Monday, April 29, 2013

Featuring: Studio Ghibli

Ghibli films are among my all time favorites. So full of beauty, wonder, and inspiration - they warm my soul! Most of the other films I love all seem to require a particular mindset or level of energy to fully appreciate, but Ghibli films are my 'anytime' favorites. I can be in any mood, or drained at the end of a rough day, and I could watch even just a part a Ghibli film to feel revived and inspired. Studio Ghibli is an animation studio founded by Hayao Miyazaki ... in a *very* vague sense a Japanese version of Disney. (And Disney actually distributes the English versions of the films.) I normally cringe at English dubs, but the screenplay and actors Disney has used really are top notch - credit where it is due.
My montage of snapshots from:
 Howl's Moving Castle and Sprited Away
Movies by Studio Ghibli

Even though you might think most of the films are aimed at children, I say they are absolutely for the young at heart ... that is: for any age. (Actually, Princess Mononoke can be fairly intense and graphic if you were expecting sanitized Disney fare.) I only found out about these films the past couple of years - and from an engineering friend of mine at that (shows the unexpected range of appeal for these films). And another unrelated set of engineering friends have been known to host Ghibli movie nights. Yay! The films are slowly catching on. If I'm ever visiting Japan, I will definitely be making a special trip to the Ghibli Museum, even if I am the only adult in the place. :p

I put together a little photo montage of snapshots I took from various Ghibli movie books I have around the house to help show a sense of the style for these films. Most have breathtaking pastoral backdrops interweaving through the stories, so full of vibrant color and intricate detail. I've always loved pictures where you can see more and more details the longer you look, and these whole movies are full of moving pictures of exquisitely intricate detail. And beyond just the visuals, the storytelling and characters are utterly charming and uniquely refreshing, with layers upon layers of meaning, revealed the more and more you watch.

Some films like Castle in the Sky or Kiki's Delivery Service appear to be set in a quaint European-flavored alternate reality, but others like Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro are interwoven through the Japanese landscape (which I love for the insights into social customs and culture in general). Although I'm not as impressed by several of the recent Ghibli films (Hayao Miyazaki has transitioned away from directing), all of the Ghibli films up through Ponyo are highly recommended.

Montage of snapshots from Kiki's Delivery Service and
a 3" Totoro plushie on my dinner table centerpiece ;p
Ranking the Ghibli films is difficult and kind of silly, but just for fun: at the moment, my absolute favorites starting from top are:

Howl's Moving Castle
Sprited Away
Whisper of the Heart    (I love writing :)
Castle in the Sky
NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind
Kiki's Delivery Service
The Castle of Cagliostro
My Neighbor Totoro

Here's a general link to Hayao Miyazaki's films on Amazon so you can see the covers and find out more info.

Many of the movie tie-ins are also well worth a look. For instance, the movie soundtracks by composer Joe Hisaishi are absolutely gorgeous. And although I have quite a few of the original soundtracks, the interpretations of the music themes by various artists have been getting the most air time in my car lately.

These are my favorite Ghibli soundtrack spinoffs:

These films are subtly powerful and an absolute delight. If the work of Hayao Miyazaki from Studio Ghibli hasn't yet crossed your path, I highly encourage a view, or two, or three!

by Laura A Knauth

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