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To many minds, the achievement of cinema is to represent and answer the question ”what it is to be human”. According to Bugeja (2016), that is exactly what the brains of Studio Ghibli are doing in their films in which they were presenting us the complexity of humanity. No doubt, this was director Hayao Miyazaki’s aim to create ”Howl’s moving castle”. ”Howl’s moving castle” is a Japanese fantasy animation written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki which is produced in 2004 and the film is loosely based on the novel also named ”Howl’s moving castle” written by Diana Wynne Jones. The film is the story of a normal young girl named Sophie after she turned into an old woman after being cursed by a witch.
The story is set in a kingdom where both magic and early 20th-century technologies are prevalent and the kingdom is facing a war with another kingdom since Sophie’s kingdom is blamed for kidnapping their only prince then she meets a wizard named Howl and gets involved in his resistance to fighting for his kingdom. In a nutshell, ”Howl’s moving castle” is all about the main characters trying to overcome extreme challenges by sacrificing themselves for the well-being of those they love. Furthermore, it is the journey in which they are fighting against self-doubt with a view to fully manifesting their own identity and spirit. That is why this film is chosen to be analyzed and considered for the questions in this research. ” How young people nowadays think of the way “Howl’s moving castle” demonstrate the importance of freeing oneself of self-doubt and take courage to do what they enjoy which are the most problematic issues that the young generation now has to deal with? ” ” Are there any differences in people come from distinctive background’s perspectives about the influences of ”Howl’s moving castle”, or even other Studio Ghibli films on the importance of finding and releasing themselves from self-doubt?” ”Howl’s moving castle” is a movie about a reflection of self which is the curse on the main female character. Sophie’s quiet, reserved and maybe too serious for a young girl at her age, this is the representation of people who deny accepting their own self and refuse to admit that they are struggling with finding their own positions in the society.’
The movie doesn’t only concentrate on a love story between two people who are fighting for their love, but it is also about self-love and feeling comfortable with who you are which are the messages that the film wants to convey to its audiences. Throughout Sophie’s life, she’s molded herself to fulfill the expectations of her family and enduring the burden of responsibility. However, by accepting herself and let herself free from self-doubt, she even saves other people’s lives who are also on the edge of giving up and risking their lives. That is why the movie is the symbol of the serendipity of life that at times, a message ‘there are moments our experiences may be harsh, but once we overcome it, everything will be just fine’, which will definitely influence its fans on how they find the purpose of their lives (Ortiz 2017). These are some of the ideas of how the audiences understand the content of ” Howl’s moving castle’ in their perspective. The film provides its viewers a chance to escape from the reality and experience the beauty of imagination (tension release) and also encourages its fans to enhance their personal values (personal integrative). Napier (2005) describes ‘Only Yesterday’, also a Ghibli movie, which has the same content and brings the same messages as ‘Howl’s moving castle’, as a mixture of “ideology and wish-fulfilling fantasy”. ‘Only Yesterday’ is a love story but it is not only about the simply growing romance between two spirits; it is also about love for the culture and about finding an authentic life for yourself. The main character may end up doing what her mother and the society want her to do but she has refused and successfully reached the meaningful terms to her where she finds her true values and what she really wants to do. What the movie wants to convey is the representation of the encouragement from Ghibli’s creators to the young generation about finding the courage to fight for their positions within the society. Furthermore, the research by Davis (2018) about how Japanese animation becomes part of their fans lives and also how it affects them is an example of how a media text can influence then change the way its audience see the world and construct their own identities.
