As the new year starts, Netflix has been having some changes, but it’s the biggest change yet has to do with one of the biggest animation studios, Studio Ghibli.
Studio Ghibli is one of the top Japanese animation studios in the entire country if not the world. The studio has managed to create 8 out of the 15 top-grossing animation films of Japan and has even created new worlds in many fan’s hearts. Studio Ghibli takes its viewers on an adventure through the spirit world, through the sky, and even though the troubles of life itself. It has become so large that plans for an amusement park have already been made and the build has already begun. Now the studio has branched out to Netflix and fans couldn’t be happier. So here are the films that will be seen on Netflix this new year.
My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbor Totoro is most likely the most well-known film of Studio Ghibli as it tells the story of a young schoolgirl named Satsuki and her younger sister Mei. As the two girls settle in their new countryside home waiting for their mother to recover from her tuberculosis, they discover forest spirits that take them on imaginative adventures. The spirit Totoro was a symbolism of hope and optimization in times of hardship as Totoro has been appearing to the girls while their parents were absent. After appearing everywhere in theaters and making fans fall for the cuddly creature fans started to speculate a bit more into the film. Many Studio Ghibli films have explored very dark themes and many fans started to believe that the film was based on the Sayama murders in 1963. The rumors became so large that Hayao Miyazaki had to make a statement telling fans that the film had nothing to do with the murders but about his childhood with his brothers.
Princess Mononoke is a film that doesn’t get a lot of recognition like other Studio Ghibli films but its message is one that is of great importance even today. The story is placed in the 14th century as the peace between humans and gods begins to fall apart. A young boy named Ashitaka is infected with an incurable disease by a possessed boar and searches for the forest spirit for a cure. During his journey, he meets Lady Eboshi and her loyal clan, The wolf God Moro, and his human companion Princess Mononoke. Ashitaka tries to stop the bloodshed of the humans and forest with the help of Mononoke, but this doesn’t stop the fact that scars are left behind. Hayao Miyazaki created Princess Mononoke to show the destruction of humankind claiming, “There cannot be a happy ending to the fight between the raging gods and humans. However, even in the middle of hatred and killings, there are things worth living for. A wonderful meeting or a beautiful thing can exist. We depict hatred, but it is to depict that there are more important things. We depict a curse, to depict the joy of liberation.”
Howl’s Moving Castle
Howl’s Moving Castle is by far one of Miyazaki’s most meaningful films created at his studio. It tells the story of a young girl named Sophie and hardships she faces after befriending the wizard Howl. The Evil Witch of Waste becomes jealous of the relationship and curses Sophie with the burden of age. Now Howl must use all of his magic to battle the jealous witch and return Sophie to her youth and beauty. The takes on the topic of bravery as the coward Howl has finally found something he wants to fight for and defend. Miyazaki teaches a powerful lesson of how you can’t change what’s far away from you. Towards the end of the movie Sophie must connect with the witch to save Howl, but instead of using force she uses affection to persuade the witch. The film was a bit different from Miyazaki’s others as it told more of a romance between the wizard and Sophie, leaving fans a tad bit awestruck and confused. He wanted to show how love can create youth as shown when Sophie fell deeper for Howl it seemed almost as if her wrinkles began to fade just as love does with anything that seems to be negative within us.
Ponyo is a film that can’t seem to be forgotten after watching what feels like one single time. The story is one like the little mermaid as during a forbidden journey to the surface a goldfish princess meets a boy. This young boy is named Sosuke and even gives the princess a name as cute as, Ponyo. As Ponyo spends more time with Sosuke and his father, she can’t help but long to be human and live on the surface like them. Sosuke’s father tries to send Ponyo back to sea but her desire to be on the surface is so strong that she breaks free and leaves a trail of magical liquid that threatens to destroy the village. Many fans speculated that the people of the village have been dead and our living their time in the afterlife, but once again Miyazaki had to deny these claims. He said his inspiration for Ponyo came from the Little Mermaid but instead of a story of self-sacrifice, Miyazaki told one of acceptance, harmony, happiness, and love. A world where anything was possible had been created and Miyazaki said he couldn’t be more proud of what came of Ponyo.
Tales From Earthsea
Tales from Earthsea caused a lot of joyful reactions as Studio Ghibli had made a collaboration with Walt Disney Studios. Expectations were held high for the film and to everyone’s surprise, the film received a lot of criticism for every single one. In the magical land of Earthsea, a mysterious force threatens to plunge the world into one of chaos and destruction. A powerful wizard named Sparrowhawk seeks out the source of the threat and rescues a runaway Prince Arren. When Sparrowhawk’s powers weaken, he and Arren must work with a priestess and her daughter to defeat the evil force. The film had originally received an amazing amount of criticism but once you watch the film you see that the story and characters are far beyond great. Even the bad guy is so likable that it seems difficult to see him as the villain of the story. Many fans were disappointed but not shocked to find that Hayoi Miyazaki had not made the film but his son Goro had. Being inexperienced there were many faults but for someone who had not meddled, he was able to create an amazing movie.
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Kiki’s Delivery service has become a favorite for many fans as it reflects our times now and how difficult it is for someone so young to navigate their way around the world. In this film, a 13-year-old Kiki moves to a seaside town with her talking cat, Jiji, to spend a year all by herself. She does this to follow her village’s ancient tradition for witches in training. After learning to control her trusty broomstick, Kiki sets up a flying delivery service and soon becomes an important part of the community. When the insecure young witch begins questioning herself and loses her magic abilities, she must overcome her self-doubt to get her powers back. Miyazaki created the film in hopes of showing the inner struggle that many go through even at such a young age. While Kiki is working her delivery job, she has no time to practice her magic which creates a large problem for her. This was to resemble how children are working overtime which makes it impossible for them to use their magic or as we know, imagination. The story reflects the transition into adulthood as she is faced with problems like finding a job, seeking acceptance, and taking care of herself. By putting the perspective into a young girl Miyazaki wanted to show how even at a young age the struggle of self-doubt can bring you farther down than you think.
Starting February 1st the films Castle In the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Only Yesterday, Porco Rosso, Ocean Waves, and Tales from Earthsea will be released onto Netflix. On March 1st, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbors the Yamadas, Spirited Away, The Cat Returns, Arrietty, and The Tale of The Princess Kaguya will have their initial release date. The final films will be released on the first of April with Pom Poko, Whisper of the Heart, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, From Up on Poppy Hill, The Wind Rises, and When Marnie Was There.
Studio Ghibli manages to create stories of our present and touch us with how relatable they can be. With the struggle of adolescence, fitting in, finding hope, or even trusting your heart, Studio ghibli has shown how to do exactly that. His best films were created from the inspiration all around him and while the world around him isn’t the best, his films are. His films are made from the conflicting thoughts that our world will never get better yet we still persevere because, like Howl, we all have something to live for.