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Much like our recent list of the best and worst Disney films, here is a list of the best and worst Studio Ghibli films. Disney owned distribution rights for awhile for several Studio Ghibli films, but I think that has since changed hands to Gkids. Many people who love Disney films also love Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli Films; after all, they have a lot in common with each other. Both studios rely mostly on making films from well known children’s literature and fairytales. Both studios have a very recognizable animation style. And both studios excel at creating stories that the whole family can enjoy together, cartoons that appeal to young and old alike.
I was surprised there’s not as many Studio Ghibli films as I would think. If you’re wondering why Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is not on this list, that’s because it’s not actually made by Studio Ghibli. This actually gives me an idea for another blog post maybe something along the lines of “10 Anime Movies You Mistake for Studio Ghibli Films.” I can think of 3 or 4 right away without much effort. Nausicaa being the biggest “WTF, Really?!” moment of the bunch. There’s also Wolf Children, My Summer with Coo, Nadia The Secret of Blue Water, and a Letter to Momo which all seem to share Studio Ghibli’s art and story styles. More recently there’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower which I’ve yet to watch but am really looking forward to because of the “Ghibli Vibe”. Although different in style, you might also mistake other recently successful anime films such as Ko no Katachi and Kimi no Nawa as Ghibli films because when most people think of successful feature length anime films, they immediately think of Studio Ghibli. I’m also surprised there’s still quite a few legit Studio Ghibli films which I have yet to watch – I will include those at the end of this article. As there’s only a handful of them, I plan to try to watch them and come back and edit my rankings asap.
Here are my picks for best and worst Studio Ghibli films – what are some of your favorite and least favorite Ghibli films? Leave a comment below!
Best and Worst Studio Ghibli Films:
Ponyo is sorta Ghibli’s Take on the whole Little Mermaid thing. It’s a very original and creative take on it, with a lot of imagination and charm. Its charm and originality are what lands it at first place on my list of favorite Ghibli films. Ponyo is a fish like creature who gets caught by a young boy, Souske, who keeps her as a pet. She begins to fall in love with her new master, and as she grows, she becomes more and more human-like. Her transformation causes an inbalance in the sea which creates a Tsunami. Ponyo and Souske must work together to save their village from the Tsunami, which also tests their love for one another, If they can find unconditional love, Ponyo will be able to remain a human with Souske, or else she must return back to the sea. – If you also love Ponyo, check out Lu over the Wall which I reviewed here. It’s very similar and also very cute!
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Kiki’s Delivery Service is definitely high on my list of favorite Studio Ghibli movies. It features a strong female lead, Kiki, a young witch who is leaving home for the first time, as is customary for young witches when they “come of age” (which is at just 13 years old). Each town can only have 1 witch, and Kiki must strike out to find her own place in the world – quite literally. Taking only her father’s radio, Mother’s Broomstick, and Jiji, her black cat, she sets out on a grand adventure. She struggles at first, an allegory to how we all must struggle to find OUR place in the world. This makes the film so relateable, and the characters are so likeable, that who can’t help but to just love Kiki’s Delivery Service? – Did you know that Kiki’s Delivery Service is actually based on a book by the same name? You can grab the book over on Amazon. It’s out of print and expensive now sadly. https://www.amazon.com/Kikis-Delivery-Service-Eiko-Kadono/dp/1550377884
This is one of Studio Ghibli’s best known, and most well loved, featured films. It was the first anime to ever win an Academy Award for Best animated Feature Film. I believe to date, it’s the only Japanese anime to have ever won this award. It beat out numerous other animated films that same year including Disney and Dreamworks. It’s the highest grossing film of all time in Japan, and even beat out Titanic. In 2016 it was voted as the 4th best film of the 21st century which made it the highest animated film on the list as chosen from more than 170 film critics from around the world.
