6 February 2020

Where to begin with Studio Ghibli

First of all, dispense with the idea that cartoons are for pre-teens…

Studio Ghibli films will find new fans this month as the legendary Japanese animation house places a substantial quantity of its back catalogue on Netflix. Nominated for five Academy Awards, wining in 2003 for Spirited Away, Ghibli’s mix of fantastical scenarios and phycological realism has captured audiences across the globe. Of its 22 films, 21 of these will be available the streaming platform with the notable exception being 1988 war film Grave of the Fireflies. 

Below, we round up the Ghibli films you need to add to your watchlist.

Castle in the Sky 

One of the first Studio Ghibli films, this 1986 classic traces the search for legendary floating castle Laputa and was inspired by writer-director Hayao Miyazaki’s trip to a Welsh mining village and the decline of  industry he witnessed there. Contrasting the daily struggle for survival in the town of Slag Ravine with a world of pirates and fantastical fortresses, the feature weaves socialist critique with out-of-this-world wonder. 

Available to stream now.

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Sure to be a favourite amongst any of you that have devoured the three available seasons of Sabrina, Kiki’s Delivery Service is a 1989 feature about a young witch who uses her powers of flight to moonlight as a delivery service womxn. Perfect for anyone who wants more strong female leads on screen.

Available to stream now.

My Neighbour Totoro

In post-war, rural Japan sisters Satsuki and Mei discover a world of spirits that can’t be seen by grown-ups. A vision of pastoral idyll, the film places Satsuki and Mei in harmon with nature due to their childish purity; watching it is like seeing the world through innocent eyes. 

Available to stream now.

Princess Mononoke

Despite being set all the way back in the Japanese Muromachi period, spanning from the 1300s to the 1500s, this one speaks to our current cultural moment loud and clear. In it, the prince Ashitaka is involved in a struggle between forest spirits and humans eager to plunder the forest’s resources. Looking past the fantastical animation, this feature is mostly a not-so-subtle critique if environmental destruction.

Available to stream 1 March.

Spirited Away 

Probably the best known of Studio Ghibli’s oeuvre, Spirited Away is basically Home Alone on acid. After Chihiro and her parents come across an abandoned amusement park, her mum and dad get turned into pigs and she’s forced to cope on her own. As it turns out, the park is a vacation spot for supernatural spirits and Chihiro will have to work in a bathhouse there to earn her and her parents’ right to leave…

Available to stream 1 March.

Howl’s Moving Castle

Loosely based on a children’s book by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle features witches and sorcerers aplenty – making it handy that it was released in the UK as Pottermania reached its peak. However, the film goes deeper than that; set amidst ongoing conflict between two planets and informed by Miyazaki’s childhood memories of bombing raids in Japan, it’s an anti-Iraq War film if ever we’ve seen one. 

Available to stream 1 April

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

A story of interspecies solidarity inspired by The Little Mermaid, this feature sees a friendship blossom between goldfish Ponyo and human Sōsuke. Packed with action and underwater adventure, its charm provides a consistent thread throughout a scattershot plot. Not the studio’s finest, but still beguiling all the same. 

Available to stream 1 April

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