Studio Ghibli Inc. is a critically acclaimed animation studio based in Koganei, Tokyo. The company was founded by Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and Toshio Suzuki after Miyazaki achieved earlier success with Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind under the company Topcraft.
I’m going to list what I consider to be their best films, in no particular order.
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Spirited Away revolves around around the story of Chihiro Ogino, a ten year old girl who accidentally enters the world of Kami (the spirit world in Japanese Shinto folklore). After her parents are turned into pigs by Yubaba (Natsuki), a witch of the realm, Chihiro is forced to take a job working in Yubaba’s bathhouse while she finds a way to free her parents and return to the physical world.
A very moving tale with a strong female lead, full of imagination and wonder.
Spirited Away was the highest grossing film in Japan when it was released and has managed to maintain that status.
Globally, in the animation category, it is second only to ‘Your Name’.
My Neighbor Totoro
In the tale of My Neighbor Totoro, Professor Tasuo Kusakabe movies to a new house with his two daughters, Satsuki and Mei, in order to be closer to their mother Yasuko, who is in the hospital recovering from an illness. Things take a turn when it turns out the house is inhabited by susuwatari (dust-like spirits). Later, while exploring a nearby camphor tree, the two girls run into Totoro, a forest-dwelling spirit of a larger size.
If you’re into alternative plot-lines, check out the Dark Side of My Neighbor Totoro.
Princess Mononoke begins in Muromachi Japan, when a local village is attacked by a demon. The Emishi prince, Ashitaka was able to destroy the demon, but not before having his right arm cursed by the specter. Although the curse gives him physical strength and dexterity, without curing the curse, it will eventually spread throughout his body and be his end. A wise woman in his village tells Ashihtaka that a cure to his ails might exist in the western lands where the demon came from. Before he leaves, he is given a crystal dagger by his sister Kaya, and his journey begins.
Princess Mononoke has a strong message which seems to center around the destruction of nature and it’s effect on humanity.
Grave of the Fireflies
Grave of the Fireflies is perhaps one of the saddest, most emotional movies ever produced.
It’s story begins on the 21st of September 1945, soon after World War II, when a teenage boy known as Seita dies of starvation in a Kobe train station. The local janitor rifles through the boy’s belongings, but all he finds is an old candy tin. As he throws the tin, the ashes of the boy’s fallen sister spill out. Their spirits spring forth, accompanied by a cloud of fireflies, and they board the train.
The movie then cuts back to a time when Seita and Setsuko were still alive.
Grave of the Fireflies tells the story of two children who lived a life of pain in a very difficult time in Japan and their struggle to survive.
Howl’s Moving Castle
Although Howl’s Moving Castle was released in 2004, it was actually based upon a book written in 1986 by British author Diana Wynne Jones.
This film tells the tale of a young girl named Sophie who is turned into an old crone by a witch. She encounters a handsome man named Howl and ends up staying with him for a while in his moving castle. It turns out he has special powers and is resisting a call from the king to fight for the kingdom.
A cunning tale, and one which many would argue is better than the book.
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Kiki’s Delivery Service centers around Kiki, a 13 year old witch.
In her town it’s traditional for witches to leave town and explore the world.
She takes her black cat Jiji and goes out on a search of adventure.
She ends up encountering Osono, the owner of a bakery and starts helping her deliver baked goods with her flying broomstick.
Later she becomes depressed and loses her powers, but regains them after finding a new purpose in life.