Before Ghibli was Ghibli: Analysing the historical discourses surrounding Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky (1986)

Rayna Denison

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While Studio Ghibli may have become Japan’s most important and successful animation studio, its early significance is far more debatable in relation to the success of its films. Normally viewed from the present moment, Studio Ghibli’s brand significance is unmistakable, having become a producer of world renowned animation, and a distribution label for its own animated hit films and other high-profile animation in Japan. To challenge this perception of Ghibli’s brand significance, this article revisits the early history of Studio Ghibli in order to examine the discourses around the formation of the studio. Using Studio Ghibli’s first official film release, Tenkū no shiro Lapyuta (Castle in the Sky) (Miyazaki, 1986) as a case study, this article argues for a corrective analysis of the importance of Studio Ghibli to animator Hayao Miyazaki’s first ‘Ghibli’ film. The article demonstrates that throughout this release, there was a tension between art and industry that would become the hallmark of Ghibli’s style, but that the company itself may have had little to do with that brand’s early conception.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-46
Number of pages16
JournalEast Asian Journal of Popular Culture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • Studio Ghibli
  • Castle in the Sky
  • advertising
  • anime history
  • brand

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