Just because something wins lots of awards though does not necessarily make it a great film — but Spirited Away does indeed fall into the category of greatness. I feel that the success of Spirited Away is due largely in part to the emotional attachment the audience develops towards the young pure hearted characters, as well as the fantasy setting, which is set in a realm of spirits that’s mysterious enough to be edgy/creepy for older kids/adults, while not terrifying like Mononoke, and attention to detail through story writing, the excellent music score, animation, and voice acting.
When Marnie Was There
When Marnie Was There is also based on a book by the same name. https://www.amazon.com/Marnie-There-Essential-Modern-Classics-ebook/dp/B00KA11ZI0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=&dpID=51FrFUXIjEL&preST=_SY445_QL70_&dpSrc=detail This Studio Ghibli adaptation rates higher for me than it does for most other people because I love my grandma so much, which made the bond that the main character shares with her own grandma overwhelmingly sweet and sentimental to me. Everyone loves their grandmas right? But mine is literally like my favorite person in the whole world. So this film really hit me right in the heart. I could watch it over and over and probably still cry each time. Love the song at the end of the credits too. I related a lot to the main character too who is always alone / lonely as I was similar to that growing up. She’s also interested in art like myself, and has a great imagination. Really, just on a personal level, out of all Ghibli films, this one is by far the most relatable to me, even though it’s still a fantasy movie about a ghost :).
Howl’s Moving Castle
Obviously, Howl’s Moving Castle is based on the very well known series of books by the same name https://www.amazon.com/Howls-Moving-Castle-Diana-Wynne/dp/1442008431 – Though only very, very, very loosely based on this source material… In the original book, Sophie is very sarcastic and independent – She literally doesn’t give a flip about anyone or anything. In both versions they are pessimistic and feel they have no control over their fate, but in the book that quickly changes, and we witness Sophie become more responsible for her own actions and feelings. Sophie in the book also discovers pretty early on that she has magic powers. Howl in the book is a total playboy. There’s no war in the book. The villains are different too. In the book the main villain is the Witch of the Waste who is scorned by Howl rejecting her romantically and is looking to create her ideal mate by piecing together several different men, including the missing prince and Howl’s pretty face. Some find the book to be very funny, while others find it to be dry, because British humor is often very dry indeed. The idealistic love between Sophie and Howl in the film is quite different in the book. The two argue and break up and make up over and over throughout the story. The biggest difference is definitely in the titular character of Howl. In the book we see much more of Howl. Early on in the book it is difficult to like or sympathize for him as he is so vain and breaks so many hearts. But as the story unfolds, we learn the truth is that he is afraid of letting others close to him because he is in fact very sensitive and fragile and a very warm and loving person as well, and instantly we learn to not judge others, Everyone is going through their own struggles in life, and both Howl and Sophie have a lot of demons inside of themselves that they must face, which sadly is a lesson that the film doesn’t care to impart to the audience. In the film Howl instead is scarcely seen as he flies off to fight wars that don’t exist in the book. In the book, he is from modern day Wales, and has found a door to Sophie’s time and world where he has chosen to stay to study magic. This time traveling is completely omitted from the film, just as is equally omitted Sophie’s magical abilities. Instead, in Miyazaki’s version, it is Sophie who we see “time traveling” as she learns about Howl’s past. Miyazaki’s goal was to create a film that shows how love makes life worth living, while the original author’s goal was to create a story about a strong willed female mage which challenged gender and societal stereotypes. Both stories are equally charming in their own unique ways. Miyazaki’s interpretation of Howl’s Moving Castle is romantic and full of charm and innocence and still quite engaging in its storytelling and plot devices. There are some who complain that too many liberties were taken which deviated from the author’s original work, but one could also argue the same is true of Ponyo which is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid or any number of Ghibli or Disney works that are based on books before becoming films.
