Founded in Japan in 1985, the studio is often compared to Walt Disney and captivates with its creative and visually stunning fantasy epics. The special thing about Ghibli: Instead of working with the computer, best wearable blanket the makers of animated films mainly use classic animation techniques. This makes every Ghibli film a unique experience that is absolutely worth seeing both with children and as an adult.
Which film is best to start with?
If you are not yet familiar with Ghibli, you will probably be struck by the variety of films. So if you need a brief overview of who or what Ghibli films are and what makes them charming, you should take a look at the absolute classics of Ghibli.
In fact, Princess Mononoke is the most successful Japanese film of all time and marked the international breakthrough for Studio Ghibli in 1998. The plot is a fable about the conflict between man and nature. Set in a fictional version of the Japanese Middle Ages, the young prince Ashitaka finds himself caught between the fronts of a huge war. On the one hand, the people are driven by progress and on the other hand, animal gods from the forest want to stop the overexploitation of nature.
But beware! If you are thinking of a family film in which cute animals can speak, you should be more careful. The film is aimed specifically at an older audience and is not suitable for children under 12.
Chihiro’s Journey to the Enchanted Land
On the way to their new home, a family finds an abandoned amusement park where there is still warm – and obviously very tasty – food. However, ten-year-old Chihiro does not like the park and she warns her parents not to try the food. But of course, no one listens to a little girl. So the parents turn into milled pigs without further ado. In order to free them from the curse, Chihiro is now to work in the bathhouse of the witch Yubaba.
What sounds like a real children’s or fairy tale film is more suitable for an older audience. In 2003, the anime was awarded the Oscar for its visual richness and repertoire of bizarre characters. However, smaller children can be frightened and many of the storylines are more likely to open up to school-age children.
The walking castle
The girl Sophie lives as a hatter in an Alsatian-looking city, where she also meets the magician Hauro and falls in love with him. A jealous witch notices this and turns Sophie into an old woman. In search of breaking the curse, Sophie finally finds a job in Hauro’s walking castle. Here, the radiant young wizard suddenly no longer seems so flawless and it becomes increasingly clear that he is struggling with a “dark side”.
When war breaks out over the country, he has to learn to choose between good and evil. “The Walking Castle” is somewhat ambivalent in terms of content. Although the film is bursting with ingenuity and fantasy, Hauro’s struggle with himself and an impending war between people are not exactly suitable topics for smaller children. The recommendation is therefore aimed primarily at school children.
Studio Ghibli Films for Young Children
Studio Ghibli also has a lot to offer especially for younger children. The fantastic stories and detailed pictures can already inspire the young audience and even as an adult you like to watch along. The following three films are fun for the whole family.
My neighbor Totoro
The story tells of the two sisters Satsuki and Mei who move into an old house in the countryside. Nature offers a welcome play landscape for the two girls. Here they get to know the forest spirit Totoro, who can grow trees or summon a cat bus with his supernatural abilities. This picturesque idyll is only overshadowed by the worries about the sick mother. But here, too, Totoro can finally help the siblings.
The relatively simple story shows the world once again with children’s eyes. Whether Totoro really exists in the end or only springs from the imagination of the sisters remains open. This makes the film a tribute to childhood and all those who have long forgotten how much imagination they used to make up stories themselves.
Kiki’s small delivery service
“Kiki’s Little Delivery Service” is based on a children’s book by author Eiko Kadono and consists of a plot that has already been varied in many witch films: the apprenticeship of a young witch. Here, as soon as she turns 13, a witch has to live in a foreign city for a whole year without the help of her parents.
This marks the beginning of an exciting time for Kiki and her black cat Jiji. Since Kiki’s adventures are told gradually in daily sections, even the smallest viewers should have no problem following the story and classifying all events. This is also important, because similar to Kiki, it is sometimes quite difficult for children to gradually become more independent.
Ponyo – The great adventure by the sea
The little goldfish girl Ponyo lives with her many siblings and her father in a colorful and lively water world. At second glance, this no longer seems so cheerful. More and more people are throwing their waste into the sea, thereby contaminating the habitat. Nevertheless, Ponyo wants nothing more than to become a human being. She befriends the human boy Sosuke and together they try to save the underwater world and explain to people that you have to take better care of nature.
Even if the narrative perspective of “Ponyo” is very childlike and Ghibli could not build on her greatest successes, the film with its message is now more worth seeing than ever.
Studio Ghibli Movies for Older Kids
Instead of always action- and fantasy-laden epics like “Princess Mononoke”, it is above all the “quiet” films of Ghibli that can be a lot of fun for adults. The following films by Ghibli are more interesting for older viewers with their political messages and complex storylines.
Tears of Memory – Only Yesterday
Taeko is 27 and lives as an office worker in Tokyo. Until she goes on holiday to her old home to help with the safflower harvest. Here she remembers her childhood. The moment she tasted her first pineapple, her first school performances, problems with friends and much more. Thus, their time in the countryside becomes a dialogue between the past and the present.
Not much happens in “Tears of Memory”, but Taeko’s thoughts are all the more interesting. From her experiences as a ten-year-old, she draws new insights that are important for her as an adult woman.
How the wind lifts
At the center of the plot this time is not a heroine, but a boy who dreams of becoming a pilot. But his eyes are too bad for that and so he realizes his wish by becoming an aircraft designer. The name of this boy is Jiro Horikoshi, a very controversial hero of the Second World War – also in Japan. As chief designer, he was largely responsible for the development of fighter planes and fighter aircraft for the Imperial Army.
The film initially stages Jiro’s childhood dream of flying as innocent. The boy is simply fascinated by the magic that arises from the interplay of nature and technology. Only as he grows older does he realize how his fascination and the steadfastness with which he clings to his dream ignites the destructive power of war. As a convinced pacifist, director Hayao Miyazaki has left a poetic warning against the rise of nationalism in Japan under Abe Shinzo.
Voice of the Heart
14-year-old Shizuku is a real bookworm and she longs to become a writer. Through the encounter with a magical cat, she meets Seiji of the same age and falls in love with him. The boy wants to become a violin maker in Italy. Driven by Seiji’s clear dreams for the future, the dreamy Shizuku finally begins to write her own story.
The melancholic film tells the story of two young people who have to learn that compromises are not always possible. In the end, the decision is made as to whether personal happiness is always the most important thing.
Special Ghibli Films
The special thing about animated films is, of course, the visual freedom. Unlike live-action films, their own worlds can be created here and actions, but also emotions, can be visually implemented. These two films by Ghibli tell old legends and simple everyday situations in a very special way and are just beautiful to watch.
My neighbors the Yamadas
In short episodes, the classic everyday life of a Japanese family is told here. Various topics and everyday situations are taken up. This is sometimes entertaining and sometimes a bit sad. But the special charm of the film lies in its optics. The handmade drawings look as if they were made entirely with colored pencils. This gives the anime a completely different look than is usually known from the house of Ghibli.
The legend of Princess Kaguya
The story about Princess Kaguya, best baby swings frame who is actually a normal girl and wants to lead a middle-class life, is based on an old Japanese folk tale and has often been immortalized on antique woodcuts.
And it was precisely these woodcuts that inspired the animation artists who spent over eight years filming “The Legend of Princess Kaguya”. The result was a masterpiece that deliberately breaks with today’s mostly colorful and action-packed cartoons. The ink-like compositions clearly focus on harmony and restraint. As a result, the drawings radiate an unusual calmness and gentleness. A film that, although it is very long, can be watched several times and discover new details every time.