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Studio Ghibli is taking a break

Tim here. The story over the weekend as far as popcorn movies go might have been the monstrous over-performance of Guardians of the Galaxy, but for those of us who like a little more personal artistry and a little less big-budget sizzle out of our movies, Sunday's biggest news was the apparent revelation by Toshio Suzuki, general manager of Japan's Studio Ghibli, that the company is ceasing to produce animated films.

Or maybe not. The internet, in its glorious need for news, News, NEWS, has perhaps jumped the gun on some ambiguous words that have slightly different weight in Japanese than in English. They're merely talking about restructuring and re-evaluating their business and production strategies in the wake of Hayao Miyazaki's retirement. That certainly could mean that they're going to close; it doesn't mean they've closed yet (though that "yet" might well be nothing but diplomacy talking). What is certainly the case is that following the newly-released in Japan When Marnie Was There, Ghibli has no future plans involving animated features. So even if it's not The End, it's not a very good day for lovers of animation or just top-quality world cinema.

While we stew and wait for more news on the Ghibli front, I'd like to invite everyone to share their favorite movies from the studio. I'll start off: if I wanted to showcase to a newbie the breadth of Studio Ghibli's artistry (and today of all days, that's exactly what I want to do), these would be the five movies I'd pick:

  • My Neighbor Totoro (1988) - a generous children's fable filled with a love of nature
  • Grave of the Fireflies (1988) - a deadly serious examination of the human cost of war
  • Porco Rosso (1992) - a clever spin on an animal fable and loving tribute to the beauty of flight
  • Whisper of the Heart (1995) - a quiet, beautiful story of adolescent curiosity and self-knowledge
  • Spirited Away (2002) - the perfect gateway drug: bold visions, fearless storytelling, impeccably clear characters

What are your favorite Studio Ghibli films? And how sad are you going to be if this really is the end?

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Reader Comments (15)

Fireflies is one of those movies that I think I can only watch once. Devastating in almost every way, and portrays the cost not just of war, but also the follies of pride and the little cruelties that make people snap. That movie lingered with me for weeks. Essential viewing, not tough to take.

My favorites not mentioned here are Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, two tales of embattled nature, its defenders, and how human the people are behind the wheels that grind nature down, and Kiki's Delivery Service, which along with Spirited Away, says more about the value of hard work and perseverance than 95% of the movies out there. Ratatouille from Pixar is a great double bill with either, I think.

August 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterF

Er, that should say BUT tough to take. Stupid tablet.

August 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterF

F -- agreed. Fireflies is just devastating. I have put off watching it again for years but damn is it powerful. I'm also extremely partial to Princess Mononoke but if there is one fault in Miyazaki's work it's how long the movies tend to be.

August 4, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

My baby sister was obsessed with Studio Ghibli when she was younger so I saw a lot do these films upwards of a billion times (not Princess Monoke which I have yet to see). I was always partial to Kiki's Delivery Service which I thought was cute but not cloying. A super hard line to walk.

That said, I do understand why Spirited Away won him the Oscar, even if some of the digressions didn't always thrill me. That movie's world is fully realized.

August 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKacey

I've only seen seven of their films so far, but I'm glad I still have many to look forward to.

My Neighbor Totoro, Whisper of the Heart and Spirited Away are amazing, and I have a feeling that Only Yesterday, which I saw a few months ago and liked a lot, will continue to grow on me.

I even prefer my second-tier Ghibli, Howl's Moving Castle and The Secret World of Arrietty, to several of Pixar's most celebrated films. My least favorite is From Up on Poppy Hill, but it's still worth a watch.

August 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJan

Nausicaa is my favorite, for sure. I also like Spirited Away. Mononoke seems like a more troubling, less interesting take on the same themes as Nausicaa, but it does have extremely beautiful sequences.

August 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBRB

Spirited Away for this one.

My dad left me alone in the cinema, at the very young age of 6, to watch it. What's worse, there was no one else to keep me company...

Like-- It RATTLED me. There's no other way of putting it.

August 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMs. V

From Ghibli:
Laputa: Castle in the Sky is my all time favorite animated film.

Totoro, Naushikaa; Omohide poroporo (I don't know its eglish title.) Ponpoco and Firellies.

Having readed the original manga of Naiushikaa (by Miyazaki himself), it would be interesting if he had retired ending his complete saga.

Probably the least favourite film from the studio is Tales of Earthsea. Still kind of liked but it changed so much from the original book.

August 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChatan

Well, there may not be any plans for more animated movies at the moment, but there was a film from 2013 that has yet to released in its English-language version (which they've been working on), so when that comes out it will feel new to many of us, The Tale of Princess Kaguya. It's not Miyazaki though.

August 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

I know its flawed but Howl's Moving Castle has to be my favorite Ghibli film. I will never get over the moment Howl and Sophie stroll through the air as the Merry Go Round of Life plays.

August 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter/brendan

I never watched any Ghibli films.
but I really want to see Grave of the Fireflies and Spirited Away.

August 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercraver

I've only seen Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, but I loved both and am now even more inspired to watch more Ghiblis :)

August 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMysjkin

My Neighbor Totoro is probably my favorite Ghibli movie.
It's just so cute and heartwarming.
After that I actually love Howl's Moving Castle a lot. It's flaws, but incredible entertaining. I always lmao when I see the two old ladies (Sophie and the Witch) trying to walk the long stairs at the castle.
Then Castle of Cagliostro. I'm not sure if this can be counted as a Ghibli movie, but Miyazaki has directed it. Whisper of the Heart is also my favorite because it reflects parts of my own life very much.
Princess Mononoke, Spirited away, Nausicaä and Lupita are all great and deserve it's praise.
Kiki's Delivery Service is nice, also Pom Poko.
Grave of the Fireflies is one of the saddest films I've ever seen. So hard to watch, but so worth it.
Arietty was okay for me, but not great. Ponyo is cute, I like that a lot.
I might nee to see Only Yesterday and Porco Rosso once more. I remember not being impressed much by those the first time I saw them.
A Ghibli movie I think is a bit underrated is My Neighbors The Yamadas. I like the "simple" watercolored style and the characters very much.

August 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

Tim, my list would almost be identical except I would swap Porco Rosso with either Kiki Delivery Service or Nausicaa.

"Totoro" is probably my favorite because it's highly imaginative without pandering to children like the western animated films. Also, it tells you so much Japan as a society (even though, as rumor, the real life inspiration is quite grim).

I think "Firelies" is one of those films that leaves a brutal mark so deeply inside you that it's hard to go back and rewatch (the other one, also a Japanese film, is Miike's "Audition").

I saw "Whisper of the Heart" in a Ghibli Fest and I was blown away by the maturity of the story telling and straight-forwardness of the emotions. I was cheering for the protagonist so hard at the end...haha

I love the epic "Nausicaa" and it's also the first Ghibli film I watched as a child, and Nature again played a huge part in this film...which brings me to "Spirited Away", the last Ghibli film I really enjoyed...it's sprawling, emotional, everything you want in a movie. It will be sad to see that Ghibli will be "restructuring", and I hope in the future they will still produce quality animated film. Even a movie like "How to Train your Dragon 2" has a shade of Miyazaki in it, very cool to see that :)

August 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLars

My favorite is Totoro, probably because it was the first one I ever saw and the one I saw over and over again as a child.

As for the best way of introducing Ghibli to a noob, I truly believe Miyasaki's film resonate most for people who are around the same age as the main character, so I would use ponyo for a kindergartener, totoro for elementary school kid, kiki for middle school and so on.

August 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbuttface

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