Whisper of the Heart
This is a lesser known Ghibli film based on manga of the same name about a young girl whose only passion is reading, and a young boy whose only passion is music. They are both outcasts and self isolated because they pour 100% of their time into their chosen hobbies. Both wish to drop out of school to pursue their passions full time. And neither one of them really get along with each other when the film first starts out. What I really enjoyed about this film is watching the characters change their thoughts and beliefs, about their passions, but also about how they perceive other people. They also discover they have a lot in common and both help to inspire one another to chase their dreams. Initially they view other people or other responsibilities as a hindrance, taking away time from their passions. But they learn that instead, other people add to your experiences and make life sweeter. Both characters yearn to grow up and become adults, but both are only grade/middle school students. They have a lot to learn. And as the film ends, we watch just how much they’ve matured over their summer. They learn to make time and space in their lives and hearts for other people while still each holding tightly to their dreams of their future. The original manga has not been licensed for US release. There is also a sequel manga that follows the characters as they prepare for their college entrance exams. https://mangarock.com/search?q=Mimi%20wo%20Sumaseba
Grave of the Fireflies
This film is sad AF!!! There are some who will not like this film because of it being so sad. And also others who will not like this film simply because it portrays the real life events of the bombing of Hiroshima. Japan is the only country to have been nuked by an atomic bomb and the US the only country to have released an atomic bomb. Never again has such a weapon been used in combat because of the devastating long term and long range consequences that spring about from such frightening weaponry. This movie depicts the suffering and harsh realities of the war and subsequent bombing of Hiroshima. Obviously, war and decisions made by a country’s government, is a very politically charged issue. And many lives were lost on both sides of the war. So much suffering occurred that it’s still a tense and delicate subject to people on both sides of the war still today even in modern times. It is hard to watch this film, and even harder to see their suffering, and know that “we” (as a nation / group of nations) caused that suffering) even if it was perhaps necessary at the time of these events. It still doesn’t make you feel good realizing what you’ve unleashed. I’ve seen documentaries with actual real life footage of the victims, I’ve seen them peeling burnt flesh from survivors’ bodies using chopsticks, I’ve seen footage of their shadows burned into the walls, shadows of children playing at playgrounds, shadows of mothers trying to protect their children in their arms. But I’ve also seen movies on the other side of the issue too – Many US lives were lost in the bombing of pearl harbor; many other lives were lost around the entire world from Hitler’s atrocities, and so on. In war there is no clear cut good / bad decisions. You do what you feel you have to do to protect your country and its people, and in bombing Hiroshima, the US was trying to do just that, although it tragically resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent Japanese civilians… such as the two depicted in this Studio Ghibli film… We watch them live fearfully, and with not enough food to eat, without any parents to take care of them, and we watch them suffer, fall ill, and struggle at every turn. We watch their own family and friends turn their backs on helping them and realize they have nowhere to go or turn to – an important – although equally political – message in our own modern times with issues with refugees and so on from our modern day wars. To quote the videogame Fallout “War Never Changes” – that’s why a film about a decades old war is still compelling and relevant and relatable in modern times. One of the interesting things about this film, is gaining a new perspective on the war and circumstances around the war. Sympathizing with our “enemy” and seeing just how similar we are, despite hundreds or thousands of cultural differences, at the end of the day, we each love our families, and would do anything to see to it that our families are happy, healthy, safe, and cared for. There is no way to watch this film without crying and forming an emotional connection with the characters. The ability to evoke such deep emotion is a testament to the quality of this film. It is an artful masterpiece with fantastic writing, character development, and storytelling.
Laputa Castle in the Sky
I just watched this movie last year as part of Studio Ghibli’s and Gkids Ghibli Fest which brought many great Ghibli films to the theater – some for the first time in theaters within the US. I loved this movie. It had great action and a great love story. A lot of things in this film reminded me of my favorite Videogame, Lunar Eternal Blue which I reviewed here and cosplayed as here. Maybe it’s the girl and her pendant, her mysterious origins/past, her dramatic entrance, or the floating city in the sky, or maybe it’s the awesome epic love story. The lengths that both male characters go to in order to protect the person they love – and to help the girl they love complete her mission, or the way in which both film and game are so rich in lore and history and create a strange mashup of fantasy and technology creating a timeless story, that feels like it could take place equally conceivably in past, present, or future. Laputa Castle in the Sky is very action packed and fast moving, but yet, since it centers on these two characters and their love for one another, it can capture audiences of any age or gender.
