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6 Studio Ghibli Films on Netflix You Should Watch Right Now

Updated on July 8, 2020
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With a Bachelor of Science in Information and Communications Technology degree, Darius was a former high school literary and feature writer.

The 21 Studio Ghibli films available for streaming on Netflix (with "My Neighbors the Yamadas" cropped from the photo)
The 21 Studio Ghibli films available for streaming on Netflix (with "My Neighbors the Yamadas" cropped from the photo)

What is Studio Ghibli? Peak Animation

When we hear animations coming from Japan, one of the first things that always comes in our mind is how are animes. Animes, sometimes called Japanimations, are hand-drawn and computer animation originating from Japan. Most of these animations came from drawing, arts, comics, and/or graphic novels created by adept artists. These also include narratives and stories of any possible genre. And one of the most notable animation company capable of creating masterpieces is the Studio Ghibli. If you're a fan and if you love these Films, one glimpse of the animation film and you will quickly conclude that it is one of Studio Ghibli's work. Heck, even other animation studios like Disney and Pixar are inspired by the magic, animation, and storytelling of Ghibli.

A Ghibli film feels as if you are immersing yourself into a magical, fictional world that you wish to be true. And even though you might not have heard of any of their creations, you may have watched them during your lifetime. They are masterpieces because they not only bring the inner child out of an adult, or the storytelling is as captivating as your favorite novel, but because they create an impactful effect of nostalgia. With Hayao Miyazaki's works, the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, and Joe Hisaishi's music, watching a Ghibli movie will not only leave you wanting more but also leave you in a magical state in mind and heart.

Netflix announced that 21 films of Studio Ghibli will be added to their animation slate and will be available for streaming starting from February to April of 2020. An official statement, producer Toshio Suzuki at Studio Ghibli said, “In this day and age, there are various great ways a film can reach audiences. We’ve listened to our fans and have made the definitive decision to stream our film catalog. We hope people around the world will discover the world of Studio Ghibli through this experience.” For these animations arriving in the giant streaming service is a piece of huge news, especially for long time fans of the animations. This, however, comes with exceptions that it will not be possible for those in the United States, Canada, and Japan to stream these films. The reason Netflix couldn't extend the agreement to those three countries is that there are pre-existing rights deals in those zones. But don't worry, for those living in these countries, Studio Ghibli films will also be available for streaming in HBO Max.

When the animations finally arrived, I had the privilege to binge-watch most of these chosen films on Netflix. And all I have to say is that the magic of Studio Ghibli really lasts. If you still don't know what they are and are interested in why people love these animations, below are my top six (in no particular or specific order) Studio Ghibli films now available for streaming and why I (and most people) love them. Also, keep in mind that I'll be dropping some spoilers, but if you still want to know these films then go ahead and continue. Also, I'll attach some of their music so feel free to listen to them and feel the "nostalgia" of their magnificence.

Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke | Source

Look, everyone! This is what hatred looks like! This is what it does when it catches hold of you! It's eating me alive, and very soon it will kill me!

— Prince Ashitaka to the people of Iron Town

Princess Mononoke (1997)

Hayao Miyazaki is known as a huge anti-war person, and this film really depicts how wars don't have good and bad people in them - only people and factions that are trying to protect their own have their own drives and inspirations, and have their own different perspectives and opinions on the people and the world around them.

The story begins with a young prince named Ashitaka from a hidden village during the 14th century. Their village, or tribe, were forced to hide from the Emperor's wrath by running away from the ongoing conflict during their era. In this world, however, is a world where humans, nature, animals, and gods of proportional sizes lived together. The harmony in the village didn't last long when a god turned demon almost attacked them, infecting Ashitaka with a curse in the process of keeping it away from them. This implies that peace was seemingly an impossible option between humans and the gods. He then journeys West to find the source of the god's demise of becoming a demon while escaping from the ongoing onslaught of the Emperor, meeting new villages and people with different views on the world, venturing through woods and forests where the gods and spirits roam, arriving at a village named Iron Town, and finally meeting Mononoke, a human cursed by the gods. Ashitaka's and Mononoke's curse are different from each other, though, for the former's curse will kill him whenever he feels hatred and the latter's curse is being an ally to the gods, protecting the nature and their inhabitants.

