Studio Ghibli has always held a special place in my heart. After spending my childhood living through the releases of the final great Disney movies, I was lucky enough to witness the rise of Ghibli in the West. I went on to spend my teenage years growing up and tirelessly watching and rewatching films like Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. In fact, they were my gateway into my love for Japan and it’s culture, and even made a big impact on the course I chose for university – Japanese and Korean language and culture! Ghibli films have become so popular over the last decade because they are stunningly beautiful and their stories resonate so well with everyone – regardless of your age! Here’s a round-up of my overall top 3 Studio Ghibli films…
1: HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (ハウルの動く城) – 2004
Sophie, a talented by bored young hat maker is cursed to appear as an old woman by a scorned evil witch. Sophie travels to the Waste Lands in order to find the moving castle of the infamous wizard Howl and ask for his help to break her curse before it’s too late.
Howl’s Moving Castle is undoubtedly my favourite of all the Ghibli films. Why? – Howl of course! Who couldn’t love that temperamental and charming scoundrel? Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Dianna Wynne-Jones, the story whisks you off into a world of fantasy and magic. I could watch this film 100 times in a row and never get bored of it. Enchantingly witty and spellbindingly charming – a must see!
A young girl named Chihiro gets lost in a magical realm after exploring a seemingly abandoned town with her parents, near her new house. She ends up working at a bathhouse for magical creatures and along with her friends help, Chihiro must find a way of saving her parents from the clutches of the evil witch Yubaba, and somehow find her way home.
Spirited Away is an exciting coming of age tale and is probably one of Ghibli’s universally best known films (even winning an Oscar) because of its age-less relatability. For me, it recounts the wonder and marvel I felt when I first watched Disney classics such as A Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and the Lion King. Short, sweet and uncomplicated – it’s a brilliant film to keep you entertained in the background if you’re working, or to snuggle up with on the sofa on a night in.
Ashitaka, a local boy recently cursed by a feral demon spirit, ventures off in search of an answer as to why the forests are slowly dying. On his way, he meets up with San (a young wolf-girl who lives deep in the forests) and together they search for answers to save their forests from an unknown danger that threatens to destroy them all, before it’s too late.
Unlike Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke is a more mature Ghibli classic and is often overlooked when compared to some Miyazaki’s other work. I think the main reason is that the main characters are a little older, and the main premise of film circles heavily on the themes of deforestation, pollution and the effects of industrialisation. Although not your average happy-go-lucky animated film, its comment on the parallels on the current environmental issues that we have today, makes you really stop to think. Not one for the whole family, but still, a hauntingly beautiful edition to your DVD collection that I’d definitely recommend.