Studio Ghibli creates art that brings the child out of all of us; I took it upon myself by creating a top ten list of Ghibli films as a way to keep that spirit alive. Studio Ghibli was to blow a new wind into the Japanese animation industry and it did indeed accomplish that goal. Over the years I have watched in wonder these films and have made it a priority of mine to share these films with my readers. I hope within this list you find yourself entertained, interested, and above all else, ready to track down any of these films and give them a watch. Lets start the list shall we?
Lupin’s market presence in the U.S. does not remotely approximate his popularity in Japan, that is for certain. The animation is obviously dated, since the film is over 20 years old, but the elements are all still intact. The animation is weak when it comes to fluid body movements, but outstanding in its attention to detail. At a time when so much anime seems overly tedious and melodratic, it’s refreshing to see a film that has a grand sense of adventure and being humorous all at the same time. This movie is wall to wall fun.
Set within an imaginary 19th century European setting where magic and science combine which reminded me a lot of the setting in Steamboy. Howl’s Moving Castle moves on a little too fast in places, but it’s still a breathtaking, romantic, colorful ride. If nothing else, it proves to Hollywood that its recent failure in the animated realm comes not from old-fashioned hand-drawn animation but from its severe lack of imagination. Another great effort from Studio Ghibli.
The movie was so enjoyable because it honored good character. The “right” things happened. The honorable characters succeeded. The good guy wins. Yet there is not a hint of formula in the movie. This is a film that is deeply humanistic yet never overly sappy and emotional. Hayao Miyazaki’s Porco Rosso is a fantastic animated journey that also makes a strong political statement. The film entertains young and old, but also leaves a lot for the audience to ponder while the magnificent animation transcends into the mind through vibrant colors and detailed lines.
Co-Produced by Studio Ghibli, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence is set years later, in 2032. I must stress that although I am giving this a fairly high grade, I want to note that animation is about storytelling with moving pictures. Story pacing and timing is very important. While I don’t mind movies that run at a slower pace, it also shouldn’t lag. Ultimately, this film finds a good enough balance to work. The end twist is actually a knockout and makes it worth seeing.
My Neighbor Totoro feels like a celebration of the wonders of the natural world. Miyazaki doesn’t rub the audience’s face in glitzy animation tricks; he supervises a more complex style that relies on humanity rather than razzle-dazzle. Clearly the studio aimed this movie at kids but it is indeed a wonderful piece for the child in all of us. Call it Miyazaki magic or the power of imagination, but My Neighbor Totoro is a prime example of captivating, story-driven cinema.
Think you’re too cool for Japanese anime about a lost ten-year-old girl whose parents turn into snorting pigs? Get over it. Spirited Away is a tremendously original and beautiful anime film. Spirited Away is like all the wonderful children’s books that fired my imagination as a kid. But, this come as little surprise given the pedigree set by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. It even out-grossed Titanic in Japan. Spirited Away offers an exciting adventure, visually stunning, narratively compelling, and mythically satisfying.
Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea is an enchanting film which tells a beautiful but simple story. With Ponyo, it becomes clear that not only does Miyazaki appear incapable of making a film that is anything less than revelatory, but that as he approaches the old age of 70, he is still making films with the exuberance and passion of a young man. Ponyo, the magical film will definitely cast an indelible imprint in the minds of all who will watch this beautiful creation.
Grave of the Fireflies does not once flinch from the direst possibilities of human existence, but portrays misery in such a way that we never stop believing this story is worth telling. The quality of animation is fantastic, and that it still looks so good even after all these years is to Ghibli’s credit. Grave of the Fireflies doesn’t attempt the realism of Princess Mononoke, but paradoxically it is the most realistic animated film I’ve ever seen – in feeling. Grave of the Fireflies puts a human face on the civilian population of Japan during the war, something not many movies have done, and none have done as well.
The artistry of the animation is often breathtaking and extremely detailed, and you have to pay close attention to the story to figure out which characters are allies and for what reasons. The story itself has plenty to sell itself with as its laid out slowly and with just the right bit of teases along the way to expand on it, but it’s also the visuals and the characters that do an amazing job here. To me, this is the holy grail of Miyazaki films. Looking back over the twenty-plus-years history of Ghibli, one can now see that Nausicaa is the prototype for many other Miyazaki efforts.
The #1 spot goes to my favorite anime film which is both beautiful and violent as Miyazaki’s creatures and worlds collide with the broader themes of human nature, survival and morality. I must also note that aside from Akira, this was one of the first full length anime movies I saw and it made my interest in anime grow even more. The animation is smooth, colorful, and detailed beyond belief. Simple things, like water, are depicted beautifully enough to catch your breath. Movement is fluid and lifelike, and the use of light and shadows are spot-on. I can’t say enough about this magical anime film. Make it your mission in life to at least watch this film once.
There you have it! My top 10 Studio Ghibli related films of all time! Feel free to leave a comment provided your own top 10 and any comments, feedback, or suggestions you might have. Happy Anime watching!!