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Five Japanese Animated Films of Studio Ghibli

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Studio Ghibli is best known for its anime feature films. In this logo, the famous character of Totoro is included [screencap]

Studio Ghibli is best known for its anime feature films. In this logo, the famous character of Totoro is included [screencap]

Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli can be considered Japan's most popular animation and film studio. It has served three decades of making quality films with great attention to detail as well as delivering heartfelt stories.

Over the years, Ghibli's signature works have captured the eyes of thousands of individuals. Even multiple award-giving bodies have acknowledged the exemplary films produced by this animation house. Through these breakthroughs did Ghibli was labeled the "Disney of Japan," and one of its founders, Hayao Miyazaki, was the Walt Disney of Japan. These comparisons are not simply for namesake but are given due to the memorable films produced since 1985.

Beginning of Ghibli Animation

Three great minds founded Studio Ghibli in 1985. The collaboration of directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata as well as producer Toshio Suzuki opened up the opportunity for the creation of masterpieces such as Grave of the Fireflies and Princess Mononoke.

It is known that the studio was made after the success of the 1984 film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. The film was written and directed by Miyazaki.

Origin of the Name

It strikes a lot of curiosity as to where the name Ghibli originated. It isn't a Japanese term and isn't one of the names of its founder. Where does it come from?

Based on the record of the animation house, this name was given by Miyazaki in reference to an Italian aircraft used in World War II. Ghibli is from an Arabic name for sirocco or also known as Mediterranean wind. In history, Italians used the term sirocco during World War II for their Saharan scouting planes. This term is made to have a Japanese distinction because even though it is originally pronounced with a hard g, Japanese would read it as ji-bu-ri, using a soft g sound.

Studio Ghibli chose this term to represent their vision "blow a new wind through the Japanese anime industry." It is a creative take on how the founders wanted to change the way animation was done. It is an engaging breath of fresh air, however, it had a difficult path to live up to. But, Studio Ghibli was able to stay true to its name as it quickly introduced remarkable works through the years.

1. Grave of the Fireflies, 1988

One of the noted works of Isao Takahata, this film shows a glimpse of life in the World War II era. 火垂るの墓 (Hotaru no haka) is a movie adaptation of the semi-autobiographical novel by Akiyuki Nosaka. The story revolves around the painful story of two children who were orphaned because of the war. It is a film that shows the strength of two young individuals trying to survive in the remains of post-war Japan. The powerful, symbolic film touched the hearts of its viewers even with its sad ending. It has a moving plot and detailed animation making it one of the most powerful anti-war films.

The lovely sight of the memorable character of Studio Ghibli, Totoro.

The lovely sight of the memorable character of Studio Ghibli, Totoro.

2. My Neighbor Totoro, 1988

Totoro, the iconic character, has been a part of many children in that generation. It is a story of how two young sisters got the chance to meet a magical creature who helps and looks after them.

Satsuki and Mei's mother has to stay in the hospital for a while, so they help their father move to their new home in rural Japan. Their adventure starts early by meeting susuwatari, animated dust-like spirits, that live in their house. Seen as simply part of the young girls' imagination, the adults join in to make the experience memorable for them.

3. Whisper of the Heart, 1995

Written by Miyazaki and directed by Yoshifumi Kondō, Whisper of the Heart expresses the love story of a young girl and young boy. Their relationship blossoms from an unusual situation. The girl, Shizuku, who is a bookworm meets a boy (Seiji) who previously checked out all of the books she read from the library.

This is the only film directed by a long-time animator, Kondō, before he died in 1998.

4. Princess Mononoke, 1997

Another film by Miyazaki, this story is set in the Muromachi period but with fantasy elements. With its commercial success, it is later released in the US in 1999. A story of forest gods and humans who get much from natural resources. An underlying environmental awareness is represented by the experiences of its main characters, Ashitaka and San.

5. Spirited Away, 2001

千と千尋の神隠し (Spirited Away) has become one of the top-grossing films under Studio Ghibli in 2001.

千と千尋の神隠し tells the story of a young ten-year-old girl who enters the spirit world. As she is moving to a new home with her family, a witch named Yubaba turns her parents into pigs. The young girl takes a job in the witch's bathhouse to search for a way to go back home.

*Fun Facts:

-Chihiro (the main character) is inspired by the daughter of one of Miyazaki's friends.
-You can visit Taiwan Jiufen and see a real-life view of the Spirited Away set. ;) Its downtown area served as a model for the film.