It is with pleasure and a little touch of nostalgia that we wanted to present to you a Japanese studio that is particularly close to our hearts for having marked our childhood. Some of you may already know these magical works of Hayao Miyazaki, others not, in all cases we hope that we will make you want to see or rewatch these films with their captivating universe. To do this, we have chosen to present ten of their films that we consider to be particularly successful. This ranking therefore remains subjective and it is possible that others would have made different choices.
At the same time we will present to you a store of real studio Ghibli enthusiasts that we recently discovered which offers a large collection of derivative products. This store is Passion Ghibli and they really offer a lot of very cool items for not very expensive like t-shirts, stuffed animals, figurines and even watches. So don’t hesitate to take a tour if you feel like it! So let's start our ranking without further ado with number 1:
1. My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbor Totoro is certainly Studio Ghibli's best-known anime today. Very famous for its mascot Totoro, a large animal crossed between an owl and a cat, it tells the story of two sisters, Mei, 4 years old, and Satsuki, 10 years old. As these two little girls settle in with their father in their new home to be closer to the hospital where their mother is, they will have a most surprising encounter with the master of the forest: Totoro. A fascinating film as much for the story it tells as for its magical universe, we recommend it to you without any hesitation!
For the record, the illness of the mother of the sisters Mei and Satsuki is the same as that of the director Hayao Miyazaki. He also drew a lot of inspiration from the setting of his own childhood in the rural landscapes of Tokyo to build the setting for the film.
What is quite paradoxical with the success of this anime is that when it was published in cinemas, studio Ghibli, and particularly Miyazaki, thought that this anime was not going to be a great success. They therefore refused to make it too long (only 1 hour for 1 hour 20 minutes now) in order to show it after the screening of the film “The Tomb of the Fireflies”, another anime that they released at the same time as “My Neighbor Totoro”. Ultimately “My Neighbor Totoro” won two honorary titles: the Mainichi Prize for best film in the year of its release in 1988 as well as the Noburō Ōfuji Prize.
To return to our Studio Ghibli enthusiasts while remaining in the Totoro universe, here is a little overview of the products from their Totoro store which brings us even closer to this Japanese anime:
2. Spirited Away
Released in 2001, Spirited Away (2h04) tells the story of a ten-year-old girl named Chihiro. While she and her parents are on their way to settle in their new country house, they get lost on the way and decide to go to a nearby shop under the influence of a good smell of food. Chihiro then leaves them company to go visit the surrounding village. At the entrance to a bridge that leads to a bathing palace, a boy warns him not to stay here after dark. Despite the latter's advice, Chihiro does not manage to reach her parents in time and then finds herself a prisoner of the universe which is the whole point of this film: the world of spirits.
Just like with My Neighbor Totoro, Miyazaki was inspired by his personal experiences to build this anime. And this time it's the daughter of his associate producer that he sees every summer who served as an example for him to build the main character Chihiro.
More than a success, “Spirited Away” is the greatest cinematic success Japanese with more than 23 million seats sold. To give you an idea, “The Titanic”, which is the film which received the most visitors to the cinema in France, attracted around 20 million. In addition to this honorary title, “Spirited Away” received the Oscar for best animated film as well as the “Golden Bear for best film”.
3. Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke was released in 1997, this 2h14 film tells the story of a tribal prince, Ashitaka, who falls victim to a curse after killing a boar god named Nago. Under the advice of the priestess he then begins a long journey to try to save his incurable curse. Once he reaches the blacksmiths' village, he gradually meets San, a girl raised by wolves who criticizes the blacksmiths' village for destroying the forest for the benefit of their iron supply. It turns out that San is none other than Princess Mononoke, the goddess of specters.
Inspired by the forest of Yaku-shima, an island south of Kyūshū (Japan), Princess Mononoke takes place during the Muromachi era (1336-1573) in medieval Japan. A film that is both rich in emotions and very complex, it is a great success from Miyazaki and is well worth seeing!
4. Howl’s Moving Castle
Released in 2004, Howl's Moving Castle tells the story of Sophie, an 18-year-old girl who runs her late father's hat store in 1 hour 59 minutes. Sophie will quickly meet Hauru, a magician who occupies a somewhat surprising castle: the Howl's Moving Castle. Out of jealousy towards this magician, a witch will cast a spell on Sophie making her a 90 year old woman. To overcome this unfortunate spell, Lucifer, the fire demon who turns the castle will then offer to give her back her youth on one condition, she must break the enchantment that binds him to the magician and his castle.
Like many of Miyazaki's productions, Howl's Moving Castle was a resounding success, attracting more than 14 million spectators. It is directly inspired by the novel Howl's Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, a British author, who tells an almost identical story in her novel. At the crossroads of worlds between the steampunk and Japanese universes, this animated film is a must-see for all fans of Studio Ghibli.
