Studio Ghibli is a Japanese film studio based in Tokyo. The studio is popular for its head director Hayao Miyazaki and his anime films that entertain people of all ages and portray unique, emotional stories. These films are award-winning works that have received accolates and acknowledgments from around the world, including Japanese Academy Prize for Animation of the Year in 2002 and 2003, Academy Award nominations, Academy Award for Best Animated feature film, and a Golden Bear. The films are originally in Japanese with subtitles or dubbed by Disney to be in English. Summer is the time to start your new binge-watching cycle and here are some animated magical films that could start you off.
Howl’s Moving Castle
In this fantasy film, both technology and magic make up the world around main characters Sophie and Howl. This film focuses on love, personal loyalty, and the destruction of war. Young Sophie is turned into an old woman by a witch’s curse. After the curse, Sophie grows closer to Howl, who is revealed to be a wizard, and notices aspects of her physical self are aging backward as she lives with him in his magical moving house. This one is filled with beautiful animations, socially aware concepts, and colorful characters.
Kiki’s Delivery Service
This film portrays both independence and reliance in teenage girls on Japan at the time. Young witch Kiki, along with her black cat named Jiji, leave home in order to properly train. Through her travels, she meets a geeky boy named Tombo. Kiki begins to work for another character named Osono and opens a witch delivery service where she finds her work to be challenging because she must fly around everywhere encountering obstacles. She grows closer to Tombo but drifts off because of intimidation of his friends but a realization makes her go back to him one day. Kiki’s life while traveling is then showed through works, depression, and the loss and gain of relationships.
In this film, Chihiro, a ten-year-old girl, finds herself in a spirit world after her parents were turned into pigs as punishment for eating spirit food, the food of this world. She begins to work in the world to free her parents, and in doing so meets spirits that shape her identity. This film was a way to portray child labor and the lengths kids are put to alongside self-empowerment and love.
Miyazaki shows humans harmful impact on nature and its animals. Prince Ashitaka kills a demon to protect his village, but the demon is a protector of the forest which starts to lose its trees and plants. The prince’s village benefits from the cutting down in the forest. Princess Mononoke sees this and rises to protect nature. In hopes to understand the demon and the earth, Ashitaka finds that humans destructions of pollution and guns caused the demons to go crazy and fearful of humans. This film was the first to get international acclaim and paved the way for other Studio Ghibli film to follow suit. Unlike his other films, Miyazaki made this anime more mature and dark because of complex themes.
My Neighbor Totoro
In this Miyazaki film, two young sisters move into the countryside with their father while their mother stays in a hospital battling cancer. After moving, the sisters encounter the spirit Totoro who becomes a metaphor for their healing and grieving through their mom’s cancer. This film portrays strength and personal battles, specifically in children, and is a great way to end your Studio Ghibli marathon with it’s more childlike portrayal, simple plot, and feel good energy.