The Cat Returns
This is a sequel or Spin off based on Ghibli’s earlier film, Whisper of the Heart. I enjoyed Whisper of the Heart more than the Cat Returns, despite my huge massive never ending love for cats. Unlike the author’s own sequel to her manga, this story is not related to the two main characters of Whisper of the Heart, but instead focuses on the story that was inspired by the cat-like doll, nicknamed Baron as he searches for his lost love Louise, who was taken from him by Muto. Despite the name of the film, and it actually really being a sequel, the title is still slightly confusing. A better English title would have been something along the lines of “The Cat’s Reciprocation” or “The Cat Returns the Favor” but that doesn’t really have the same “ring” to it. Perhaps the perfect title should have been “The Cat’s Reply” which could not only mean to “return the favor” but also foreshadow Haru’s ability to speak with cats. Haru saves a cat one day, who wants to return the favor by offering her the prince’s hand – err paw — in marriage. Haru is flustered both by the cat’s proposal and his ability to talk. Cats around her begin acting strangely, bringing her gifts and tokens of the prince’s affection. Haru is cat-napped and taken to the world of cats where she is pampered and treated like a queen. She is given feasts and entertainment and more lavish gifts. As she begins to enjoy her time in the cat world, she begins to turn into a cat. The Baron warns Haru that she will become a real cat, and forget her human self if she does not immediately leave the cat world. The king and prince orchestrate obstacles and distractions to lengthen Haru’s stay in the cat kingdom, knowing that once she is fully a cat, she will become the Prince’s Bride. Will Haru forget her true self and live happily among the cats? Or will she escape and reclaim her place among the humans? Many people think this film is based on the Manga by the same author of Whisper of the Heart, but actually the Ghibli film came first, and the author enjoyed it so much that she made a manga based on the film – kinda neat, right? 🙂 Usually it’s the other way around.
The Secret World of Arietty
Studio Ghibli’s “The Secret World of Arietty” is based on a popular children’s book, The Borrowers by Mary Norton. This book has entertained children for several generations. But it’s also a book (and film) that can be enjoyed by the whole family, young or old alike. My grandmother told me that it is her favorite book, she told me she first read it when my mother checked it out of the library. I too read the book when I was younger, and I also enjoyed many other film and tv adaptations and similar books and movies and tv series such as The Littles and The Indian in the Cupboard.
The Borrowers and The Secret World of Arietty give you a glimpse at a hidden world right under our noses. The Borrowers are a tiny race of miniature humans who live in our walls and gardens and live off of things we waste or take for granted. If you ever notice a button or a needle is missing, you can bet it’s been “Borrowed”. Of course the human world presents many dangers to Arietty, she must be careful to not be discovered by the humans who could capture her and keep her as a pet or science experiment. At the same time she must be aware of her surroundings at all times. She could get swept away by just a small trickle of water, or mistaken for a mouse and gobbled up by a cat, or crushed underfoot by a horse and carriage. Arietty is of course not afraid of the human world, and instead intrigued by it. She finds the human world fascinating and impossible to resist. Especially when she meets and falls in love with a human boy who is equally fascinated by Arietty’s world. The story teaches us that even though our lives may seem dull and mundane, that all it takes is a change of perspective to be reminded how wondrous life truly is.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya
Ghibli used an unusual art style in this anime, making it quite different from any of their other films. Their intention was to create an anime that looked like ancient Japanese calligraphy paintings and wall scrolls. The tale of Princess Kaguya was unfamiliar to me, but very familiar and loved in its home country of Japan where it is known as the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. This legend has been around for over 1,000 years! It is most famously presented and passed down through ancient Japanese paintings from the Edo period which is what influenced Ghibli’s character and art direction in this film.
