Which studio has a famous fan-favorite as its main pioneer cartoon character, has its own museum, and has created magical worlds that Americans have loved for generations? Take one guess. And no; it’s not Disney.
Studio Ghibli may have its headquarters in Kogane, Tokyo, but its fame transcends international boundaries and is one of the most popular Japanese animation studios in the world. It boasts of the creative mind of Hayao Miyazaki, who was even called the “Walt Disney of Japan.” Fondly regarded by all ages, these Studio Ghibli characters have made a lasting impact in everyone’s hearts, and decided to stay snug right there. Let’s recall where they came from, shall we?
My Neighbor Totoro
Who hasn’t dreamed about chancing upon this cuddly creature and having it as a buddy for life? My Neighbor Totoro chronicles how young sisters Satsuki and Mei move to the countryside for their mother, who has been hospitalized. The two girls soon stumble upon an enchanted grove where they meet Totoro, and the magical tale begins. Along with adorable charm and big grey furriness, Totoro brings about a sense of childhood wonder to the audience, and the unforgettable experience of this story has been bringing joy to kids and adults alike ever since. To prove just how much Totoro has influenced pop culture, this lovable bunny has made cameo appearances in South Park, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Brief Lives, and even as one of the plush toys in Toy Story 3 from Pixar.
A pouting ten-year-old, two hungry parents, and an eatery that serves freshly cooked pork. It might seem like there’s nothing extraordinary about the scene, but when little Chihiro’s parents are hexed and turned into pigs by the witch Yubaba, she must embark on an adventure filled with twists, turns, and faceless spirits in order to free her parents from the curse. The wild journey that Chihiro undertakes is most memorable for its Alice in Wonderland-esque surrealism. Placing 10th in Empire Magazine’s “The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema”, Spirited Away has also won Best Animated Feature in the 75th Academy Awards.
Howl’s Moving Castle
Based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle is, at its core, a love story. Eighteen-year-old Sophie works in her late father’s hat shop, and one day encounters the mysterious wizard Howl. As their relationship grows, the Witch of the Waste becomes upset and turns Sophie into an ugly hag. Sophie then journeys to Howl’s castle with the help of unlikely characters in order to find a way to reverse the spell cast on her. Walt Disney Pictures even distributed the film with the famous voices of Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, and Billy Crystal. Any movie like that is definitely a gem.
Ni no Kuni
Think Studio Ghibli is all about shows? Think again. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is the brainchild of its partnership with Level-5. The one-of-a-kind gameplay and unique combat system is merged together beautifully with traditional Japanese role-playing game elements, such as colorful characters, sidequests, and the ever elusive world map that has long since disappeared in today’s RPGs. Young Oliver travels to another world with his doll-fairy come to life named Drippy in search for a “soulmate” that he hopes will bring his own mother back to life. Enlisting the help of many quirky sidekicks in the process, Oliver and his adventures bring back the nostalgia of playing the old classic JRPGs, but this time with lush environments and modern graphics. An IGN review called it “Pokemon meets Tales with a Studio Ghibli Twist”, and it has won “Best Role-Playing Game 2013” from Destructoid, Game Revolution, GameTrailers, IGN, and the 18th Satellite Awards. If those awards don’t convince you to grab this game right away, this incredibly moving tearjerker of a trailer certainly will.