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Studio Ghibli has created some of the most creative animated films, each with its own cast of unique characters. While major characters like Totoro, Chihiro, and Ponyo carry the story forward, minor characters are sometimes the most memorable.
You might even find yourself recalling characters with the least amount of lines, as Studio Ghibli puts immense detail into every character, no matter how big their role.
It’s time to test your memory. How many of these iconic minor Studio Ghibli characters do you remember?
1. No Face, Spirited Away
No Face might seem like a creepy stalker in the beginning, but he later becomes one of the most loveable side characters in Spirited Away. When he first appears, he’s quietly delighted at the attention Chihiro gives him. Unlike most people, she actually acknowledges him despite the fact that he’s covered in a black cloak and wears a mask.
After No Face witnesses the ecstatic reactions from the bathhouse staff when receiving gold from a guest, he starts to believe that he can also use gold to gain Chihiro’s attention. Chihiro ends up rejecting No Face’s gold, which causes him to eat the guests and workers at the bathhouse. No Face just wanted a friend, and he reacted childishly when he couldn’t make one.
2. Catbus, My Neighbor Totoro
Catbus doesn’t serve any symbolic purpose in My Neighbor Totoro. He does what his name implies—he’s a bus that’s also a cat.
Studio Ghibli based his large grin off of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, but the rest of his body is completely original. Catbus’ eyes function as headlights, he dons two rats with shining red eyes as taillights, he has several feet that help him reach his destinations faster, and he wears a sign atop his head that displays his next stop.
Oh yeah, he can fly too. Who needs modern transportation when you can just ride the Catbus?
3. Calcifer, Howl’s Moving Castle
Calcifer has a fiery personality that matches his fireball of a body. Howl initially caught Calcifer after he fell out of the sky, and he’s been stuck in the fireplace ever since. He’s bound by a contract with Howl to stay inside the castle’s hearth to keep the castle moving—that means he can’t even leave the fireplace without help.
Despite Calcifer’s powerless situation, he’s actually a very strong fire demon. Calcifer harshly greets Sophie when they first meet, but he soon grows fond of her, as she places logs in an area that he can actually reach. Calcifer promises to break Sophie’s curse, only if she can break his contract.
4. Kodama, Princess Mononoke
Kodama, or tree spirits, reside in the wilderness in Princess Mononoke—their presence indicates that the forest is healthy. Studio Ghibli portrays Kodama as tiny, white creatures that resemble bobbleheads. Their misshapen heads and gaping face holes make them look somewhat threatening, but these spirits are harmless.
These tree spirits really exist in Japanese culture. Traditions say that Kodama live in the trees, and may even take the form of one. The sound of a falling tree is said to be the cry of a Kodama.
5. Boh, Spirited Away
Have you ever met a giant germophobic baby? You should be glad that you haven’t.
Boh is the King Kong of babies—not only is his size abnormal for his age, but he’s constantly coddled by his mother, Yubaba. He lives in a cushioned nursery and has since developed a fear of germs. However, Boh isn’t as dumb as he seems—he may have the body and personality of a huge baby, but he can still talk and walk normally.
Yubaba’s sister, Zeniba, has the right idea when she decides to turn the obnoxious Boh into a tiny mouse. Boh actually becomes more mature in mouse form. The once lazy and reliant baby starts showing signs of independence by the end of the movie.
6. Yakul, Princess Mononoke
Ashitaka’s elk, Yakul, might not have the ability to talk, but he still makes a lasting impact on the hearts of viewers. Ashitaka relies on Yakul to guide him through battles while steering clear of danger. It’s easy for viewers to develop an attachment to Yakul, and even start dreaming about owning a pet elk (well, at least I did).
If your heart didn’t break when Yakul got injured, then I’m convinced that you have no soul. Poor Yakul still tried to tag along with his master after getting hurt, displaying his true dedication to Ashitaka.
7. Robots, Castle in the Sky
These robots put Wall-E to shame. Not only are they capable of mass destruction, but they just look super cool.
When the military discovers a non-functioning robot soldier that fell from Laputa, they perform tests, but to no avail. However, when Sheeta recites a spell and activates her crystal necklace, the robot wakes right up. As a result, the robot attempts to destroy the entire military base to reach Sheeta, its proclaimed master.
Later in the movie, Sheeta and Pazu discover more of these robots on Laputa. Surprisingly, the one living robot spends its day taking care of the plants and animals around Laputa.
8. Teto, Nausicaa Valley of the Wind
Teto and Nausicaa had a rough start. I mean, Teto could’ve given Nausicaa rabies with that skin-breaking bite. He might have some nippy tendencies, but you can’t deny that he’s adorable.
Teto the fox squirrel has oversized ears, a bushy tail, and fur that’s covered in stripes. Fox squirrels typically don’t take well to humans, but he’s found a home with Nausicaa. Teto’s agile and intelligent, making him a perfect companion for Nausicaa throughout the rest of the film.
Can Minor Characters Be Major?
Studio Ghibli’s films just wouldn’t pack as much of a punch without its extensive cast of imaginative minor characters. For some viewers, these whimsical and quirky creatures play an even more important role than the main characters, solely for the fact that they’re always designed with an amazing amount of creativity.
Who’s your favorite Studio Ghibli character and why? Tell me in the comments below!