I’m not a huge fan of the art style in the anime, and even some of the customs/traditions of the Edo period which the film accurately depicts like women painting their teeth black – SO eww. Interestingly, little has changed as I know even now it’s generally considered to be “unlady-like” for a woman or girl to smile widely thus showing her teeth. That’s why there’s two emoji’s ^.^ and ^_^ – the first one is a feminine emoji and the second is a masculine emoji. I learned that years ago when I used to chat with people all over the world and was told about my “improper” use of the “^_^” emoji. Although I still use ^_^ all the time, and I consider “^.^” to be more of a “playful” smile, sorta cattish or impish or mischievious, or maybe a smile that seems like it has a secret, a smirk or a giggle behind it, where as I feel ^_^ is just pure joy/happiness/amusement/laughter.
Anyways enough about Emoji’s – lol. The strange art style and questionable fashions/traditions of the Edo period are really the only reason this film doesn’t rank higher for me. I do agree that the film looks just like the historical paintings… but it’s just not my tastes personally… That said though, I am extremely fascinated by the story and legend behind this film.
The legend states that an old man unable to have children of his own, found Kaguya one day while cutting bamboo. When she first appeared she was only the size of his thumb, but she rapidly grew much faster than other children. The bamboo cutter took the baby to his wife, where they raised her lovingly as their own child. Ever since Kaguya appeared in their lives, every time the Bamboo cutter would go to work, he would find gold coins in the bamboo stalks and soon the family become very rich. Although initially the family wishes to protect Kaguya’s innocence and youth, it is not long before word spreads of the beautiful young woman and many princes appear to seek her hand in marriage. Kaguya tasks each prince with impossible tasks, knowing they cannot be achieved, because she wishes to remain with her family and maintain her independence. One by one each prince fails to win the hand of Kaguya. Time passes, and eventually the Emperor comes to see the beautiful Kaguya. He falls in love instantly, but Kaguya tells him they cannot be together because she is not from his country. They instead become friends and remain in correspondence. As time went on, Kaguya began acting strangely, especially on nights with a full moon. She would cry and cause her parents to worry. She later reveals to them that she is not from Earth and must return to her home on the moon. The Emperor, as well as her family, do everything they can to try to hide and protect Kaguya who does not wish to return to the Moon. Kaguya wants to remain on Earth. In the end, however, Kaguya must go back to the kingdom of the Moon and leave her beloved family and friends.
Studio Ghibli’s version of the tale differs in some areas – The Emperor in the Ghibli version is more obsessed with Kaguya and Kaguya wants absolutely none of it because she’s in love with a simple boy from her childhood whom her father deems is not of high enough rank for her hand (who never existed in the original legend). In fact she is so repulsed by the Emperor that she cries when he touches her and discovers she has a secret ability to disappear at will. These details were made up for the Ghibli version only. Also at the end of the Ghibli version, Kaguya looks back onto the earth with a longing and sad gaze, even though her robe of feathers was to strip her of all of her memories of her time spent on Earth, the look on her face implies that her feelings and attachments were so strong that she could not forget the people of Earth. – This also is made up in the Ghibli version. In the original legend, Kaguya does in fact forget everyone when she returns to the Moon. In the original legend, the Emperor is so saddened by Kaguya’s death (or disappearance whatever you want to call it) that he orders his army to climb to the top of the mountain “closest to heaven” – There he wishes to burn a letter from Kaguya in hopes that his love and feelings for her will rise with the smoke from the letter and reach her on the moon. He also wanted to burn the elixir of immortality that Kaguya left him because he did not want to live forever without Kaguya by his side. Wikipedia states that the Japanese word for immortality “Fushi” is what Mt. Fuji’s name was derived from. And that the kanji characters for the mountain mean “Mountain abounding with warriors” which is said to denote the Emperor’s army who burnt the letter. The legend also says that the smoke from the letter still rises today (when the legend was created, Mt Fuji was an active volcano and hence produced smoke). I think the original legend makes for a very beautiful unrequited love story, where in Ghibli’s version the Emperor is the main villain whose appearance is what drives Kaguya to pray to the moon for help, after which her people come to “rescue” her from the Emperor. Quite a different take on the tale. I know Japan’s long history and traditions with their Emperor’s being near godlike status, so it’s odd to see a film from Japan depict in Emperor as a villainous character, especially given that in the original tale he was so pure and chivalrous and so in platonic unrequited love / mutual friendship with Kaguya throughout much of their lives.