The best theory to explain why “Howl’s moving castle” is an example of how media texts can influence the young people who watch the movie become more confident in themselves is ”Uses and Gratifications theory” by Katz, Gurevitch & Haas (1973). The theory is to understand how the audiences select and consume the media texts in order to satisfy their own needs. Since different people have distinctive ways to interpret the media texts, that is why with the same content, but there are many interpretations of it. Those needs can be categorized as ‘cognitive’, ‘effective’, ‘personal integrative’, ‘social integrative’ and lastly, ‘tension release’ (Katz, Gurevitch & Haas 1973). One of the reasons why ‘Howl’s moving castle’ is loved by the audiences is that it satisfies the needs of the consumers which are escaping from the reality by the fictional elements in the films (tension release) and also helping viewers enhancing their confidence and status by bringing the hardship of real life into the film which is finding the true self and accept it (personal integrative).
Additionally, in reference to Hodkinson (2017), the construction and the orientation of the media texts to specific genres can affect the way they are clustered into particular characteristics of one or more genres. For each genre, there are audience expectations about narrative structure, visual features, music and so on. For instance, ”Howl’s moving castle” is an animated fantasy film which means that the film is expected to concentrate on the traditionally fictional roles of characters such as a hero and a villain. More than that, Drussi (2005) said that the film is readily accessible to the mainstream audience, because it is not only cover the approximate elements of the characters and structure of fictional stories (Lule 2001) but also focus on the elements of fictional plots that will win over viewers of all ages (Hodkinson 2017) and make the stories become more attractive as well as enhance the influence of the media texts to the consumers. Here, the importance of self-acceptance and self-confidence in ‘Howl’s moving castle’ will be examined and analyzed in this research Katz et al. (2003) argue that maybe the barrier between of “theory” and “method” in the study of audience uses and gratifications is not immediately clear and apparent. However, in order to answer those questions about ‘Howl’s moving castle’s ‘influences, I will conduct an empirical research.
Firstly, I will organize a group of random young people at the age of 18 to 25 from universities in all the states in Australia. Which means for each university, two students will be selected, it is important to make sure that one is male and the other one is female. Secondly, I will ask them about what they think of self-acceptance and are they happy with what they are doing now. Then thirdly, they will be made to watch the film in separate rooms which will avoid communicating and sharing the same ideas. Since different people will have distinctive ways to interpret the media text, we will be able to collect the results from the observation of how they understand and make sense of the images in the film.
After watching the film, they will be interviewed about the content of ‘Howl’s moving castle’ and also can they find any similarities between themselves and the characters. This activity will help us to have a deeper understanding of how the young generation makes sense of the content of the film. Lastly, we will ask about the similarities between the audiences and the characters who overcome the hardship in ‘Howl’s moving castle’. By conducting this empirical research, I will be able to find out more about the influences of Ghibli films, or especially ‘Howl’s moving castle’ on the young generation, Furthermore, whether the film is capable of changing, encouraging them in free their self from self-doubt and feel free to fight for their own choices. Each participant will be asked these following questions: Can you find any similarities between you and Sophie (the female character)? Do you think the hardship which Sophie and Howl have to overcome has any relation to your own difficulties in the real life? Do you think that the film is trying to convey something about accepting personal values and enjoying being yourself? In the modern era, the traditional ways to construct people’s identity based on where they live, ethnicity, or even age have become less important to the younger generation that spends a lot of time on the Internet. The media texts they consume now give them a feeling of difference, of being special because not everyone shares the same interpretation (Davis 2008).
As Susan Napier’s (2006) research with the Miyazaki mailing list suggests, some anime fans do not feel they share the same values as other people. These can be seen as evidence for the influence of animation on young people or its fandom. Furthermore, Japanese animation doesn’t only affect the way its audiences construct their identities but also devotes to the changes in the way they imagine their self in a more positive way and also understand that everyone’s description of normal is different. Learning to embrace those differences by accepting the intricacies of ourselves and setting it free is a part of the beauty of life is one of the lessons behind that the directors want to convey.
From the expectations in the genre of ‘Howl’s moving castle’ to the way it uses the elements of fictional plots in media to attract its viewers, the film has contributed to the reinforcement of media on the consumers. In conclusion, this is the main question which I will be able to answer after conducting the research.
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