Thursday List – Mike & Tom’s Top Five Studio Ghibli Films
It is Thursday, so it must be LIST day. This week Mike and Tom look at a subject close to their hearts, Studio Ghibli.
I must admit, I am not really up on these films. I have not seen a single film from Studio Ghibli. I really am starting to feel like I am missing out as they seem to be so popular with so many people. In fact Mike and Tom felt so passionately about the Studio, they wanted to put together their TOP 5 Studio Ghibli films, so who am I to argue. I might actually learn something!!
First up is Mike and his Top 5….
#5 Howl’s Moving Castle (dir. Miyazaki, 2004)
Synopsis: When an unconfident young woman is cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch, her only chance of breaking the spell lies with a self-indulgent yet insecure young wizard and his companions in his legged, walking home
Why it’s great: The fact that there’s a lot of magic and fantasy involved is enough for me. It’s the element of spells, witchcraft and talking flames that makes this charming. Plus an old, makeshift walking castle is just, well, awesome.
#4 My Neighbour Totoro (dir. Miyazaki, 1988)
Synopsis: When two girls move to the country to be near their ailing mother, they have adventures with the wondrous forest spirits who live nearby.
Why it’s great: The idea of a young girl’s imagination running wild convinces me enough to love this film. Add to the equation the hugely loveable Totoro and his mannerism and of course the legendary cat bus! Oh, how could I forget the theme tune? Lovely.
#3 Princess Mononoke (dir. Miyazaki, 1997)
Synopsis: On a journey to find the cure for a Tatarigami’s curse, Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of a war between the forest gods and Tatara, a mining colony. In this quest he also meets San, the Mononoke Hime.
Why it’s great: More violent than the average Ghibli, spirits that live in the forest are cool. One of the coolest parts is when an arrow rips a man’s arms off and nails them to a tree. Nice.
#2 Spirited Away(dir. Miyazaki, 2001)
Synopsis: In the middle of her family’s move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and monsters; where humans are changed into animals; and a bathhouse for these creatures.
Why it’s great: One word: gorgeous. It won an Oscar, so need I say more? Oh, ok. Well it’s without doubt one of the most beautiful of Ghibli’s catalogue hands down. The imagination behind it makes this truly magical.
#1 Pom Poko (dir. Takahata, 1994)
Synopsis: A community of magical shape shifting raccoons desperately struggle to prevent their forest home from being destroyed by urban development.
Why it’s great: My favourite that has a narrative that parallels the stages of war is brilliant and very effective. Fantastic storytelling makes this fun, not to mention the ingenious way in which these raccoons use their versatile nut sacks (yes, you heard right).
You’ve seen Mike’s list, now here are Tom’s five favourite Studio Ghibli films, how will his choices compare?
5. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, 1984, Hayao Miyazaki
The first of Miyazaki’s ecological themed animations is arguably one of his best, the animation is incredibly detailed and the epic scale of the world he has imagined is a testament to his creativity. Based in a future world where mankind has decimated the earth due to nuclear war, a gathering of survivors fend themselves from dangerous creatures and seemingly toxic plants that populate the nearby jungle. A pacifist warrior princess intervenes to prevent the destruction of countless species in an attempt to bring harmony to the world despite the enormity of the task. No-one can make important messages so entertaining and it is Miyazaki’s righteousness that shines through in most of his pictures, he doesn’t just enthrall children (and adults), he subtly educates them in the process.
4. Pom Poko, Isao Takahata, 1994
Also known as the Raccoon War, this absorbing tale of magical Raccoons defending their natural habitat from the onset of building developments is a brilliantly bizarre film that is capable of making even the most cynical viewer smile. The raccoons harness the ability to join together to form larger creatures and use this to their advantage in an attempt to scare off the building site workers in a comical fashion. Once again the underlying ecological message is beautifully realised without being too intrusive and does not detract from the pure entertainment that the film’s hilarious creatures bring to this under-rated Ghibli fable.
3. Laputa: Castle in the sky, Hayao Miyazaki, 1986
As an obsessive follower of the IMDB Top 250 it infuriates me to see this film struggling to retain its position near the bottom of the list while other less remarkable Ghibli films are comfortably nestled above it. Laputa is one of my favourite Ghibli films thanks to its perfect combination of fantasy and adventure set in an incredible world that is not far removed from some of Gilliam’s more crazy creations. The story follows a young boy who encounters a mysterious girl that falls from the sky and it is not long before they are pursued by dangerous pirates and secret agents whilst trying to solve the puzzle behind the long lost floating islands of Laputa. Those who stay away from subtitled films could do far worse than checking out the English dubbing which is done remarkably well here but watching Laputa in its original Japanese language makes for a truly magical experience.
2. Princess Mononoke, Hayao Miyazaki, 1997
This was the first Ghibli film I ever saw and I was hooked from the outset having never seen a Japanese animation or, for that matter, any animation with such attention to detail. When once harmless creatures become hostile to the nearby villagers a courageous young boy sets out on a quest to find out what is behind this drastic change in their behaviour. Watch any Disney film after this epic tale and I guarantee that it will pale in comparison, the astonishing variety of creatures on display are bound to enthrall the younger viewers whilst again the underlying ecological message will resonate with older audiences. This is why Princess Mononoke is another essential film in the Ghibli canon.
1. Grave of the fireflies, Isao Takahata, 1988
One of the most upsetting films I have ever seen, Grave of the Fireflies is a masterpiece of animation that will undoubtedly remain with you a long time after the credits roll. The touching story follows two young siblings who struggle to survive during World War two as Japan suffers incredible losses due to the bombing raids. Without their parents they are forced to fend for themselves against incredible odds to make it through each day alive as the increasing poverty of the country begins to impact on the remaining survivors. Be warned, you will not make it through this film without tissues, but neither will you regret investing your time in this unforgettably poignant animation. If you only have the chance to watch one film from my list, make sure that it’s Grave of The Fireflies.
Are you a fan of Ghibli films? What are your favourites? Comment below…