I can’t remember where I read it now, (I’ve tried searching) but I read a few years ago that there are many scholars who believe that the legend of the Swan Princess / the Swan Lake Ballet is derived from the much older Legend of Kaguya. The main themes are very similar. This wikipedia article gives you a glimpse at the “Legend” of the Swan Princess The “Legend” is apparently much older than the ballet itself.
Here are a few of the similarities:
In these “Swan Maiden” tales, an unmarried man steals a robe of swan feathers from a woman in order to keep her from “flying away” – The maiden then bears children by this man. At some point the children come across the robe their father has hidden, or they ask their mother why she is always crying and go find the robe for her. As soon as she is given her robe she ascends to heaven without any hesitation or thought or attachment for her family or life as a human. Regarding those she leaves behind, wikipedia says this: “Although the children may grieve her, she does not take them with her. If the husband is able to find her again, it is an arduous quest, and often the impossibility is clear enough so that he does not even try.”
Kaguya is pursued by many unmarried men. She is given her robe of feathers when she ascends to the moon, and thus this ascending into the sky, can also be like “flying away”
Kaguya begins crying “always” uncontrollably near the end of her tale and her family always asks her what’s wrong / show concern for her.
Kaguya is given a robe of feathers which allows her to forget her time with her human family and friends so that she has no attachment or regrets leaving them (obviously Ghibli changed this part with one final glance back to Earth from their version of Princess Kaguya)
Kaguya’s family does grieve her but she cannot take them with her.
Kaguya tasks her “would-be” husbands with impossible quests – Even the Emperor himself cannot win Kaguya’s hand. After her disappearance, he sets out on his own arduous quest in the legend which would become the legend and folklore around Mount Fuji.
The wikipedia article also states that “The swan maiden has appeared in numerous items of fiction, including the ballet Swan Lake, in which a young princess, Odette and her maidens are under the spell of an evil sorcerer, Von Rothbart, transforming them into swans by day. By night, they regain their human forms and can only be rescued if a young man swears eternal love and faithfulness to the Princess. When Prince Siegfried swears his love for Odette, the spell can be broken, but Siegfried is tricked into declaring his love for Von Rothbart’s daughter, Odile, disguised by magic as Odette, and all seems lost. But the spell is finally broken when Siegfried and Odette drown themselves in a lake of tears, uniting them in death for all eternity. While the ballet’s revival of 1895 depicted the swan-maidens as mortal women cursed to turn into swans, the original libretto of 1877 depicted them as true swan-maidens: fairies who could transform into swans at will.”
Kaguya has a special relationship to the Moon (symbol of the night).
The Emperor loved Kaguya (not as apparent in the Ghibli film, but VERY apparent in the original legend where he burns the letter and the elixir of life.)
In burning the elixir of life, he gives up immortality so that he can (one day) rejoin Kaguya in death.
The Lake of Tears could signify how the Emperor wept for Kaguya (or in Ghibli’s case how her parents wept for her).
The ability to transform into swans at will could be inspired by Kaguya’s ability to disappear at will.
There is another tale from Japan with themes similar to Princess Kaguya, Tsuru no Ongaeshi, or the Crane Wife, about a crane who is caught in a trap. She is set free by an elderly couple and to repay their kindness she arrives as a human child, claiming to be lost. She asks them if they would take care of her as their own daughter, and the elderly couple happily agrees. To repay them for their kindness she begins to weave beautiful fabrics which she makes by plucking her own feathers. The fabrics sell for a lot of money and make the family very wealthy. She warns them they must never look in the room as she weaves. But overtime, curiosity overcomes the couple and they steal a glimpse only to find a crane and not a human in the room. With her identity revealed, she tells the couple she had hoped to always remain their daughter, but she must now return to being a crane. In other versions of this legend, it is not a couple, but a young man who saves the crane disguised as a human. The two soon fall in love. In some versions he is sick and so the crane plucks her own feathers to make the fabric to sell for money to get medicine to save her husband. In other versions the husband is alive and well, but the crane becomes increasingly ill as she continues to pluck her feathers. As she plucks her last feather she must return to being a crane and leave her husband behind as the husband vows he will never forget her.
