National / Media | Japan Pulse

Studio Ghibli attracts a new generation of fans with August tradition

by Carissa Shale

Contributing Writer

Family movie nights used to mean sitting around the television set waiting for a scheduled film and enduring annoying commercial breaks. Such nights tend to look a little different these days, with streaming services such as Netflix and on demand television dominating the market and allowing us to watch films whenever and wherever we want, uninterrupted by advertising. Long gone are the days of running to the kitchen to grab a snack during an ad break and rushing back before the movie resumed.

A few weeks ago, however, Japanese film enthusiasts created a social media frenzy and turned back the clock to an era before streaming.

When Studio Ghibli’s “Castle in the Sky” was shown on television on the last Friday of August, social media blew up and the film quickly trended on Twitter. Fans took to social media to share photos of latte art and eggplant sculptures of the characters, celebrating the televised event. One simple tweet that admired the beauty of a scene featuring an animated egg on toast from the film attracted around 4,800 likes and was retweeted about 1,300 times.

Weeks after the film was shown on television, it was still weighing on people’s minds. After the release of Apple’s new iPhone, announced on Sept. 11, a fan tweeted a photo likening a robot from the film to the phone’s camera. Following Japan’s recent turbulent weather, another fan tweeted a video of a thunderstorm saying, “It’s the Dragon’s Nest! ‘Castle in the Sky’ is real!” This particular video attracted more than 25,000 likes, over 7,000 retweets and a staggering 444,000 views.

“Castle in the Sky,” was released in 1986, with this broadcast being the 17th time the film has been shown on Japanese television. Despite this, the most recent broadcast of “Castle in the Sky” had an audience rating of 14.5 percent in the Kanto region, a massive number considering the film’s age.

The Nippon Television Network Corp. showed “Castle in the Sky” in its Friday film slot, “Friday Road Show.” The network began showing a Studio Ghibli film every Friday night in August three years ago, which has quickly become a summer tradition and a much-anticipated event for fans of the well-loved animation company.

The popularity of these television broadcasts can be attributed to the sheer devotion of the fans of Studio Ghibli, who continue to enjoy and obsess over the films years after their release.

The craze does not look like dying down anytime soon either, with a Studio Ghibli theme park currently under construction. The tentatively named Ghibli Park is scheduled to open in 2022 on a 200-hectare property in Aichi Prefecture that was used for the Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park and the 2005 World Expo.

Some of the attractions, such as a recreation of the house from “My Neighbor Totoro,” are already on the site after being built for the expo. Other highlights include an entrance gate reminiscent of the 19th-century structures out of “Howl’s Moving Castle,” a recreation of the antique shop from “Whisper of the Heart,” Princess Mononoke Village, Witch Valley (which will feature attractions based on “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service”) and Dondoko Forest, which is “Totoro”-themed.

While Studio Ghibli is a massive success in Japan, it’s popularity is also a global phenomenon that continues to capture audiences worldwide.

GKIDS, a company that handles North American distribution for the Studio Ghibli library of films, has been celebrating their popularity this year with its “Studio Ghibli Festival.” The event allows fans to watch some of their favourite Ghibli films on the big screen, with a different film screening each month in selected cinemas across North America. The festival started in April, with October’s film, “Spirited Away,” set to hit cinemas for just three days at the end of this month.

Markets cast a wary eye on ‘Ghibli curse’

While Studio Ghibli fans rejoice in Nippon Television’s annual summer tradition, superstitious stock and currency traders wince when beloved Ghibli films air.

Japanese traders often look to the television schedule for their business insight as previous figures show a declining market trend following a Friday night Ghibli film, otherwise known as the “Ghibli curse.”

When a Ghibli film airs on Friday night’s prime time spot in Japan, it coincides with the start of the day in the United States and often sees an immediate decline in market figures, particularly in nonfarm payroll data, an economic indicator released monthly that affects the greenback, equities and gold.

One of the largest market declines to date occurred on July 8, 2011, following a showing of “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” which coincided with the release of the nonfarm payroll data. The film about a young witch and her cat saw the payroll numbers come in at 86 percent below expectations, while the U.S. dollar fell 1.2 percent. The following Monday, Japan’s benchmark index fell 0.7 percent.

While the curse could simply be a series of coincidences, many Japanese traders continue to reach for a television guide before the market closes on a Friday night.