This film's animation is very magical as if living in a new world of humans, gods, and nature. Although there are moments where there are actions not suitable for young audiences, it will be philosophical most of the time especially for adult viewers. The film largely implies anti-war agendas, and that everyone is either a criminal or a victim of their own outlook on the world and the living things around them. Unlike Western films, this film will not let you choose a side to root for. And if you do, you'll have to stick with them along the way, no matter the principles they have. It's a film where black and white are intertwined in the middle of all, a gray area of why war and conflict happen.

Spirited Away
Spirited Away | Source

“Once you've met someone you never really forget them. It just takes a while for your memories to return.”

— Zeniba to Chihiro

Spirited Away (2001)

Say that you know what Studio Ghibli is and their films and one or more of your friends decide or ask which film you guys should watch, this movie should possibly one of your top pick suggestions.

Spirited Away is the Oscar-winning masterpiece by director and animator Hayao Miyazaki. It is the first work of animation to win an Oscar, being awarded so at the 7th Annual Acadamy Awards Ceremony. This film follows a girl named Chihiro and her family moving to a new town when they stumbled upon a cave-like tunnel. The family goes inside and finds themselves in what looks to be another part of the town. But what really started Chihiro's journey is when her parents suddenly turned into pigs from eating food in nearby establishments. It turns out that this setting is no ordinary place, but a place where spirits, gods, and magic exists. She then ventures in the new, weird, and an utterly mysterious land in search of ways to turn her parents back into humans. Of course, she met a few other characters that helped her out along the way. But before finishing her quest, she worked in a bathhouse controlled and managed by a witch where her name changes to Sen upon signing a contract.

Though I'm not saying that it won't be for adults, I feel like this film is more appropriate for kids since the director and writer, himself, made Chihiro a relatable, likable, and child-like character. The film's animation, as well as the accompanying score and music, and its story is what I believed that it made it won its Oscar. Its plot is almost nonlinear and unexpected that a few minutes in and you'll find yourself asking what going to happen next, how will the character solve the problems, and how will the story end. It has these highs where there are actions and amazement for you and lows for you to relax and take a deep breath. This is one of those films where tragedy and comedy meet in the middle, offering a seemingly bittersweet ending.

When Marnie Was There
When Marnie Was There | Source

“When you grow as old as I am you can’t any longer say this was someone’s fault, and that was someone else’s. It isn’t so clear when you take a long view. Blame seems to lie everywhere. Or nowhere. Who can say where unhappiness begins?”

— Joan G. Robinson, When Marnie Was There

When Marnie Was There (2014)

Studio Ghibli's "When Marnie Was There" was based on a 1967 novel of the same name by Joan G. Robinson. Anna is a young, introverted, shy girl with both asthmatic and emotional problems, although the latter is kept in secret for she knows that they are brittle and fragile. At a doctor's recommendation to send Anna to a place where the air is clean, both of Anna's loving foster parents decide to have her spend the summer break with her late mom's relatives in a rural, seaside town. And though as if she feels that this trip isn't really going to help her feel better, both physically and mentally, her almost bland stay in the town suddenly changed when she incidentally saw an abandoned mansion beyond a salt marsh. This urged her to investigate the house, only to find almost nothing but old belongings of the past inhabitants. A local fisherman tells her that it was once a fancy vacation home for wealthy foreigners. That same night, she dreams of an unknown girl of blonde hair. She spent the next of her days going to the abandoned mansion to meet the girl every night.

Sometimes, Studio Ghibli movies loves to tease its audience with progressive views of romance between two same genders, and it's pretty much existent on some of their works. The trick is that for the audience to find and know these subtle hints, sometimes just hiding under the nose. This movie is, basically, a love story between two young girls, but its love is much deeper than the kind of intimacy we're groomed to expect by our hypersexual culture. Of course, Studio Ghibli films won't teach you a singular way for romance. The films, like this one, will teach you that there are more variations of love and that love will always be eternal. This film will also teach you on how healing takes time and process, and that sometimes, healing will take you one step forward; healing begins in forgiveness.

