What’s Studio Ghibli, Inc?
Studio Ghibli, Inc is a Japanese animation film studio based in Tokyo, Japan. It was founded on 15 June 1985, and is best known for its anime feature films and short films. These movies often concentrate on serious social matters while portraying them through a vibrant and beautiful world which is magical and realistic at the same time.
At this point Studio Ghibli, Inc has 21 movies with another one to be released in 2020. The Studio is headed by the directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata and the producer Toshio Suzuki. Hayao Miyazaki is considered to be a visionary and is often the lead director in the Studio. The movies vary from childish and hilarious to three hour dramas with a crying guarantee. So without further ado, let’s dive into why we’re here.
1. When you need something silly to make you laugh.
Don’t misunderstand the word silly in this category. These movies are just plain funny and fun to watch without much depth to them (compared to the other Ghibli Studio films). Here’s the two movies I picked with a short synopsis.
The Cat Returns (2002)
The story is about a female high school student who has a ability to talk to cats. One day, she rescues a cat from being run over by a truck. The cat appears to be the prince of the Cat Kingdom. As a prize for saving the prince, the king offers her the Prince’s hand in marriage. After staying in the Kingdom for a while, the starts to develop feline features. She has no wish to marry the prince, and tries to escape with the help of two cat statues that were magically given life.
This is a very simple and fun film to watch, guaranteed to make you laugh and keep you entertained for a bit over an hour.
Pom Poko (1994)
This movie uses the Tanuki as its heroes. Tanuki are creatures of the myth with special powers. In this story their forest home is threatened by urban development and in order to save it all, they must use all of their supernatural talents.
This is a very lighthearted movie with some realistic elements to it. For two hours it’s full of laughter and silly humor.
2. When you need to watch something childish and lighthearted.
This section has the three movies that I think all of the children HAVE to watch. Even though I consider most of the Ghibli films a must-watch for children, these two should be seen by everyone under the age of 5.
A goldfish princess encounters a human boy, who names her Ponyo. Ponyo wants to become a human as her friendship with this boy grows, and starts to become more humanlike. Ponyo’s father brings her back to the ocean kingdom but Ponyo escapes and in the process, spills a collection of magical elixirs that endanger Sosuke’s village.
This movie is full of child-like curiosity and love. Pretty similar to The Little Mermaid, but with a small twist, this movie is guaranteed to make you smile, and maybe cry a little bit. Recommended to watch with kids because you’ll enjoy their high pitched laughter.
Arrietty is a tiny teenager who lives under a human family’s house with her parents. Arrietty stays hidden away from her human hosts, but occasionally goes into the house to borrow items, such as sugar and salt. A 12 year old boy sees Arrietty, and they forms a secret friendship, but it could possibly ruin the little peoples’ lives.
I’ve showed this movie to all of my nieces and nephews. This is a very imaginative world, with such realistic elements added to it that it makes all the children sit and watch with their jaws dropped. They wouldn’t stop looking for “borrowers” for weeks after this movie. Definitely recommend to show to your family and to watch yourself.
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
I’m sure you’ve seen these characters at some point of your life. This movie shows the lives of two schoolgirls, who move into an old country home with their father as they await for their mother’s recovery in the nearby hospital. As they explore the house, they encounter and befriend playful spirits in their nearby forest, most notably the massive cuddly creature known as Totoro. This movie is full of love and joy, and is guaranteed to make everyone feel warm at heart.
3. Something full of love, magic, and romance.
This is for the kind of a night where rom-coms just aren’t doing it for you, and drama is too much to deal with. Can be enjoyed with a family, but not with your boyfriend because he’ll most likely fall asleep (at least in my experience).
Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
This is probably my favorite Studio Ghibli movie. I’ve seen it at least 10 times, and cried every single time. This is about a girl who is living an uneventful life at a hat shop. One day she runs into a wizard who saves her from some guards, and befriends him. A witch becomes jealous and puts a spell on her which she can’t tell anyone about. She turns into an old woman, and lives with this wizard (without him knowing it’s the same girl he met before), and he does everything he can to fight this witch and return her youth and beauty.
Please watch this film. It’s really amazing. The world is beautiful, the characters are so complex and splendid, and there’s a million themes explored by this movie. A must watch.
The Wind Rises (2013)
This movie is set in 1918 about a young man who dreams of becoming a pilot, but can’t due to his poor eyesight. One night he dreams of a famous engineer who pushes him to build planes, since he can never fly. Years go by and he builds the A6M World War II fighter plane, and on the journey he meets the love of his life. There’s not much action in the film, but visually it’s very pleasing. Ghibli has a recurring theme of aircrafts due to Miyazaki’s love for them. I recommend watching this movie, but make sure you’re ready to sit and watch beautiful sceneries for a bit over 2 hours. Not much magic here, but it’s full of love and hope.
