8th December 2010 – I love animation and I have a vast collection of animation on display on my media shelves at home but on there you won’t find the sugary sweet world of Disney Cinema (apart from Pixar collaborations!) but a huge collection of Japanese anime. I’ve been hooked on anime since I was very young. I think the first experience of anime was Castle in the Sky and Akira.
In this post I wanted to show my love and appreciation of the magnificent Studio Ghibli who have been making some of my all-time favourite animations.
Studio Ghibli, Inc. (株式会社スタジオジブリ, (Kabushiki-Kaisha Sutajio Jiburi) was founded in 1985 and is headed by Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki and Isao Takahata. Prior to the founding of the studio Miyazaki and Takahata already had established careers in Japanese film and TV animation. The studio was founded after the success of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind which was released in 1984 and written and directed by Miyazaki.
Studio Ghibli’s company logo is the lovable tree spirit character Totoro from the 1988 animated movie My Neighbor Totoro and their headquarters are located on Kogenei, Tokyo.
Several of Studio Ghibli features have won the Animage Anime Grand Prix award, these features include: Castle in the Sky, in 1986; My Neighbor Totoro, in 1988; and Kiki’s Delivery Service, in 1989. Spirited Away won an Oscar in 2002 for Best Animated Feature and it remains the only film made outside the English-speaking world to have done so and is the top grossing film in the history of Japanese cinema.
I like Studio Ghibli films because they are so magical and provide an escape. They never sugar coat and talk down to the audience like Disney do and aren’t afraid to make an animation that runs for more than 90 minutes. So here is my favourite Ghibli Features
Grave of the Fireflies (火垂るの墓, Hotaru no Haka) – 1988
This animation is set toward the end of World War II in Japan; Grave of the Fireflies is the tale of the relationship between two orphaned children, Seita and his young sister Setsuko and is considered to be one of the most powerful anti-war movies ever made. This is not a film I could watch over and over because it is so sad but the story is so powerful that it deserves to be seen by any anime fan.
Porco Rosso, known in Japan as Crimson Pig (紅の豚, Kurenai no Buta) – 1992
This is a story about an Italian World War I fighter ace Porco Rosso, who now makes a living as a freelance bounty hunter capturing air pirates. Porco who was once a man called Marco Pagot has been cursed and is transformed into a pig.
English dubbed voice talents include Michael Keaton and Cary Elwes. The sequel – Porco Rosso: The Last Sortie is in production as we speak.
Kiki’s Delivery Service (魔女の宅急便, Majo no Takkyūbin), translated “Witch’s Delivery Service”) – 1988
Story about Kiki a young witch who travels to the big city with her beloved cat Jiji in a tradition where young witches have to spend a year alone and in order to support herself she sets up a delivery service.
English dubbed voice talents include Kirsten Dunst and the late Phil Hartman.
Ponyo (崖の上のポニョ, Gake no Ue no Ponyo), “Ponyo on the Cliff”), initially titled in English as Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea – 2008
Basically the plot is about a goldfish named Ponyo who befriends a human boy, Sōsuke, and wants to become a human girl.
English dubbed voice talents include Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett, Tina Fey and Matt Damon. Although this is the most recent in the top 10 I don’t think the animation was as good as Howl’s Moving Castle or Spirited Away. This movie did inspire me to call my goldfish Ponyo though!
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (風の谷のナウシカ, Kaze no Tani no Naushika) – 1984
Although this film was released prior to Studio Ghibli it is considered the beginning of the Studio and is included in their collection of works. Set in a post-apocalyptic world with giant bugs and a deadly poisonous pollen wind threatening humankind this film also has an environmental message.
The re-released uncut English dubbed version included the voice talents of Patrick Stewart and Shia LaBeouf.
My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ, Tonari no Totoro) – 1988
Featuring the Ghibli mascot Totoro, the film follows two young daughters of a professor and their interactions with friendly wood spirits in 1950’s rural Japan. Who could forget the loveable catbus?! Totoro recently made an appearance has a cuddly toy in Pixar’s great Toy Story 3.
The English dubbed version features the talents of Tim Daly, Dakota & Elle Fanning. You can buy this DVD here.
Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫, Mononoke-hime) – 1997
A period drama set specifically in the late Muromachi period of Japan but with numerous fantastic elements. The story concentrates on involvement of the outsider Ashitaka in the struggle between the supernatural guardians of a forest and the humans of the Iron Town who consume its resources and this is another Ghibli film which has an environmental message.
English dubbed voice talents include Billy Crudup, Billy Bob Thornton, Clare Danes, Gillian Anderson, Minnie Driver and Keith David.
Laputa: Castle in the Sky (天空の城ラピュタ, Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta) – 1986
Laputa is one of my all-time favourites from the studio. The story follows Sheeta and Pazu pursued by Dola’s family of sky pirates and Colonel Muskas army as they try and find the floating city of Laputa.
English dubbed voice talents include Mark Hamill, Anna Paquin and James Van Der Beek. The Laputa floating city in the sky is so beautiful and I love the robot guardians that protect it.
Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi), literally, Sen and The Spiriting Away of Chihiro) – 2002
This story follows Sen a young girl who is moving to a new town and school and leaving her old friends behind. On the way her family come across an old abandoned fun park which at night is transformed into a world of spirits and monsters where Sen becomes trapped in this fantasy where she cannot escape.
Okay a lot of people probably won’t agree on my choice for…
Howl’s Moving Castle (ハウルの動く城, Hauru no Ugoku Shiro) – 2004
Based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones which allows Miyazaki to combine a plucky young woman and a mother figure into a single character in the heroine Sophie. She starts out as a young hat maker, but after a chance meeting with Howl, a jealous witch’s curse transforms her into a 90-year-old woman. Sophie is horrified by the change at first. Nevertheless she learns to embrace it as liberation from anxiety, fear and self-consciousness. The change might be a blessed chance for adventure. Along the way she meets and moves in with the wizard Howl, Calcifer and Marco a wizard apprentice in their amazing walking castle.
English dubbed voice talents include Christian Bale, Billy Crystal, Emily Mortimer, Lauren Bacall and the late Jean Simmons. It was very hard to choose this feature over Spirited Away but I really adore everything about this film. The animation is superb, the story is so magical and the voices are really well chosen for the characters.
=============== UPDATE ===============
Had to update this post to include the most excellent latest Ghibli animation…
If I was to redo the top ten then this would feature as No.5!
Arriety – (借りぐらしのアリエッティ Kari-gurashi no Arietti) – 2010
The Secret World of Arrietty, known in Japan as The Borrower Arrietty (借りぐらしのアリエッティ Kari-gurashi no Arietti?) and in the UK and Australia as Arrietty, is a 2010 Japanese animated fantasy film based on Mary Norton’s juvenile fantasy novel The Borrowers.