Studio Ghibli, often heralded as the Japanese version of Disney, has come to remarkable prominence since its inauguration in 1985. Yet the studio has its unique charm setting it apart from other contenders. The animations created by the now-retired Hayao Miyazaki and his crew are not only sublime but contain complex and meaningful themes. Here are 5 films, animated by Studio Ghibli, that will leave you mesmerized.
Ponyo is the story of a young, rambunctious goldfish princess who encounters a young boy Sosuke on a forbidden excursion to the surface world. The story depicts the journey of the sea princess’ escape from the sea to the surface and eventually becoming a human girl. Beguiling in its whimsical plot and beautiful graphics, Ponyo combines a strange fantasy with an alluring reality. A thoroughly enjoyable film, Ponyo is a must-watch for any Ghibli lover.
Only Yesterday (1991)
Only Yesterday stands apart from all Ghibli films as the most mature one, a realistic drama about adult life. It is neither dark nor complex in the slightest, but its theme revolves around that of nostalgia and reminiscing about forgotten people and events of the past. The story revolves around Taeko Okajima, a 27-year-old unmarried woman, who lives and works in Tokyo. On a visit to her family in the countryside, Taeko finds herself recalling memories from her childhood and finds herself increasingly nostalgic during her stay. The story perfectly captures how as an adult, she is wistful for her younger self, while simultaneously having to deal with adult issues of career, love, and family. A beautiful melancholy, Only Yesterday is a moving film, a subtle gem created by Ghibli.
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
A magical and heartening tale of a girl’s coming of age, Kiki’s Delivery Service follows the story of a 13-year-old witch named Kiki. The young witch finds it difficult to adjust all alone in a new community during her obligatory year of independent life, a custom in her village. This beautifully-rendered tale of a young girl struggling to find her place in the world stunningly portrays the difficulties she has to overcome to support herself. A heartwarming tale of becoming independent, and overcoming self-doubt, Kiki’s Delivery Service is a joy to watch from start to end.
Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
The film tells the story of a young, insecure woman, Sophie, who works as a hatter, and one day coincidentally encounters the mysterious and infamous wizard, Howl. The antagonist of the movie, the witch of Waste, envious of Sophie’s closeness to Howl, curses her to transform into an old woman. To break the curse, Sophie must deal with the unsympathetic Howl, make a deal with the fire demon, and come to terms with her insecurities. The compelling storyline along with the breathtaking graphics are the reason why Howl’s Moving Castle is a long-time fan-favorite.
Spirited Away (2001)
No article mentioning Studio Ghibli would be complete without talking about Spirited Away, a Ghibli classic. The winner of an academy award, and the highest-grossing Japanese film of all time, portrays the story of a 10-year-old girl Chihiro, who ends up with her parents in a mystical and abandoned amusement park. The park is inhabited by ghostly and magical creatures who are not thrilled at the sight of humans. After discovering that her parents have turned into pigs, Chihiro learns that she has to work in the park to free her parents. The film immerses the viewer in a fantasy world and is dazzling in its plot. The beautiful animation and compelling characters lead its viewers on a marvelous ride.