While the mostly human protagonists of Studio Ghibli films receive a lot of well-deserved attention for their intricate characterization and charming personalities, there are a plethora of non-human characters who also charm audiences in the same way.
Whether they’re an integral part of the film’s plot, acting as the heroes’ sidekicks and companions, whether they’re a hero themselves, or just part of the enchanting world of a movie, the cast Ghibli’s variety of non-human characters has a memorable impact on the viewer. and help enrich the stories in which they appear.
ten The Baron – Whisper of the Heart (1995) & The Return of the Cat (2002)
Debuting in an underrated Studio Ghibli film, Heart murmur, the baron is an anthropomorphic cat presented for the first time in the form of a statue which becomes the inspiration for the novel of the protagonist Shizuku. The scenes featuring him were so popular when the film came out that The return of the cat was made, where the Baron is one of its main characters.
The baron’s full name, Baron Humbert von Gikkingen, is a nod to his German origins in Heart murmur, and the character’s charismatic personality makes him entertaining to watch. His commitment to helping Haru in The return of the cat contributes to the fairy-like quality of the story and adds to the Baron’s overall sympathy.
9 Totoro – My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
An iconic character who has become a symbol for all of Studio Ghibli’s works by appearing on the company’s logo after that of my neighbor Totoro success, Totoro is a great spirit of the forest who lives in the great Camphor tree. He is often followed by two little Totoros, Chu Totoro and Chibi Totoro.
Totoro’s actions during the film, befriending and helping younger sisters Mei and Satsuki, have made him loved by audiences around the world. Her curiosity and considerations of the natural world reinforce the themes of the film, giving the young girls a direct link with the spiritualism of their surroundings.
8 Jiji – Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
As a sidekick of Kiki’s delivery service titular main character, Jiji the black cat accompanies Kiki on her adventures in another city as part of her witch training. As he settles into their new home, he also finds a new companion in the form of a white cat named Lily.
Jiji acts as a familiar home for Kiki in a new uncertain stage in her life, making sarcastic remarks and trying to cheer her up when she becomes unsure of herself. Interestingly, Jiji’s personality in the original Japanese version of the film is very different from that of his dubbed counterpart, appearing instead as a much more humble and cautious companion. In both appearances, however, his fondness and loyalty to Kiki remains the same.
7 No-Face – Spirited Away (2001)
One of the spirits that inhabit the world in which Chihiro finds himself during Abducted as if by magic, No-Face is a curious and lonely spirit who wreaks havoc in the Yubaba public baths after absorbing the greed and corruption of those with whom he comes in contact.
Since many of his actions are driven by a desire to please Chihiro, No-Face’s misguided acts always manage to be somewhat endearing, even when they involve engulfing other spirits (aided by the fact that this is not permanent). He’s also been very intuitive and finds a calm life with Zeniba at the end of the film that suits his true peaceful personality perfectly.
6 Calcifer – Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
A powerful fire demon and former shooting star, Calcifer made a deal with Howl before the events of Howl’s Moving Castle. Taking Howl’s heart, Calcifer keeps the castle running and heated from within the confines of the hearth.
Talk about some of the most memorable Howl’s Moving Castle quotes, Calcifer has a surprisingly sensitive side, despite the menacing facade he sometimes puts forth in defense of his demonic reputation. Her contrasting dynamic with Sophie and Howl is delightful in her own way, from Sophie’s rejection of her bad manners to her story and that of Howl, but both enrich the history and traditions of the world.
5 The Kodama – Princess Mononoke (1997)
While the Kodama of Princess mononoke are some of the film’s more minor spirits, their presence in the narrative is significant nonetheless, as the creatures serve as an indicator of whether or not the forest is a healthy environment.
At the end of the film, the return of a single Kodama after their decimation heralds the promise of a natural world recovering after their land heals. The Kodama also offer a striking visual, and the clicking noises they make only serve to add to their ethereal nature.
4 Ponyo – Ponyo (2008)
One of the nicest characters in Studio Ghibli, the titular protagonist of Ponyo is a goldfish who acquires the ability to transform into a little girl. She has a great love for ham and the new human friend she makes on earth, Sōsuke.
Ponyo’s wonder at the little things and her journey to becoming fully human has an audience rooting her throughout the story, as she struggles with the consequences of her desires on the balance of the world. Her gentleness and determination are heartwarming, as are the bonds she makes with Sōsuke and her mother.
3 Soot Sprites – My Neighbor Totoro (1988) & Spirited Away (2001)
Also known as susuwatari, Studio Ghibli’s soot sprites made their debut in My neighbor Totoro, living in the shadow of Mei and Satsuki’s new family home at the start of the film. They also appeared later in Abducted as if by magic, carrying coal to help stoke fires at public baths, where they befriended Chihiro.
The Soot Sprites eat konpeitō, a brightly colored Japanese candy, and show themselves full of personality, as seen when they are fed, and in that they are happy to let Chihiro do their work for them. Their simple yet distinctive design also makes these sprites hard to forget.
2 Haku – Spirited Away (2001)
Spirited away Co-protagonist Haku helps Chihiro a lot during the course of the film, although he keeps some secrets. Although he initially appears as an apparent human, Haku is later revealed to be the spirit of the Kohaku River with the ability to assume magnificent dragon form.
Even in his human form, however, Haku has one of Studio Ghibli’s most iconic looks, and it’s that in addition to his interactions with Chihiro, as well as his struggles and resolve during the film that make him such a beloved character.
1 Teto – Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
Teto is a fox-squirrel who becomes Nausicaä’s pet in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind after being found and rescued by Yupa. Although at first he is suspicious of Nausicaä, even biting his finger in fear the first time they meet, he soon becomes her faithful companion after she shows him that he has nothing to fear with her.
Teto’s presence shows Nausicaä’s constant consideration for animals and the natural world, and although as a character he doesn’t have too much individual history, his presence helps solidify Nausicaä’s personality and helps to the construction of the film world.
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