👀 Where imagination runs wild and feels run deep
#212 | In a world of chaos, Studio Ghibli is your happy place
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (Japan), three wizards - Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki, and Isao Takahata - joined forces to create a studio that would blow the existing animation industry away like a hot desert wind.
At Studio Ghibli (hot desert wind in Lubyan Arabic), these wizards conjured up over 20 feature-length animated films full of magic and whimsy, with talking cats and giant pigs and magical sprites. These movies were wildly successful and won a boatload of awards and, yes, made a bunch of money.
But it isn't just the stories that make Studio Ghibli special. Miyazaki, Suzuki, and Takahata share a passion for storytelling and animation, and they weren't afraid to shake things up.
Now, if you, my friend, want to be transported to this magical Ghibli world, I have a list of recommendations for you and where you can find them.
First on my list is, My Neighbour Totoro (1988). The movie launched a million plush toys, and it's not hard to see why. Totoro, the beloved titular character, is the Studio Ghibli equivalent of Mickey Mouse, except cuter and with adorable grunting noises. The story follows two young girls and their dad, who move to a country home to be close to their sick mother. Along the way, they meet Totoro and his friends, including the legendary Catbus, which is not your average feline but a bus that is also a cat. This movie is a warm hug on a cold day.
Next up is Princess Mononoke (1997), a thrilling fantasy movie with a strong environmental message. Set in feudal Japan, it tells the story of a young prince caught in a conflict between greedy townsfolk and the spirits of a threatened forest. This action-packed film is a great companion to My Neighbour Totoro but with more battles, demons, and unpleasant characters.
If fierce girls doing their thing is your thing, then check out Kiki's Delivery Service (2003). Join 13-year-old witch Kiki and her talkative cat Jiji as they soar through the skies on a magical journey, offering their services to the people of a bustling town. When things don't go to plan, you can’t help but cheer Kiki on as she finds the confidence she needs to pave her own path.
The Oscar-winning masterpiece Spirited Away (2001) is my next recco. It tells the story of Chihiro, a 10-year-old girl who enters the spirit world after losing her parents. She encounters bizarre and grotesque on her journey - an Alice in Wonderland-esque adventure, but with more spirit creatures and fewer tea parties.
Lastly, an honourary mention. I don’t know where you can watch Grave of the Fireflies, so try the site Dolly suggested. It's not the easiest movie to watch, but it's an important one. Set in Kobe, Japan, during the final days of WWII, it delves into the brutal truth of war. Grave of the Fireflies follows the lives of siblings Seita and Setsuko struggle to survive amidst the chaos and destruction caused by the firebombings. This movie isn’t afraid to make you feel all the feelings - it's the one that made me fall in love with Studio Ghibli, and I still can't watch it without a box of tissues.
If you find out where it's ethically streaming, let me know and I’ll update this post. And if you want to talk about Studio Ghibli, you know where to find me!
Tell your friends to join our mystical mailing Thing so they never miss another magical Thing