Ghibli: Cartoons Realer Than Life

The age of cartoons, at least when it comes to movies, seems to be over. To be fair, it’s probably been over for a while, with CGI Pixar-esque films the only real non-live action movies being made. While some of these movies are fantastic (Up and Wall-e great examples), modern animated films are being made to looker realer and realer. The big advantage that animated films have over live action is the ability to do whatever the filmmakers want to do, be it magic, robots, or any sort of physics-defying premises. That’s all well and good, but they still seem so fake (as might not be unexpected). While these movies continue their march towards reality, Studio Ghibli’s vast portfolio has already been there for decades.

Even though most are doused with all sorts of magic and fantasy, all portrayed by 2-dimensional characters in 2-dimensional worlds, Ghibli films are realer than most live action movies out there. So much of modern movies are full of action, adventure, and never-ending suspense, and while Ghibli incorporates these themes from time to time, their best moments are when they slow down and look at the various caveats of life. Live action films can do this quite well at times, but the incredible consistency across the Ghibli canon in exploring these facets is remarkable, and is what makes them so special.

Ghibli’s usage of cartoons (of course called anime in Japan) is what allows its films, the wonderful storytelling abilities of Miyazaki et al aside, to investigate those themes so wonderfully. Each Ghibli film is a work of art in itself, with gorgeous drawings and animations creating an eye-catching spectacle. This artistic nature is what allows the films to explore reality so well, in that they provide a way to view life with the weight, separation, fantasy, and importance that we give it. Everyone views things differently, and our minds elaborate on what we experience, because we live in our mind, not outside it.

Ghibli’s ability to take one step out of reality is its greatest asset. The scenes in the heartbreaking Grave of the Fireflies would be too gut-wrenching to see in live action, yet that film explores the life in war-torn Japan expertly. Throughout films like My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Whisper of the Heart, the filmmakers paint a picture of the magical nature of everyday life, something that would seem mundane if a camera was simply pointed at some people. In Spirited Away, the indomitable bath house and the various spirits within are surely closer to representing the challenges a child faces growing up than simply portraying those ideas with images we see every day.  Princess Mononoke, a film set around battle between humans and gods, illustrates the very real environmental situation we find ourselves in better than most. The list can go on and on.

To anyone who hasn’t seen Ghibli movies, to anyone who is hesitant to see Ghibli movies, and to anyone who doesn’t think cartoons can make a great movie, highly highly highly encourage them to give Ghibli a try. Their ability to depict life’s great facets in mesmerizing fashion is unparalleled in film. Their wonderful themes and artwork are accented gloriously with beautiful scores by excellent composers like Joe Hisaishi, among others. Best of all, they paint life as we really see it: through our mind’s eye, enhanced by our thoughts and imagination.


Why YouTube is Better Than Netflix

In an era where the internet dominates life, video services like Netflix and YouTube have flourished. The age of television is waning, and the ability to binge-watch content is becoming the new norm. Now, it seems that it’s more common to have a Netflix account than to not. And while Netflix has existed since 1999, its online streaming is newer than YouTube. Yet people seem to spend a majority of their video-consuming time on Netflix. I was one of those people up until recently, until I really committed some time (circumstantially) to YouTube, and realized what it really has to offer.

What drew me to YouTube as a true fan with dedicated subscriptions (as opposed to just looking up random videos from time to time), was the quality “educational” videos, including Vsauce, CGPGrey, Brady Haran’s various channels, and Smarter Every Day, among others. As a massive user of Wikipedia, these channels provided me with essentially the same benefit as Wikipedia, that being cool and often random facts, while also being entertaining and innovative. My discovering of these channels led me to watch their entire backlogs, something which every YouTube fan should do. I continued on with the following of these channels for some time. Then I found the Vlogbrothers.

I’d known about the existence of John and Hank Green’s channel for a while, but never really watched it until I happened across a recurring series of “[insert large number] jokes in four minutes” videos by Hank. This drew me in and, after watching a number of their videos at random and becoming accustomed to their style and the various intricacies of Nerdfighteria, I decided to start from the beginning. That meant watching every of their videos in chronological order, starting with Brotherhood 2.0.

It was this experience (which, mind, is still ongoing, since they have something like 1,400 videos) that drew me to the conclusion made in the title, that YouTube is better than Netflix. What watching the Vlogbrothers, particularly Brotherhood 2.0, provided me was the joy of seeing an empire, one that I knew what it would become, be created right before my eyes. I’m someone who is fascinated by everyday life, and the small stories that are ingrained into it. The Vlogbrothers provided this in abundance, chronicling their various day-to-day activities, as well as their larger career and life arcs.

