By: S. McManus
For decades, perhaps one of the greatest pities in Japanese animation was Studio Ghibli’s distaste for online streaming, perceiving it as averse to their “philosophy of care and mindfulness”. Luckily for us, the founders seemed to have their mind by December of last year, when streaming services like HBO Max started hesitantly introducing some of the studio’s main features. You can now access 21 of Ghibli’s masterpieces with just a Netflix subscription, but for those who are unfamiliar yet in desperate need of some beautiful, nurturing and genius animation flicks, here’s where to start:
Introducing… the Studio Ghibli Starter Pack
(in no particular order)
Kiki’s Delivery Service
If this movie were to be personified, it would be, by far, one of the most charismatic and wholesome people I know. It has this innate ability to draw in any viewer into a young witch’s coming-of-age adventure as she discovers the world for herself (and makes it a little brighter too). Easily relatable and filled with lovable characters, it would be a struggle not to smile as you watch this film.
Castle in the Sky
This is a film for people who enjoy watching innocent kiddie-love in the face of pirates, the law, and a long-lost civilization. An interesting mix, and like most studio Ghibli films, there is a strong theme of aviation which is further developed by the concept of a flying city. There is just a bit of magic, or should I say mystical-like technology, and uncommonly for Ghibli films, a definitive villain. It is a story about greed, bravery, and knowing when to set things right.
Everyone’s favorite classic, this story follows the young Chihiro as she is forced to work and live in a spiritual bath house where dangers are always amok. There is an absolutely fascinating world within this story, and it places huge amounts of emphasis on the concept of transition. The characters are some of the most memorable in cinema (period) and it invokes such sympathy, that as a viewer you can’t help but be captivated by the graceful storytelling and wonder-like action sequences.
Howl’s Moving Castle
I must confess this is my favorite Ghibli film by the simple fact that the plot absolutely blew me away and the amazing world building. Howl’s Moving Castle brings us the tale of Sophie Hatter, a young lady, cursed by a witch, to take on the appearance of the most determined, witty and sly old lady you’ll meet. She chases after the mysterious and dashing wizard Howl and uncovers not only the truth behind his extravagance, but many real-life criticisms of war made vivid by just a splash of magic.
The expression, “when pigs fly”, was quite probably one of the main inspirations for this movie, but there is so much more lying beneath the gruff and repulsive appearance of its protagonist. Porco Rosso is a beautiful homage to the fallen pilots of WWI and surprisingly for a Ghibli movie, takes place in Italy. Its historical aspect brings in another layer to its mysterious and wholesome characters and they fly into mercenary-pirate type dogfights.
My Neighbor Totoro
Honestly who doesn’t adore Totoro. Even if you have never watched the movie, this giant bear-creature in itself is a pop culture icon and it would do everyone a little good to educate themselves on his backstory. This picture isn’t particularly exciting or adventurous; it’s a simple story with a spark of imagination and focuses on two sisters who have recently moved into their new house with their father, while their mother bed-ridden in a nearby hospital. That may sound ominous, but it is nothing but a pure, blissful, slice-of-life type story.
While these are definitively some of the more known Studio Ghibli titles, it should go without saying that such thing as a “bad Ghibli film” does not exist. If you dig just a little deeper, it’s more than likely you’ll find yourself smitten, and caught in a nostalgic evening.
quote source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/27/movies/studio-ghibli-hbo-max.html