(source: Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsuru_no_Ongaeshi)
The legend of Kaguya predates the legend of Tsuru no Ongaeshi. You can already see how the folk lore was shifting but still similar to the original tale of Kaguya. From here, the similarities between Kaguya and Swan’s lake are even more apparent.
Obviously both Swan Lake and Tsuru no Ongaeshi feature a bird who has turned human.
Swan Lake’s maiden has lost a robe of feathers, while the Crane Wife has lost her feathers while making robes.
In relation to Kaguya, Once their true identities are uncovered they both must return to their former selves/worlds.
Also in relation to Kaguya, the main character is raised by or falls in love with humans – she then asks them to raise her as their own child. When she is leaving she tells them she never wanted to leave and always wanted to remain their child, but that she has no choice now. In the version with the husband, his vow of never forgetting her, could be similar to the Emperor’s love for Kaguya in the original legend and the lengths he went to even after her death or disappearance to prove his love and rejoin her in death.
As you can see, I had the most to say about Kaguya, despite it not being my favorite Ghibli film, but because of the interesting ancient legend on which it, and many other fairy tales, are based. The Legend of Kaguya predates all other tellings of similar nature which makes it even more interesting from a historical point of view.
I dunno, Princess Mononoke honestly scares the hell out of me… Even looking at this gif scares the hell out of me… This movie is so unsettling… and it’s even “worse” dubbed – because then the lip syncing is all off and then it’s just even more eerie AF…. I think Princess Mononoke definitely has a good story… and it is no doubt beautiful…. and probably Ghibli’s most successful / well known film – I own it, I “like” it (even though it honestly gives me nightmares) – but damn son…. this movie just ain’t right lol…. Am I the only one that finds this movie just INHERENTLY creepy? It’s not even the infamously excessive amounts of blood and violence… it’s little things like this creepy-ass mother bugger right here….
I thought this was a little bit of a bore. I generally love slice of life and romance films. I’m not sure why this one missed the mark for me. The story is told by a middle aged woman as she looks back on her childhood / early adulthood and reminisces about summers and her first love. Even though the majority of the film felt a little slow – I really really really really REALLY loved the later parts of the film — Especially the ending — One of the most memorable endings of any Ghibli film — or any film — ever. So good. I think overall though, the story suffers from some pacing issues and the constant back and forth from memories/present day. There are cute parts, sweet parts, dramatic parts, but in some ways it just felt like it dragged and droned on and on… That ending though… so emotional!! Loved it.
My Neighbor Totoro
As for how it ranks against other Ghibli films… Sorry Totoro – cute as you may be – and having owned the film as a kid, and seeing it again recently in theaters – I still love you for how cute you are, and the memorable characters – dust bunnies, cat bus, Totoro himself — but Totoro there’s just one problem, there’s just not much really happening in your film. One interesting theory suggests that the girls are actually dead, and that Totoro is a Shinigami (a spirit that only children can see which will guide them to the afeterlife. A sort of Grim Reaper that usually takes the form of animals or stuffed toys etc) – I think this theory could be plausible. And it would definitely make the movie a bit more interesting. Like Princess Mononoke, parts of Totoro are (perhaps unintentionally) Creepy AF!!… Also after seeing it in the theaters – Catbus has balls… just saying…. WTF? lol. XD Nothing like sitting in one of the front rows and seeing huge Catbus balls in my face as he leaps through the sky. – I have heard that Pompoko also features cute characters with huge balls lol. (though I haven’t seen it yet). Anyways, despite Totoro being the iconic mascot of Ghibli, basically equivalent to Mickey Mouse for Disney, the movie just isn’t that great. I love it for the heartwarming sweet characters, but yeah that’s about it. And the juxtaposition between the beginning and 2nd half of the film, is just kinda creepy. (although admittedly, that’s when things pick up rapidly and get more interesting.)
