Cover Photo: A promotional still from the animated Studio Ghibli film "Howl's Moving Castle." The still depicts a field in front of snow-capped mountains, with a large, ramshackle house on legs perched near the edge of the frame. In the field are small houses and a tiny shepherd herding a flock of sheep.
Promotional still via Studio Ghibli/Toho

Hayao Miyazaki’s Characters Help Me Grieve My Chronic Illness

“Howl’s Moving Castle” and “The Legend of Korra” are about protagonists living with magic and fighting for the fate of the world. To me, they’re also metaphors for dynamic disability.

Is any art form tied to childhood more tightly than cartoons? Even in my family, where TV was strictly limited and my parents eschewed cable until I was in high school, I managed to absorb the zaniness of the Animaniacs and memorize most of the songs in Aladdin and The Lion King. On certain special days in elementary school, teachers would wheel in a boxy TV and play episodes of Schoolhouse Rock in lieu of a lesson. Elsewhere, commercials featured cereal-box mascots with their own jingles. Comic-strip characters like Snoopy leaped from newspaper to screen. Even my ultra-religious aunt, when we visited her house, resorted to saccharine animated stories of the saints to keep us occupied.

Lorraine is a journalist and fiction writer. Previously a staff writer for Smithsonian Magazine, she covers history, archaeology, evolution, and the weird world. She has received fellowships from the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources and the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Lorraine's first narrative nonfiction book, The Last Voyageurs, (Pegasus Books/April 2016) was a finalist for the Chicago Book of the Year award. Her fiction has appeared in The Massachusetts Review and Literary Laundry. She's currently at work on two novels about friendship and belonging.