This film would imply many expectations for their audiences at first, until it reveals its hidden twist ending that will either leave the audience in tears and at absolute awe.

The Secret World of Arriety
The Secret World of Arriety | Source

It's funny how each day you wake up and never really know if it will be one that will change your life forever.

— Sho

The Secret World of Arriety (2010)

Studio Ghibli's "The Secret World of Arriety" is based on the 1952 novel "TheBorrowers" by Mary Norton.

This film starts as a boy named Sho (Shawn in the English versions) as he still remembers the week in summer he spent at his mother's childhood home with his maternal great aunt and a housemaid. Sho was diagnosed with heart complications, so he must move much until his operations. When Sho arrived at the house on the first day, he saw a cat trying to attack something in the bushes, but it gives up after it is attacked by a crow. Sho gets a small glimpse of Arrietty, a young Borrower girl, returning to her home through an underground air vent. Arriety lives with her family under the floorboards of the house above them. The are Burrowers are tiny people who live secretly in or under the walls and floors of a typical household, borrowing items from humans to survive and avoiding being noticed, seen, and captured by them. They are the last of their kind that lives under the said house. The plot thickens when Sho and Arriety formed a friendly bond, for Sho believed that their late family has also seen "little people" living under their house and tried to protect and provide for them.

This film was the highest-grossing film in the year 2010 in Japan as well as gaining a very high positive reception from the film critics, and it totally deserved it. It ranges from having poignant, smooth, and almost life-like animation, to the great, catchy, and melodic music and theme song scored by a French composer. This is also not that ordinary fantasy film where the story is painfully linear. It's that story where you may think that there may be real "little people" existing in the real world, that some humans protect and provide for them, and some humans try to catch them for personal, and sometimes malevolent, interests. It somehow parallels the real world, especially nature, the animals, and the environment. Somehow, the film gives you an insight of environmentalism and preserving natural resources. The film's ending may be bittersweet for several of those that had watched it, but it also an ending that gave them the true meaning of perseverance, friendship, and hope.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya
The Tale of Princess Kaguya | Source

Just a little longer, to feel the joy of living in this place.

— Princess Kaguya

The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013)

Studio Ghibli's "The Tale of Princess Kaguya" was based on "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter" of a 10th-century Japanese literary tale.

The film is about a peaceful, simple family living in the rural areas of Japan during the 10th century. It starts with a bamboo cutter finding a nymph inside a bamboo stalk. The bamboo cutter and his wife decided that the nymph must have been a gift from heaven. The bamboo cutter and his wife then decided to take the nymph as their own child when she suddenly grew into a baby. They also noticed that the baby grew into a walking, talking child within a short amount of time, faster than normal humans. They still accepted her as they named her Kaguya while living a simple life. The bamboo cutter, while cutting new bamboo stalks, was given gifts. He concluded that Kaguya must have been a princess in the heavens. They left their simple rural life to live in the city where Kaguya grows into a beautiful and desirable young woman where she was deemed as a princess. The bamboo cutter thought that giving Kaguya a lavish, providing lifestyle in the city would make her happy in the process. But Kaguya is miserable in her new life and always wishes to come back to simplicity. When the word got out about princes Kaguya, princes from other kingdoms tried to court her and prove their love. Kaguya, however, didn't see the pure love and honesty in each of her suitors even before they either failed or cheated on their nearly impossible tasks.

When I finished watching this film and looked it up on the internet, I somehow felt that this movie is criminally underrated. It's a drama fantasy film where the art and art style are really staggering and mesmerizing. It looks as if each frame of art paintings were handmade and feels intricate and sophisticated that each minute is an explosion of color schemes. The story, however, tells a different one. It's about the meaning of happiness and purpose. The story teaches about family and being human. This mirrors how parents see their children, how they grow up so fast, and that they only want what is both the best for them and their happiness. And while the film resorts to methods of teaching the meaning of giving and receiving, it also, importantly, implies teachings of loss. It's a fantasy film story where the joy begins at its peak, that bumps and cracks on the middles, and finally, slowly descends to a downhill sadness that will either leave the audience tear, lost, or empty.