From Up on Poppy Hill
This film is absolutely beautiful to look at (Just look at the ambience in the gif below, how it perfectly captures the glow of the street lights and sunset) — But that’s about the only nice thing I can say about this film. I found it to be the most boring Ghibli film of all time. — But actually after reading Wikipedia to refresh my memory of this film (I only watched it once, and years ago) — I dunno – the plot sounds interesting to me; I may give this one another watch. The only thing I remembered from the film was the children trying to save their school and club house – which I think took up 90% of the film – and this part was boring to me, watching them clean and repair the building – etc. It just felt dull. I never felt like I cared about any of the characters, and therefore also never cared about their school or club house… But after reading Wikipedia it seems I missed the point of the film, which is a complicated love story. The two below fall in love, but find out that they may be siblings. I won’t say if they actually are – Wikipedia can give you that answer if you’re curious – Anyways the two struggle – first avoiding each other, then trying to remain “just friends” because of their situation – and then deciding that even despite their situation that they will embrace their feelings for each other. Another wiki dedicated to all things Ghibli says that the two also learn the “full story of how their parents met, loved, and lived”. This piques my interest even though after reading wikipedia I now know all of the details and don’t really need to watch the film – I still may rewatch this – and if need be, adjust my rankings of it because the drama honestly sounds like it’d be right up my alley, and that animation is just so pretty.
Well here is my least favorite Ghibli film… I hate it for one reason – The main girl is a total B-… She has NO redeeming qualities, NO remorse for her actions, and she does NOT change her ways or grow as a person at all. She remains this same horrible terrible crazy B– of a person…. But yet the main character falls in love with her and basically bends over backwards, throwing money and time and his emotions etc at this girl… and for what reason? But I know sometimes love and life are like this. Sometimes nice people get sucked in by people like this. Or sometimes love is just so unexplainable and inexplicable that we don’t really know WHY we love some one… Clearly she has no qualities that should make anyone love her. She is manipulative, cold, greedy, and just crazy. I can’t stand her… I want to scream and shake the main character’s shoulders like hey wake up, this girl is not good for you!!… But nope, in the end, they get their “happy ever after” – Man, way to romanticize abusive relationships. Domestic, Emotional, and Verbal abuse does not deserve to be twisted into some grand fantasy romance like this… I just can’t get on board with the characters in this film… They may be the most realistic and adult like of any Ghibli characters…. but I can’t believe how she treats him. Begging / Stealing money, Playing Victim all the Time, Dragging him and parading him like a trophy in front of your friends, Then turning your back on him, etc…. We do see that she is ostrichsized by her classmates too near the end for her behavior being called to light — and I get that the main character is Mr. Nice Guy and feels bad because suddenly she has no friends and everything… And he is also in a similar situation because of rumors that she and her friends started after their trip… but dang… I dunno he’s just TOO nice to her. She really doesn’t deserve someone as good as him. And it makes me mad. LOL. — I guess it’s still an interesting film… I definitely remember it and feel very very strongly about it… so there’s that at least… The movie and the characters are unique… and memorable… just not in a good way LOL.
Studio Ghibli Films I have yet to watch – In no particular order:
- Porco Rosso
- Pom Poko
- My Neighbors the Yamadas
- Tales from Earthsea
- The Wind Rises
In 2006, Jenilee graduated with a BS in Emerging Technology and Design. In 2012 she obtained an MBA in Ecommerce. Jenilee currently works for a small manufacturing company designing websites, email marketing, digital advertising, and print advertising campaigns.
Connect with Jenilee on social media or visit her blog at http://geekysweetie.com
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