As I mentioned in a previous post (you can read that here) on the top five Studio Ghibli films, I came to the conclusion that there were simply too many incredible pieces by Ghibli to simply pick just five. It’s a testament to the studio’s prowess in field of animation they have not five, but ten masterpieces of animation. Without further ado, here’s another five amazing Studio Ghibli films. Again, in no particular order.
Castle in the Sky
While Nausicaä and The Valley of Wind was Miyazaki’s directorial debut, Castle in the Sky is Studio Ghibli’s first animated feature. It tells the tale of Pazu, a young boy who yearns to fly to discover the floating city of Laputa, a fabled castle in the sky powered by magic and advanced technology. One day he sees a girl float down from above and catches her. The girl, Sheeta, is running from her captors and a ban of sky pirates, unintentionally dragging Pazu into an adventure much bigger than himself. The film is quintessentially Miyazaki. You want planes, check. You want steam punk, check. References to the folly of man, you get that in spades. While the theme of environmentalism are prominent in his works, his love of flight is probably the most recurring trait in his stories. If I’m ever asked what film represents Miyazaki’s style the best, Castle in the Sky would probably be my answer.
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
If the first Ghibli film you saw was The Tale of Princess Kaguya, then you would probably wonder why no other Ghibli feature looks like it does. The same could be said if you’ve been watching Studio Ghibli your whole life. The latest film from amazing director Isao Takahata, and most likely his last, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is his take on the traditional Japanese folktale, The Tale of Bamboo Cutter. The film breaks from Ghibli convention in numerous ways, which in turn is what makes the movie a masterpiece of animation. With the aesthetics of traditional Japanese art, Kaguya is a pleasure to watch even you’re only in it for the stunning animation. I had the privilege of seeing the north american premiere of the film at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, and while it can feel a bit slow a times, its uniqueness alone makes it worth a watch.
When Marnie Was There
I’m not going to go into too much detail as to why I think everyone should see When Marnie Was There. For that, I wrote of review of it here. What I will say, as I said in my review, if this film is the last that Studio Ghibli ever produces, it’s a great swan song. The film itself feels very meta in its themes of goodbyes and nostalgia, and while it seems very bittersweet by the end, that’s what many goodbyes are. Nothing lasts forever, not even Studio Ghibli. But as it is stressed in all of Ghibli’s films, a goodbye isn’t always the end, but often a new beginning.
From Up on Poppy Hill
From Up on Poppy Hill is a bit of an odd beast. It is both a love story and a love letter to a Japan on the verge of modernization. Directed by Goro Miyazaki, Hayao’s son, From Up on Poppy Hill manages to play to genre tropes without bashing us over the head with them. The story of student fighting to save an old building while our heroes skirt around the idea of being in love with each other. In other words typical high school romance right? It’s not the strongest of the Ghibli films, but the diverse cast of characters and charm of the Yokohama scenery is enough to win anyone over. I also recommend the English dub over the Japanese. The localization of the film manages to throw in some additional lines that make the story that much funnier than the original.
The Wind Rises
Hayao Miyazaki’s last film before retirement, The Wind Rises tells the fictionalized biography of Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of the Mitsubishi Zero. The Zero has gone down in history as one the most well-know World War II aircraft, but that isn’t touched on in the film. Instead, we’re told the story of a man who simply wanted to design the best airplanes regardless of their use. It’s a shame he wasn’t born later in life then. The film is one Miyazaki’s finest, continuing to showcase many of themes in his previous films, specifically the beauty of flight and anti-war. It could also be considered his saddest film, perhaps because of the subject matter. It’s another example of Miyazaki doing what he does best, and knowing that this is his last film makes it all the more special.
In addition to the list there are some other honourable mentions that are worth watching as well. These aren’t my favourites for one reason or another, but Pom Poko, Only Yesterday, The Secret World of Arrietty, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Howl’s Moving Castle are some additional Ghibli films that are also worth looking into. While the studio might never make a movie again, it’s great that there are so many classics to enjoy. Who knows who will be inspired by these masterpieces and create the next Studio Ghibli. In the meantime, I have some films to re-watch.