Zen- Grogu and the Dust Bunnies was a surprise short that came out this week as a collaboration between Lucasfilm and the renowned Studio Ghibli. According to Collider, it was created in honor of The Mandalorian’s third anniversary. The hand-drawn short was directed by Katsuya Kondo (Ponyo, Kiki’s Delivery Service) with the music by The Mandalorian’s composer Ludwig Göransson.
The short opens with Grogu’s meditating on his own until the Susuwatari or “soot sprites” show up to bother him. These soot sprites are familiar creatures in Studio Ghibli films being present in My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. They continue to bother Grogu and he runs from them. When he trips and falls, Grogu finally faces the soot sprites to see what they want. They pull out a flower and hand it to him. Grogu smiles before drawing a circle in the air and the short ends.
That circle is called an ensō and it puts a lot more meaning into the short as a whole. An ensō is an artistic exercise used often in calligraphy where the artist will draw a circle with one to two expressive brushstrokes. According to Creative Enso, it’s a practice in Zen Buddhism to represent the moment when the mind is free to let the body create. They go on to explain:
"“The circle is sometimes referred to as the ensō zen circle, wuji circle, or the imperfect circle.The Ensō circle, which can be open or closed, symbolizes an expression of life, showing both the beginning and end. It’s also used to express absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and wuji (the void).An open or incomplete circle represents the beauty of imperfection, whereas a completed circle represents perfection. Zen practitioners relate this to the idea of wabi-sabi, or the beauty of imperfection.”"
The ensō is such a beautiful end to Zen – Grogu and the Dust Bunnies. Its hand-drawn quality is purposely imperfect with the line art and movement of the characters. It’s a celebration of beauty in mundane things such as dust bunnies to find wonder and peace. But it’s also a representation of Grogu on his journey. It is not a closed circle as he continues on his own path between being a Force user and a Mandalorian.
Zen – Grogu and the Dust Bunnies is a beautiful little short which is a nice celebration for The Mandalorian’s third anniversary. Knowing how The Book of Boba Fett ended and where season three of The Mandalorian is going based on the trailer, it’s a sweet look at where Grogu is on his character journey too.
Also, I hope this opens the door for more future projects between Lucasfilm and Studio Ghibli as well. I would love a full-length Ghibli film.
You can watch Zen – Grogu and the Dust Bunnies exclusively on Disney+.