Studio Ghibli is one of the most iconic film makers in anime history—often called the Disney of Japan. It’s given us fun characters and whimsical worlds fans still remember, and love, seven after years of a movie’s release. It will likely continue to do just that for years to come.
Maybe you’re a massive Studio Ghibli fan. Maybe you’re a newcomer who wants to know why the heck they see these characters around so much. Either way, this article hopes to introduce you to a new favorite or perhaps urge you to revisit an old one!
My Neighbor Totoro
One of Studio Ghibli’s most recognizable characters is the giant gray fluffball known at Totoro. Totoro is practically a mascot for the company. But in the original movie, he’s more than just that.
Totoro is a mystical spirit that lives in the forest of a small countryside town Mei and Satsuki have just moved to. Upon meeting him, the young girls get swept into a life of magical adventure and fantasy. He’s a welcome neighbor in their new rural life that sometimes comes with far too gloomy days. However, perhaps most important of all, he’s the bright centerpiece to a heartwarming family story that will make you feel as fuzzy on the inside as Totoro looks on the outside!
Totoro may act as mascot for Studio Ghibli, but Spirited Away is often still the first film to come to mind for fans or strangers to the brand when they hear the Ghibli name. It carries all the stunning animation and whimsical emotion Studio Ghibli is known for.
It all starts when Chihiro’s parents discover an abandoned amusement park. Initially she is only stubborn and upset that another stop is delaying the already hard trip to a new house—far away from all her friends. However, bizarre things happen when dusk falls. Ghosts, pigs, missing parents! Following her journey through the strange spirit world is a fantastical journey for the viewers themselves. There’s a reason it landed a top spot on our list of best anime for newcomers.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya
Hayao Miyazaki is no doubt an admirable veteran in film direct. Sometimes, he’s thought synonymous with the name Studio Ghibli. However, it would be an unfortunate mistake to forget about another of Ghibli’s founders: Isao Takahata.
Kaguya-hime no Monogatari is based on the ancient story The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. Fittingly, it uses very freeflowing animation that resonates with the traditional ink and watercolor works from that time, a quite stand out style next to other modern anime being made. It also possesses a certain melancholy not found in other Ghibli films. This somber yet soft atmosphere makes Kaguya’s experiences, in a place she did not wholly belong to, all the more enthralling.
From Up on Poppy Hill
From Up on Poppy Hill takes place in 1960’s Japan where a small boarding house sits atop a hill overlooking the sea. Umi Matsuzaki lives there and helps run the family establishment. Perhaps this is why she ends up embroiled in the rescue plan of another beloved building in her tiny town.
Gorou Miyazaki, the eldest son of Hayao Miyazaki, is a relative newcomer to directing. His first film, Tales From Earthsea, suffered a lot of critical backlash. However, From Up on Poppy Hill brings a new light of hope for the studio’s future. It doesn’t share the same magical vibe as most Ghibli work, but the mundane setting actually works in its favor. From the beautiful skylines to the charming architecture, the film gives watchers a sense of nostalgia even if they didn’t grow up in a time or place quite like it.
The Secret World of Arrietty
The Secret World of Arrietty, like The Tale of Princess Kaguya, borrows its story from another familiar tale called The Borrowers. It explores the lives of tiny people hiding just under our noses—or in this case, a family’s garden—and how they make a home with all the small things that mysteriously go missing in human houses.
Arrietty is certainly one of Ghibli’s brightest films. The striking green leaves and lush flowers of the outside world are a fine compliment to the warm, glossy palettes of the borrowers’ homes. It gives a new perspective to the everyday sights of the human world that reminds you things can be bigger than they seem.
That wraps our Top 10 list for Studio Ghibli. Do you agree with our picks? Did you find any new movies to watch? Let us know your answers, and your favorite Studio Ghibli film, in the comments below!