10 Best Romance Tropes in Studio Ghibli Anime

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Romance is a big part of the fantastical Ghibli worlds of Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. Many Ghibli movies use romantic tropes beautifully.

Studio Ghibli produces quality stories about love, friendship, nature, and humanity. One of the most poignant human experiences is falling in love, whether it ends sadly or is allowed to blossom into something bigger. Not all the Studio Ghibli movies have romantic plots, but the ones that do are exceptionally told.

There are many ways to fall in love and to have a healthy relationship. Studio Ghibli movies like Howl's Moving Castle show how love can give people courage and a sense of true north. Kiki's Delivery Service also shows a far more commonplace, but no less beautiful, everyday love story with some of its side characters. From fated fairy tale lovers to village baker families, every Studio Ghibli love story takes popular romance tropes and makes them its own.


10 Best Romance Tropes in Studio Ghibli Anime

Love Transcends Worlds in Ponyo

Ponyo revolves around the titular goldfish, whose love for a human makes her want to take unimaginable risks to become a human herself. Ponyo repeats her father's mistakes -- Fujimoto was once human, and he fell in love with the Queen of the Ocean, Granmamare, and had many daughters with her. However, he grows to distrust humans, acting as a caretaker of the sea, trying to restore its waters.

Now Ponyo wants to exchange worlds just like her father did, transforming so that she can be close to the human boy Sosuke. Ponyo is directly inspired by the fairy tale "The Little Mermaid" by Hans Christian Anderson, which likewise is themed around two lovers from vastly different worlds. Ponyo's story is far more optimistic about the possibility of love transcending different worlds and finding a place in between.

10 Best Romance Tropes in Studio Ghibli Anime

True Love Breaks the Curse in Howl's Moving Castle

Sophie is tasked with breaking Howl and Calcifer's curse in exchange for aid in breaking her own curse in the endlessly rewatchable Studio Ghibli favorite, Howl's Moving Castle. As is often the case in fantasy and fairy stories, love is the answer. However, that solution manifests in different ways for both curses. Whenever Howl is kind to Sophie and demonstrates that he sees her for who she truly is, Sophie's face brightens as her heart seems to lighten, and her elderly features melt away to reflect her true age.

Sophie's solution is self-confidence, self-worth, and feeling seen by others. Not all solutions come out of a vacuum, and it's vital for people to feel seen as humans, and that's what Howl does for Sophie. Sophie also has the key to Howl's curse, and she travels through space and time to reassure him that she figured out how to help him -- she's the only one who can break his curse.

10 Best Romance Tropes in Studio Ghibli Anime

A Rainy Day Sets the Perfect Stage for a Dramatic Love Scene in The Wind Rises

One of the great hallmarks of Studio Ghibli's films is the pause it takes to show the setting's natural scenery, slowing down to let the audience take a breath and appreciate a coming rainstorm. The Wind Rises takes one of these beautiful pauses and uses it as a backdrop for one of the film's most romantic and thematic scenes: Jiro and Naoko huddle together under an umbrella and talk about their feelings for each other.

Naoko tells Jiro that she looks at him like a knight in shining armor, and he worries about how he can't keep her dry. That worry seems to speak to a larger theme with Jiro, about how he wants to protect Naoko and give her room to fulfill her talents as an artist. And though Naoko's painting gets wet, she's not worried because she is with someone who will walk through a rainy day with her, literally and metaphorically.

10 Best Romance Tropes in Studio Ghibli Anime

Friends to Lovers Makes a Relatable Love Story in Only Yesterday

Toshio comes into Takeo's life in Only Yesterday as a helpful and listening ear. He drives her around and listens to her as she reminisces and shares her thoughts. Toshio becomes a wonderful friend to Taeko who helps her process some traumatic parts of her life, which makes this Studio Ghibli movie perfect for adults to watch.

However, Taeko doesn't react well when people suggest that they should get together romantically, and it's not until they share emotions and experiences as sincere friends that Taeko develops and accepts her feelings for him. Many wonderful and healthy life partner relationships begin between people who were friends first. The romance trope and dynamic may be less flashy than love at first sight or an enemies-to-lovers arc, but it has its own poignant and relatable kind of sweetness.