4. If you need to cry your heart out.
This section is dedicated to movies that are guaranteed to make you cry so much you’ll get a headache. It’s horrifyingly painful, and not recommended for small children.
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
This movie is devastating. It tells the story of two siblings during the World War II, where the older brother needs to take care of his younger sister after an American bombing which separates these children from their parents. They scrape for their lives and struggle against all odds to stay together and stay alive. I genuinely can’t write more not to spoil the movie for you, but if you want to sit and cry for an hour and a half, then this movie is for you… It’s utterly realistic and painful.
When Marnie Was There (2014)
With the biggest plot twist you can imagine, this movie is guaranteed to make you sob for the last 40 minutes of the movie (for me it was an hour). It’s about a young girl who is sent to the country due to health reasons, and makes a friend called Marnie with long flowing hair. Marnie’s house is on the other side of the lake, and the girl can see the lights flowing every night for parties. One day, she decides to visit Marnie during the day, but the house is empty. As they become closer, we realize the protagonist is closer with Marnie than we might expect.
5. When you want to explore a new vibrant world and experience all sorts of adventures.
Two of the movies in this list have a very special meaning to Ghibli Studios. Besides from the fact that they’re amazing, they made history.
Castle in the Sky (1986)
An orphan and her kidnapper are flying to a military prison when their plane is attacked by a gang of air pirates. Escaping from the collision by a magic crystal around her neck, she meets a fellow orphan and joins forces to discover the mystical floating city of Laputa while being pursued by the pirates who lust for the city’s treasures. This is the first movie release by the Studio Ghibli after it became an official company.
Spirited Away (2001)
This film became the most successful film in Japanese history, grossing over $289 million worldwide. It overtook Titanic and received universal acclaim, and is ranked among the greatest animated films or all time.
In this film a 10 year old girl and her parents stumble upon an abandoned amusement park. After her parents are turned into pigs, she meets a mysterious boy who explains the park’s purpose is to give supernatural beings a small vacation, and that she must work there to save her parents. Watch it alone, with your special other, or your children, this film is guaranteed to bring you joy and show you a whole kind of a new world.
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
In this movie we witness a young witch with her talking cat move to a new town to become an independent witch. The movie shows us young romance, independency, and magic. When Kiki loses self-confidence she loses her powers, and tries to get it back. This movie is always enjoyed by children, and will definitely make you smile.
This is a fun way to spend time and learn about the Japanese culture.
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013)
This movie is based on a children’s fairytale, which is portrayed through a very different kind of animation and world. It’s about a tiny nymph who is found inside a bamboo stalk and grows into a gorgeous woman, who orders her suitors to prove their love by completing a series of near-impossible tasks. Full of playful humor, we discover that she is in fact a goddess who fell from the sky.
7. If you love airplanes like Miyazaki does
Miyazaki’s love for planes is not a secret, so if you want to share this love with him you can watch this movie (or the ones mentioned above which are also about planes).
Porco Rosso (1992)
Even though this is not an actual documentary, it has a hint of history to it. In Italy in the 30’s, sky pirates terrorize wealthy cruise ships. The only pilot brave enough to stop them is a former World War I flying ace, Porco Rosso, who was turned into a pig. There’s love, friendship, and courage in this movie, Porco Rosso battles these pirates.
8. Young Romance With a Twist
Basically a rom-com but with some childhood innocence and a tad of drama.
Whisper of the Heart (1995)
A movie about a girl who wants to be a writer, who one day notices that all of the books from the library were checked out by the same boy before her. While chasing a cat in the streets, she comes across an old antique shop and befriends a boy. She writes a novel and realized this boy is her soulmate. FUN FACT! The cat statue which comes alive in The Cat Returns is introduced in this movie first!
9. For love, sadness, Japan, youth, and an every day life with a huge twist.
Definitely recommend watching this if you feel like seeing something new.
From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)
This movie is set in the 60’s, after the trauma of World War II, when Japan is trying to modernize and deal with the pain. The story is set around two high schoolers who deal with every day lives in the school and realize they are in love, only to find out that there’s a bigger connection between them. This movie is beautiful and jaw-dropping, also guaranteed to make you cry.
10. For everything you could ever think of, with a bit of sugar.
This movie is a classic, and deserves a separate section for itself.
Princess Mononoke (1997)
In the 14th century, the world harmony among humans, animals, and gods begins to crumble. A young man infected by an animal attack seeks for a cure from a forest god. In his travels he witnesses humans destroying the earth, and facing the wrath of wolf god Moro and his human companion Princess Mononoke. He tries to bring peace between the two worlds, only to bring more conflict.
This movie is amazing. It really is. It will make you laugh, cry, clench your wrests, and be restless until the end. You can enjoy it with your friends, family, alone, or parents. It will definitely stay in your head for days to come.
Studio Ghibli movies not mentioned in this list (because I haven’t seen them yet):
Only Yesterday (1991)
Ocean Waves (1993)
My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999)
Tales from the Earthsea (2006)