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But the two films couldn't be more different: Rose Petal Place features a pink-haired, pitch-perfect protagonist who tends to her garden with love and music. She embodies all the traits typical of heroes, but rare for heroines. The studio would go on to create an array of imperfect female protagonists who would show us that girls could be heroes too. They'll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a savior.
Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man. Studio Ghibli's Princess Mononoke emphasized its paradigm shift: There is no damsel in distress in the film, but rather, a warrior-princess who rides on the backs of wolf-gods and attacks the mining village that threatens the lush and magical forest she lives in.
San is virtuous, but also independent and fierce. When she first meets Ashitaka, a young and honorable prince, she does not swoon or wish for a kiss. She just stares at him, her face covered in blood, and then tells him to "go away. The prince and princess in Mononoke do not fall in love either, which is a total departure from the traditional love-story arc that drives other animated films Snow White and Prince Ferdinand, Sleeping Beauty and Prince Charming, Ariel and Prince Eric, Belle and the Beast, Aladdin and Jasmine, and Pocahontas and John Smith all live happily ever after.
When Ashitaka, in one scene, tells San she is beautiful, she gasps and recoils. I'll always be near. Romance, in Studio Ghibli films, is replaced by self-realization—and not only princesses or warriors achieve it.
Most of its female leads are insecure adolescent girls, striving for independence, making their own paths in life and discovering their true selves. In Kiki's Delivery Service , for example, a year-old witch-in-training must leave home and live on her own for one year in order to become a real witch. The headstrong Kiki eagerly flies off on her broomstick, but soon loses her magic powers.