BCM320 Reflection Report


My Digital artifact consisted of me investigating Studio Ghibli films and how they reflect aspects of faith in Japan, with a focus on the Shinto religion and how its shown in the films My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Spirited Away (2001). I started by watching the films and then researching the studio and its history. I then sat down to write about the studio, and how the films shaped my views of the Shinto religion.

Changes to the Project  

I started this Digital artifact as more of just an exploration of my first experiences in watching films from the studio, and what I thought of them. I watched Spirited Away (2001), Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), My Neighbour Totoro (1988) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) when I started out, but once I looked back on my thoughts on the films, the interest in the faith and Spirituality that was displayed in a few of the films stood out to me the most. I then shifted my focus onto how the films shaped by perception of the faith. This change was also inspired by the writings about auto-ethnographic studies and their use of ‘epiphanies’, which are remembered moments that have a significant impact on the person’s life or experiences being documented (Ellis, Adams and Bochner, 2011).

Relevant Supporting Research

During my research into the studio I found many articles on the history of Studio Ghibli and how they came well known in the west. These included an Encyclopaedia Britannica piece on it that gave more of a basic overview of the studio. An article from HighSnobiety helped when I needed more information on what was touched on in Britannica. In May 2020 Polygon also produced a whole series of articles on the studio and its films that helped confirm things I had read as well, like the rumour that Harvey Weinstein was sent a katana when his company wanted to cut a lot from Princess Mononoke’s US release.

After the changes to the project was made I also needed to conduct research into the depiction of Shinto in My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Spirited Away (2001). To ensure that I kept in the spirit of auto-ethnographic research, I looked at the epiphanies that I had based my research and writing off that. By looking into these I was able find out that Totoro is meant to be not just a random spirt but a Spirit of the forest that the family lives near.

Spirited Away (2001) had a lot more epiphanies and information on Shinto then My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and I was able to learn that characters designs and purposes where based on actual folklore in Shinto. A helpful resource in confirming my epiphanies was Boyd’s 2004 paper on Spirited Away (2001) and Shinto. This paper has quotes from Miyazaki on his admiration for the folklore and how rituals surrounding bathhouses where the inspiration for the bathhouse in the film.


In summary, I started out my digital artefact with the aim to explore the films of Studio Ghibli from a perspective of someone who had never seen them before, however during the process and the documentation of my epiphanies I found myself leaning more towards investigating specific films reflection of faith in Japan, particularly how My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Spirited Away (2001) explore Shinto folklore and rituals.


Bather, L., 2020. Studio Ghibli Introduction: Everything You Need To Know. [online] Highsnobiety. Available at: <https://www.highsnobiety.com/p/studio-ghibli-best-movies/#:~:text=Common%20themes%20and%20artistic%20styles,from%20both%20Japan%20and%20Europe&gt; [Accessed 12 November 2020].

Boyd, James W. and Nishimura, Tetsuya (2004) “Shinto Perspectives in Miyazaki’s Anime Film “Spirited
Away”,” Journal of Religion & Film: Vol. 8 : Iss. 3 , Article 4.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/jrf/vol8/iss3/4 [Accessed 12 November 2020].

Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A., 2011. Autoethnography: An Overview. [online] Qualitative-research.net. Available at: <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095#g2&gt; [Accessed 12 November 2020].

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