5. The Tomb of the Fireflies
Grave of the Fireflies is an adaptation of Grave of the Fireflies , a semi-autobiographical story published in 1967 by Japanese writer Akiyuki Nosaka. This film takes place in 1945 during the Second World War while Japan is under bombs from the American air force. Two children, 14-year-old Seita and his 4-year-old sister Setsuko, lose their mother in the bombings and find themselves forced to go live with their aunt. This treating them like nothing, they decided to flee and live in a bunker. But quickly the lack of money implying the lack of food will make little Seiko sick.
As mentioned above Grave of the Fireflies was released in 1988 during the release of My Neighbor Totoro, although it was in the same visual style and aimed primarily at a young audience. The story and certain scenes can be quite violent for younger children, the harshness of war being particularly well represented. So watch it with hindsight but it nonetheless remains an excellent film from Studio Ghibli!
6. The Wind Rises
The Wind Rises is a film in which we witness the fulfillment of the dream of a boy passionate about aeronautics, Jiro. Above all Jiro wants to become a pilot but his eye problems are not there to make his task easier. Subsequently hired by an aeronautical engineering company, he proved to be extremely brilliant in his field. Through his heart problems with Nahoko, his friendship with Honjo and the Kanto earthquake which took place in 1923. It is a magnificent story inspired by real events into which Hayao Miyazaki once again immerses us. The Wind Rises is Miyazaki's latest production (2013).
Once again the Japanese director drew inspiration from his personal experience to construct this film. During an interview with Télérama he admitted to having long criticized his father for getting rich thanks to the war. But the making of this film made him take a step back from this uncomplimentary opinion he had of his father, and he conceded that the aviators were simply seeking to put their passion into practice and that they were not not responsible for what could be done with their creation.
7. The Tale of Princess Kaguya
The Princess of Kaguya is a story taken from the Japanese novel The Tale of the Princess of Kaguya , also called The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter , which was published in the 10th century by an author whose name is still unknown. This 2h17 film tells the story of a bamboo cutter who discovers by chance, in a bamboo tree, a very little girl whom he decides to take under his wing with his wife in the mountain. This little girl quickly became a baby, then grew visibly to the point that the neighborhood children called her “bamboo shoot”. Convinced that he must make this girl a princess, the peasant took her to grow up in the capital so that she would receive a privileged education. There she quickly became a beautiful young girl and aroused the desires of many princes of the city. But yet, it seems that the joviality of her peasant friends made her happier than the courtesy of wealthy young men.
Although Hayao Miyazaki was not at the helm behind the making of this film, he received no less than four distinctions, namely the prize for best animated film in Japan (Mainichi Film Prize), in Boston, in Los Angeles and in Toronto. This shows that Studio Ghibli is not just about the great director Miyazaki.
Released in 1994, the film Pompoko (1h59) received a prize at the Annecy international animation festival one year after its release. Throughout the film we are immersed in a community of small animals that can easily be compared to raccoons: the tanukis, who are at the origin of the forest spirits of Japanese mythology. We are in 1960 and Japan continues to grow its cities to be able to house all its citizens, unfortunately to the detriment of the tanukis' native place and living space: the forest. While the latter had until now learned to live in community with humans, clan wars will be declared to know who will have the right to exploit the little territory they have left.
We are quickly moved by these little balls of fur who are forced to oppose the destruction of their territory. Also a Studio Ghibli must-have!
9. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is another great Hayao Miyazaki classic. While the Earth is still ravaged by the “seven days of fire” war which took place more than a millennium ago. A small village finds itself threatened by the advance of a toxic forest as well as the Tolmec empire. This small village is that of the Valley of the Wind. The princess of the Valley of the Wind, Nausicaä, will therefore try as best she can to bring about the peace of yesteryear and save this village from certain death.
This film received the Noburō Ōfuji prize in 1994, the same year of its release. It is actually an adaptation of the manga of the same name of which Hayao Miyazaki was also the author.
10. The castle in the sky
Inspired by Gulliver's Journey, Castle in the Sky tells the story of Sheeta, the descendant of the rulers of Laputa the city of the air, and Lapu, a young pilot of her age who works in a mining town. While Sheeta jumps into the air from a pirate airship who had taken her hostage, she meets this young boy who saves her life from his plane. Chased by Muska who seeks to know the precious secret she holds, the film tells us her story and her misadventures.
Scripted by Hayao Miyazaki, Castle in the Sky is the first film produced by Studio Ghibli in 1886. Like most of this studio's productions, this film will receive a distinction: the Mainichi Noburō Ōfuji Prize.