“Anime food is an escape for a lot of people. It has a very soothing effect,” says Christina Song, curator of the anime feed Instagram @anime_food.
Indeed, food is treated like a character in many anime films and TV shows, including the wondrous work of Studio Ghibli. For example, see My Neighbor Totoro (above) and Howl’s Moving Castle and Kiki’s Delivery Service (below). At Serious Eats, Kiera Wright-Ruiz explores “Miyazaki’s Magical Food:”
The food scenes in Studio Ghibli productions, particularly the most famous ones from Miyazaki’s movies, are distinct from other anime in that the narratives slow down to accommodate the cooking, eating, and sharing of food. These scenes are often tightly intertwined with characters’ narratives or the overarching storyline, such as the one in which two parents transform into pigs while gorging themselves at the beginning of Spirited Away, creating the conflict that the protagonist of the film, Chihiro, has to ultimately resolve. From the tiniest details of a cooking sequence, like an eight-year-old chopping vegetables in a way that suggests she’s had to do it for years because of an absent parent, to the presentation of beautiful dishes, like a steaming fish pie with a golden brown fish carved into its crust, the focus on preparing and enjoying food seems to make these animated worlds come to life.
“Food and eating is so closely associated with family and emotion. It’s a really important part of the actual storytelling and scenesetting,” says Dave Jesteadt, the president of GKIDS, a company that produces animation and has handled the North American distribution of Studio Ghibli films since 2010. “Is it made with love and care because it’s an intimate family scene and this is something that shows how close the family is, or is it something that shows how fantastic the setting is?”