When 2022 began, I had no idea that the year would involve moves to two cities, raising 11 kittens, changing jobs, a quarter-life crisis and running my first marathon. As I looked for escapism, I came face to face to a Netflix suggestion that provided the best way to disengage – anime.

On a hot August afternoon as I reclined on my bed with my laptop looking to indulge in some trash TV, out popped the suggestion for Spirited Away, a Studio Ghibli Japanese animation film. I met No Face, a spirit who seeps in other’s personalities that then becomes his.

Over the next few months, as I moved from film to film, I found myself staring into beautifully animated forests, trains driving through the sea, spirits, rabbit-like creatures whose dancing would cause seeds to blossom into forests, and most importantly, the food. Complete with details of steaming chicken and shrimp broths, dumplings, fresh forest berries, and noodles, Studio Ghibli was a treat to the eye in every scene.

The depth that characters and plots of the film kept me thinking about them way after the film was over. Spirited Away moved around themes of greed and selfishness, whose only weapon was selfless empathy, Kiki’s Delivery Service touched upon what independence meant for a 13-year old girl and the importance of friendship, Princess Mononoke displayed the battle of forest spirits and humans who wanted to extract the forest’s resources, while My Neighbour Totoro explored themes of environmentalism.

Scene after scene provided me the perfect way to escape the anxieties of every day, in a world that existed somewhere between a day-dream and a book. If I were to explain the plot of any of these movies in detail, it would be the most random sequence of events. A bath-house for spirits to relax, a witch-training that requires living alone for a year, parents that turn into pigs, a cat which is also a bus – none of that would make sense. But somehow, on the screen, it does.

It was kind of like what my 2022 was – bizzare and yet, in retrospect, it’s all perfectly comprehensible.