and subtlety of this film, how it's not just an action film but also one hell of a love story that make sappy romantics sap everytime we see certain scenes from the film.

Director Miyazaki commenting Marco's transformation: "This film was made for middle-aged men who in their youth dreamed of a pure life, faithful to their principles, but who, little by little, are transformed into 'pigs' through the pressures of working like madmen. Despite their intention to reject merely mercenary goals, they are drawn into the world of hyper-consumerism, and when they look for the purpose of their lives, they feel themselves alienated...these men live in solitude and regret."


The two major female characters in this film are Fio and Gina, so I'll be evaluating them.


Fio from Porco Rosso
Tomboyish, sassy gal whose sheer innocence allowed Porco to rediscover that humans aren't so bad after all, which made him overcame his self-pity and reverted back to human form after she kissed him. Talented airplane engineer.

She looks just like any other good-looking Ghibli heroines, but with red hair.

- Airplane engineering skills.
- Not repulsed by Porco when kissing him.
- Seems like a good kisser.

- Kissed Porco. That takes guts.
- Helped Porco win the dogfight in the end.

Occasionally annoying, but not excessively so, you can't really hate her because she is just, well, so nice. But she has everything that a Ghibli heroine would have, brave, sassy, spunky etc. I will go to hell if I diss her for this.

She's an okay girl. But won't really leave a deep impression because she's no different from most other people I've met.


Gina from Porco Rosso
Finally, a REAL woman in this part of the feature. After evaluating a tomboyish chick and a few preteens, I was just starting to feel dirty for myself and was really wanting to reevaluate my own sanity. Gina's the woman who loved Porco, thrice-widowed, she owns a pilot's club/ hotel and had been waiting for Porco all these while, rejecting the advances of the hunky (!!) American pilot, Curtis, who would later become a major Hollywood star. She is like the chick version of Florentino Ariza from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love In The Time of Cholera.

Sometimes, I feel that she might have applied a little too much make-up. But that also separates her from the other Ghibli women I've been evaluating. Highly fashionable (for someone of her time period), classy and elegant.

- She sings pretty well.
- Can run a club by herself. Great management skills.
- Does not allow herself to be overwhelmed by angst despite the deaths of three husbands. Nausicaa, Sheeta and many other Ghibli heroines should learn from her.

- Selflessly inspired Fio to inspire Porco Rosso to win the dogfight.
- Owns an establishment for pilots, regardless of which side they work for, to hang out. She is like the chick version of Humphrey Bogart's Rick in Casablanca... (or Pamela Anderson's character in the Razzie-award winning sci-fi masterpiece Barb Wire.)
Pamela Anderson in Barb Wire
- Waited tirelessly for her loved one to openly love her in return, something more difficult than saving the world!

A dignified woman who maintains an air of mystery around her. It is hard to know what she's really thinking. Charismatic and nice enough to keep visitors coming to her club everynight, while commanding their respect. But ultimately, it's her love for Porco that made her such an incredible woman, perpetually waiting for him, yet never becoming to0 possessive (look at the way she dealt with potential rival Fio). Thus she has a sensitive soul. Most people who have seen Porco Rosso will most probably want her to end up with Porco than Fio. She's the kind of woman you usually see who is an object of desire for many, but in the end, you'll know that she's unattainable because there's only one person she will ever love, and you'll rather see her happy than to possess her. Which makes things so bittersweet.

She owns.

For the next and final part of this feature, I'll be evaluating the babe factors of the female characters from Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. Stay tuned.

Quiet Bubble: Miyazaki Fest is off and running!
Quiet Bubble: Good neighbors: My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Quiet Bubble: Working girl: Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Quiet Bubble: A pig’s gotta fly: Porco Rosso (1992)

Related Links:
IMDB thread debating the interpretation of Porco Rosso's ending
Anime Academy Review: Kiki's Delivery Service
Anime Academy Review: Porco Rosso
Anime Academy Review: My Neighbour Totoro