Friday, August 26, 2022

Studio Ghibli and Their 5 Greatest Movies

(Guest Post by Kobe)

You’ve probably heard the name Studio Ghibli at least once in your life. The famed Japanese animation studio has many avid supporters and enthusiasts around the world. Sadly, I was never one of them. When I was little, the only thing I knew about Studio Ghibli is that commercials for some of their movies such as Ponyo and Kiki’s Delivery Service would be shown before the old VHS Disney movies I watched as a kid. These weird movies had strange looking characters and a completely different animation style than I was used to. I saw them as merely an obstacle in between me and the Disney movies I was so familiar with. As I got older, I heard more and more praise for these movies, but I had no way to watch them. With all their movies streaming on HBO Max, I finally decided to give them a try. And no, I didn’t just watch a few of their films. I watched all 23. After watching all of Studio Ghibli’s movies for the first time, here’s what I believe to be their five greatest films.

#5: Kiki’s Delivery Service

This is a movie that has grown on me tremendously the more I’ve thought about it. Kiki’s Delivery Service, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, follows a young witch named Kiki that must leave home to continue her training in magic. Settling in a coastal town, Kiki decides to start a delivery service using her ability to fly. This movie perfectly encapsulates the light and happy feeling that comes with most Ghibli movies. The stakes are low and there isn’t much action, but watching Kiki meet new people and overcome the problems that eventually arise is so wholesome. When the movie ended, I had a big smile on my face. If you’re wanting to start watching these movies, this is one I would start with.

#4: When Marnie Was There

I love When Marnie Was There. Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the film is about a shy, depressed girl named Anna, who, because of her mental and physical health, leaves the city for the summer and moves in with her relatives in the countryside. There she discovers a mysterious house across a marsh and a girl named Marnie that lives there. Together they form a strong bond and unlock secrets neither of them knew. If that sounds like your kind of movie, please give it a watch. It won’t be for everyone, but I recommend giving it a try. The ending floored me emotionally and made me cry more than almost any movie has, and that’s saying something.

#3: Grave of the Fireflies

Speaking of movies that floored me emotionally, next is Grave of the Fireflies! Directed by Isao Takahata, Grave of the Fireflies takes place in Japan during World War II, as orphaned Seita and Setsuko try to survive without a home. There is a lot of suffering in this movie and so much of it is centered around children, which makes it an incredibly difficult movie to sit through. I appreciate that the director pulls no punches emotionally and doesn’t back away from what makes this movie so uncomfortable. Animation is so often viewed as something only for kids, and this movie is the antithesis to that way of thinking. As difficult as it is to watch, this movie is a haunting masterpiece and a must-watch for any animation fan.

#2: Spirited Away

Spirited Away was the first Ghibli movie I watched, and wow it blew me away. When a young girl named Chihiro’s parents are turned into pigs by a witch, she must navigate a world full of spirits to save them. I’m just going to say it, this is the most visually creative movie I’ve ever seen. Miyazaki, the film’s director, does such a fantastic job crafting this world full of strange and magical creatures. The movie is a joy to look at, featuring some of the most beautiful animation I’ve ever seen. Also, the musical score by composer Joe Hisaishi is nothing short of iconic and puts a liveliness and freshness into the movie. It’s hard to explain what makes the movie so good. Please go watch it and you’ll understand.

#1: My Neighbor Totoro

In my opinion, Studio Ghibli’s best movie is one of their simplest. When two young girls move into a new house in the Japanese countryside in order to be closer to the hospital where their sick mom is staying, they meet a lovable and magical creature named Totoro. In my opinion, this movie defines Studio Ghibli. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki (again), My Neighbor Totoro is simple, magical, imaginative, happy with a tinge of nostalgic sweetness, and endlessly rewatchable. It might be less ambitious than some others, but it made me feel like a kid again. You really can’t top that feeling. 

And here's my list! Almost all the studio’s movies are great, so deciding on my favorites was difficult. What are your favorite Ghibli movies? Did they make it on my list? Watching these movies was a treat and I recommend you check them out!

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