In 2016, the western world is still genuinely asking if women can be Ghostbusters. Seeing clever women in heroic film roles (without having a man or cleavage) is still a novelty. Meanwhile, Japanese anime powerhouse Studio Ghibli has championed female leads for decades.

From December 14 to 23, ACMI will present six films from two masters of anime: film director and animator Mamoru Hosoda and Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki. The common thread – all the films’ resourceful protagonists are female.

At first glance, the cross-section of heroines might not seem like the most relatable bunch. There are the characters who come straight out of fiction and folklore, such as the titular Arrietty who is a doll-sized 14-year-old who lives under some floorboards; and Princess Mononoke’s fierce San, raised by wolves. Then there are the ones who are initially grounded in reality but who find themselves in fantastical situations; the two sisters from My Neighbour Totoro who befriend magical woodland creatures; Chihiro who gets Spirited Away; and Makoto, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – who, when suddenly unmoored by time, finds herself living less chronologically than she is used to.

Their stories are all very different, but at their core they share the same positive message. As ACMI’s senior film programmer Kristy Matheson explains, “What broadly defines all of the characters in each of these films is that they are faced with an adversity and they have enough agency to tackle those challenges that face them.

“These characters might not appear as heroes in the traditional sense but they’re young girls who are able to navigate difficult situations by gaining confidence and learning how to deal with the world.”

Essential Anime Heroines will run from the December 14 to 23 in their original Japanese versions, with English dubbing available for some sessions. Tickets available here.

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