This is why YouTube is better than Netflix: it’s real. Sure, Netflix can provide nearly endless entertainment, and I do enjoy what it has to offer. But just by its very nature, it’s fake. Netflix is just actors reading from a script experiencing predetermined events. Even if it’s a show or movie about “real life” stuff, it still isn’t real life. Real life is unpredictable and ever changing, with countless little facets that make all the difference. YouTube allows you to explore these facets, whatever they may be, by connecting you to real people whose lives also reach to the same facets as yours. It allows you to watch real life stories unfold before your eyes, and often become a part of them as well. You learn new things all over, from the wonderful educational YouTubers to the daily vloggers and all those inbetween. Everyone has their own combination of random interests and identities, and YouTube’s mass of content ensures that you can find something you can relate to, and something you can enjoy.

It’s the only real reality TV.

While Knowledge May Be Power, Ignorance Most Definitely is Bliss

As a child, all you want is to be older. To be able to do more things, know more things, and see more things. But there’s a point you reach, where it suddenly seems like you’re sacrificing some unmeasurable amount of happiness due to your enhanced understanding. While you might know what’s best in the long run, or at least a logical course of action to take, it can seem counterproductive to having a good time. It’s something I’ve been realizing gradually now that I’m in my junior year of college, and something that troubles me. But it’s also just so fascinating.

The easiest example of this, for those that might not totally get what I’m saying, is playing video games. Video games are fun. A lot of fun. That’s their primary objective. But in doing so, they become a massive time sink. Therefore, I find myself delegating less and less time for them. There are many times that I felt the urge to start up Skyrim again, but what with homework, applications, work, and just wanting to feel productive (a huge part of it), I never do. Nevertheless, I know that I’d have a grand old time playing it. And that’s what I’m getting at, that need to feel productive you get as you age cause you to end up spending less and less time on those traditional “fun” things.

That being said, going for a hike with friends after fresh snow doesn’t feel like something that needs to be time-sensitive. So it’s not all fun things, just some. It’s the things that make you feel like you’re not growing as a person, at least how I see it, which causes the problems. That growing can happen in a number of different ways. When you’re hiking with friends, you’re making memories, getting some fresh air, and spending time with people you care about. The same can’t really be said about video games. Even playing video games with friends, something that feels a bit more productive than solo gaming since you’re spending time with others, still seems like something that could stagnantly go on and on.

The thing is, this idea of “growth” is just a construct of my mind, formed from my own experiences with the world outside my brain. Of course, as stereotypically articulated, it was partly made by society. Yet there has to be more to it than just that because there are people that, at least it seems, that aren’t affected by this like me. These people exhibit a particular skill: the ability to live in the moment.

Obviously this isn’t a crazy conclusion, since the obsession with growth is dependent on an interest in the future, and how one’s actions in the present affect it. It can come in all forms, from actively doing homework or writing applications, to getting enough sleep so you’re not struggling the next day. The problem is that it all seems to make sense! You don’t want to feel exhausted in the morning, so one would imagine that doing beneficial things in any way is worth it.

The cliché fear-of-missing-out isn’t the root of this, however, that much is clear, because at least for me, it’s by no means a clear choice between fun and responsibility. It’s the small chance that what you’re passing up could lead to something fun and memorable that’s often the issue. For example, do you stay in and read, clean up, and do a little research on internships, or do you go to those parties that, a majority of the time, you don’t really get anything out of? It’s a question that’s easy to answer: one option requires substantially less energy, and has less potential for awkward encounters, to accomplish than the other.

What’s funny is that the future is unknowable. Duh. But still, should one fret over something that, just by its very existence, is impossible to have any amount of confidence in its contents? Then again, from experience, you can predict, and statistically understand, what might come to pass, and how you could change that to benefit you in the way you desire. It’s the “responsibilities,” and related things that you can make happen, or at least try your best to do so. You cannot force fun. That’s what makes fun such a unique part of human nature. It’s something that just happens. It’s natural. You can’t construct it like you can construct an application or a time management scheme. Those things are not fun.

Ultimately, one needs a balance of both living-in-the-moment enjoyment and future-thinking responsibility. “Compromise is key” rears its head again. The achievement of that compromise, however, is the challenge. Some people, myself among them, find it almost impossible to turn off the part of the brain that constantly thinks about things outside the present moment. It’s a blessing and a curse, I suppose (read “I hope”), since while always being distracted and slightly stressed, it does breed thoughtfulness and preparedness. Which is powerful.