Howl's Moving Castle
Howl's Moving Castle | Source

Sorry, I've had enough of running away, Sophie. Now I've got something to protect: it's you.

— Howl to Sophie

Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

Studio Ghibli's "Howl's Moving Castle" film is loosely based on the 1986 novel of the same name by British author Diana Wynne Jones.

This film is one of those classic suggestions you'll hear from a Studio Ghibli fan because:

  1. You need to watch it more than one time to see the gems hidden in the film,
  2. The music and soundtrack would make you stand up and dance as if you're in a fancy ball,
  3. The animation would make you fall in love with a fictitious character,
  4. The whole plot doesn't encourage to explore how the characters met, it has always been a "why,"
  5. The whole plot encourages you to love the plot of the two people falling in love rather than the unnecessary details of the extensive world they live in.

The film begins with Sophie that has an uneventful life at her late father's hat shop. All that changes when she befriends wizard Howl, who lives in a magical moving castle. However, an evil witch takes issue with their budding relationship and casts a spell on young Sophie, which ages her prematurely. Now Howl must use all his magical talents to battle the jealous hag, battle his origins, battle his identity, and return Sophie to her former young self. This film is set in a European country, one that is on war against an unnamed enemy. Howl despises the government's strategy to use wizards and witches in the war because this "changes" them and their powers will be deceitfully stripped if they do not accept, or show no interest in, their bidding.

Howl's Moving Castle (English Language)
Howl's Moving Castle (English Language)
This film, however, focuses on Sophie's journey on Howl's "world," where she met more characters and learned Howl's past. It's kind of like a love story involving two people from different worlds acting inside a greater plot. And it's the good kind of love story that you don't see around animation because it's a love story that doesn't necessarily use the two characters to further their romance, but instead used them to explore the world they live in. Plus, the voice actors in the English version really did a good job of acting out the characters. It feels as if the characters themselves live in our real-world, even though they don't.
 
Hayao Miyazaki and the creations of Studio Ghibli. Photo from: Inidie Wire
Hayao Miyazaki and the creations of Studio Ghibli. Photo from: Inidie Wire | Source

I do believe in the power of stories. I believe that stories have an important role to play in the formation of human beings, that they can stimulate, amaze, and inspire their listeners.

— Hayao Miyazaki

Honorable Mentions

Ponyo

A story of a fish that turned into a human a kid she befriends. This film, somehow, depicts how humans trash the oceans and bodies of water. It also depicts child friendship and infatuation with one another. But most importantly, it is a film about knowing who you are and affirmation, as well as acceptance, of your own identity.

Kiki's Delivery Service

A story of a good witch that moved into a bustling city. The film teaches to love and accept who you are and knowing your purpose in life. This story reassures children that even when the going gets tough if you believe in yourself, treat others with respect, kindness, and perseverance, and you will see your way through.

The Cat Returns

A story about a schoolgirl that was magically transported into a kingdom of cats. The movie teaches being true to oneself, that courage isn't the absence of fear, and learning to find and have courage takes time and experience.

Castle in the Sky

A story of a girl and boy finding a magical key that unlocks a floating castle amidst an ongoing conflict. The film somehow teaches you to choose values, that neutrality doesn't exist in times of chaos. It also teaches that knowing a person, people, or groups and their beliefs, perspectives, and opinions they live-out.

My Neighbor Totoro

A story about a family moving in the countryside where the two sisters meet a giant, cuddly, cheeky cat spirit. This teaches that family is the most important thing and that on the surface, it appears to be a message of hope and optimism explored through fantasy in times of hardship

Do you think that this list short? How about recommending a Studio Ghibli film for me to watch? Why not share a few experiences about you watching Studio Ghibli films, the feelings you've felt, and the lessons you've learned from watching them?

Have you watched any of Studio Ghibli's movies?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Darius Razzle Paciente

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