A soaring overture crescendoing as the protagonist soars across the sky on a broom. A grandiose and bright xylophone number accompanied by idyllic scenes of the Japanese countryside. A robust orchestra playing out a hero’s anthem. These whimsical arrangements have acted as the soundtrack to so many people’s childhoods (and adulthoods, too): The music of Studio Ghibli films, composed by Joe Hisaishi.
A casual scroll through YouTube quickly reveals just how popular the relaxing sounds are, with countless videos mixing and splicing Ghibli tracks into gargantuan two-hour playlists. “My anxiety just vanished listening to this,” one person wrote in the comments section of such a video. The lush melodies score enchanting feats in the animated gems—like a 10-year-old girl rescuing a massive cuddly spirit named Totoro— and add contour and shape to the expansive, cottagecore worlds director Hayao Miyazki has become known across the world for.
No wonder then a four-day concert residency, held at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, by the chief architect of these magical, enduring tunes drew out a passionate and gleeful crowd this week. Attendees—who mostly appeared to be in their twenties—were buzzing as they filed into the venue, excited to experience Hisaishi lead a symphonic concert of his most popular Ghibli numbers.
The composer is a star in his own right. Hisaishi, whose real name is Mamoru Fujisa, has worked on the music for all but one Studio Ghibli film released since 1984. But his work and impact can also be felt across Japanese film, television, and even video games. He has scored over 100 works in his lifetime.
The concertgoers came out in full force for the shows, which had originally been scheduled to take place in January, but were rescheduled due to COVID. There were a litany of Ghibli costumes on display—including someone who cleverly dressed up as the literal castle from Howl’s Moving Castle. There were also more subtle Ghibli influences, with the bounty of large hair bows, knee-high socks, and prairie dresses coming off as considered approximations of the Ghibli aesthetic rather than explicit rip-offs. One guy walked in wearing a shirt from last year’s much-hyped Loewe x My Neighbor Totoro collection. The lines between cosplay, merchandising, and fashion were blurred in the best ways possible.