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  • With the entire Studio Ghibli collection recently releasing on Netflix, with one exception, I've been busy watching them all over again.

  • Ghibli films are so nostalgic that revisiting each one feels like coming home, like going to a safe place.

  • And yet, behind the breathtaking artwork and wonderfully rich characters, to me, one thing really stands out.

  • Ghibli films have so many cats!

  • And dogs, but mostly cats.

  • They even have a major role in the debut film by Studio Ponoc, the animation house founded by Ghibli alumni.

  • But why?

  • Why does the most celebrated Japanese animation studio in the world, replete with all sorts of magical, weird, or downright disturbing creatures,

  • repeatedly spend so much time with cats?

  • Well, first, let's think about the animation itself.

  • Cats, in real-life, move in an entirely unique way; more importantly, in a recognizable way.

  • The way they purr or the way their fur stands on end, the way they hiss or stretch or pounce.

  • We all know how a cat moves.

  • This, I believe, plays a big role in their repeated inclusion in Ghibli work.

  • Their familiarity ground the films and place other aspects of the animation in the same potential reality.

  • With each new fantastical character, Ghibli has to imagine, in a realistic way, how that character would move, would breath, would fight.

  • The same layers of thought go into the realistic design of their machines and vehicles.

  • Cats are excellent (in) providing a great juxtaposition that gives life to these other more outlandish characters and creatures.

  • Japan is obsessed with cats, both in the real world and the animated one.

  • Ghibli even has a house cat, Ushiko, who comes and goes as she pleases.

  • As many of Ghibli's films are set in either modern-day or historical Japan, cats are necessary inclusions to sell that setting.

  • Look to Japan for popularizing cat cafés, places where you can enjoy a coffee whilst in the company of some placid cats.

  • Or the maneki-neko, a beckoning cat figure from Japan who is meant to bring good fortune.

  • Ghibli must, in order to maintain immersive and realistic, include a multitude of aspects of Japanese culture.

  • And cat worship is one of the most popular in Japan.

  • Magic is a constant throughout every Ghibli film.

  • Even when it is not overtly on screen, its presence is felt.

  • Ghibli films like to explore the fine line between childhood curiosity and magic.

  • Cats are the perfect animal to tread that line.

  • They have been associated with magic for thousands of years.

  • So their inclusion in films like "Kiki's Delivery Service" or "Mary and the Witch's Flower" are necessary, where they act as companions.

  • In other Ghibli works, cats are the catalyst for exploration, for deviating from the path, and propelling our protagonist into new magical territory.

  • They are the gatekeepers to the fantasy world, just like Ghibli is for its audiences.

With the entire Studio Ghibli collection recently releasing on Netflix, with one exception, I've been busy watching them all over again.

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