10 Best Romance Tropes in Studio Ghibli Anime

Tsunderes Make the Best Love Interests in Whisper of the Heart

Whisper of the Heart is Studio Ghibli's classic shojo romance, and tsundere love interests are very popular in shojo love stories. Shojo anime is known for having romance as the main plot and focusing on the character's personal growth. Both Seiji and Shizuku have varying levels of tsundere in Whisper of the Heart.

Seiji can be rude and Shizuku lets him know, but he hides away just how devoted he can be. It's not revealed until later how sweet and considerate Seiji is, and how driven he is by his feelings for Shizuku. Shizuku is the reverse type of tsundere: sweet to everyone else, but always irate with Shizuku for an unknown reason. The two tsundere characters butt heads often, but when they finally come together and share their vulnerable feelings, everything changes in their relationship.

10 Best Romance Tropes in Studio Ghibli Anime

Beauty Tames the Heart of the Beast in Howl's Moving Castle

Howl hyper-focuses on his beauty, and beauty is a big theme in Howl's Moving Castle because the deuteragonist Sophie also struggles with feeling plain. When Sophie accidentally messes up Howl's beautifying potions, it changes Howl's hair color and Howl completely loses his composure and has a meltdown, summoning the powers of darkness. He says that it's not worth living if he can't be beautiful.

Howl's fear of being ugly manifests further in the beast that his magic turns him into. When he and other wizards use their magic to turn into beasts to aid the war, eventually they will remain beasts. In a dream, Sophie sees him as the worst version of his beastly self when he seems to have lost his humanity. Her love, bravery, and acceptance help break through that beastly curse to become himself again.

10 Best Romance Tropes in Studio Ghibli Anime

Ashitaka Falls in Love with the Girl First in Princess Mononoke

Ashitaka falls for San so fast in Princess Mononoke that it could nearly be love at first sight. He develops tender feelings for San long before she does. Some of the most compelling romances have the trope where the guy is the first to know that he's found the love of his life as if by divine inspiration.

San is incredibly resistant to falling in love because even though she's human, she was raised by wolf gods in the forest. San only ever knows humans to be feckless and cruel beings. She thinks that Ashitaka is no different from the other humans, especially when she meets him in Irontown. She's terrified when her mother, Moro, says that Ashitaka is in love with her. Ashitaka shows consistently that he's a good man and through the romantic subtext in Princess Mononoke, it's clear that San cares for him too.

10 Best Romance Tropes in Studio Ghibli Anime

Every Romance Needs a Grand Love Confession and The Tale of Princess Kaguya Has It

The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a dreamy, bittersweet retelling of the literary story The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. Kaguya is a princess who belongs in another world, raised by a loving human family. She grows very close to a family friend around her age named Sutemaru.

Kaguya goes to Sutemaru when she's upset and needs a friend, and that friendship develops into a gentle romance. Though she has many eligible suitors, her mind circles back to Sutemaru. The two of them are like ships passing in the night as they grow older, and Kaguya yearns for him from afar. It's open-ended whether Kaguya confessed her feelings to Sutemaru or whether it was a dream, but the scene exemplifies yearning, loss, and love for the seemingly doomed anime couple.

10 Best Romance Tropes in Studio Ghibli Anime

Babies Ever After Is the Perfect Ending Note for the Baker Family in Kiki's Delivery Service

A young witch, in her mandatory year of independent life, finds fitting into a new community difficult while she supports herself by running an air courier service.

10 Best Romance Tropes in Studio Ghibli Anime

Enemies to Lovers Proves to Be a Top-Tier Trope in Princess Mononoke

Ashitaka is drawn into a conflict that he didn't invite in Princess Mononoke. The violence came to the door of his peaceful village, and he had no choice but to get to the bottom of it. When San meets him, she thinks he's no different from exploitative and violent humans, and Ashitaka thwarts her fight with Lady Eboshi, intervening and angering San.

San doesn't care that Ashitaka tried to save her life, her prejudice is too great in her mind. Even when she draws a knife on him, Ashitaka refuses to be her enemy, showing her his tender side. Eventually, she realizes that he is different and that they are better together as lovers rather than as enemies.

Keywords: Korean drama | Korean Animes | Anime | Romance | Cinema | Asia | Studio Ghibli