10 Books That Inspired Studio Ghibli Films | TheReviewGeek Recommends

Studio Ghibli is renowned for its enchanting and visually stunning animated movies that have captured the hearts of audiences worldwide. Many of these films are based on beautifully written stories that were adapted from existing books. In this article, we will explore 10 notable books that inspired Studio Ghibli films and delve into the magical worlds that were brought to life on the silver screen.


Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
(Howl’s Moving Castle)

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones is a beloved fantasy novel that has captured the hearts of readers of all ages. The story follows young Sophie, who is cursed by a witch and transformed into an old woman. She embarks on an adventure when she encounters the mysterious wizard Howl and his magical moving castle.

Together, they face various challenges and dangers in a fantastical world of magic and wonder. Jones’ masterful storytelling and charming characters have made Howl’s Moving Castle a beloved classic and inspired the iconic Studio Ghibli film adaptation directed by Hayao Miyazaki.


Grave of the Fireflies by Akiyuki Nosaka
(Grave of the Fireflies)

Grave of the Fireflies is a novel by Akiyuki Nosaka that was adapted into a critically acclaimed animated film by Studio Ghibli. Set in the aftermath of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, the story follows two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, as they struggle to survive in the war-torn and famine-stricken Japan.

The novel is a harrowing account of the human cost of war and the toll it takes on civilians, particularly children. Nosaka’s story and characters are tragically poignant and emotionally moving. The book and film have become touchstones for discussing the consequences of war on innocent civilians.


The Borrowers by Mary Norton (The Secret World of Arrietty)

The Borrowers by Mary Norton was also adapted into a magical animated film by Studio Ghibli, capturing the essence of the beloved children’s book. The Ghibli adaptation brings the endearing borrower family to life with their intricate and imaginative world hidden within the homes of humans.

┬áThe film beautifully portrays the struggles and triumphs of Arrietty and her family as they navigate their tiny existence while avoiding detection. Ghibli’s animation showcases the attention to detail and whimsical charm that perfectly captures the spirit of Norton’s original work. Together, the book and the Ghibli film offer a delightful and enchanting exploration of a miniature world and the boundless power of imagination.


When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson
(When Marnie Was There)

When Marnie Was There is a hauntingly beautiful novel by Joan G. Robinson. The story follows Anna, a young girl struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation, who discovers a mysterious abandoned house by the marshes. There, she meets Marnie, a captivating and enigmatic girl who becomes Anna’s secret friend.

As their bond deepens, Anna uncovers startling secrets about Marnie’s past and learns important lessons about love, friendship, and self-discovery. Robinson’s evocative writing and rich character development beautifully explore themes of identity, loss, and the power of human connection. When Marnie Was There is a poignant and mesmerizing tale that was adapted by Studio Ghibli in 2014.


Tales from Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
(Tales from Earthsea)

Adapted into an animated story in 2006, Tales from Earthsea is a collection of interconnected fantasy stories by Ursula K. Le Guin set in the world of Earthsea. The book offers a richly detailed exploration of the magical lands and creatures of Earthsea, including dragons, wizards, and sorceresses. The stories follow the journey of Ged, a powerful mage who must confront his past and future as he navigates the complex world of Earthsea.

With intricate world-building and profound philosophical insights, Le Guin’s writing offers readers a thought-provoking look at the nature of power, morality, and the human spirit. Tales from Earthsea is a masterful work by one of the foremost writers of modern fantasy fiction.


Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono
(Kiki’s Delivery Service)

Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono is a beloved coming-of-age novel that has captivated readers of all ages. The story follows Kiki, a young witch who embarks on a year-long journey of self-discovery as part of a witch tradition. Set in a charming, whimsical world, Kiki uses her flying ability to start a delivery service in a new town.

As she faces challenges and learns valuable life lessons, Kiki grows in confidence and independence. Kadono’s delightful storytelling and endearing characters explore themes of friendship, perseverance, and finding one’s own path in life. Kiki’s Delivery Service is a heartwarming and enchanting tale that celebrates the magic within us all.


The Wind Has Risen by Tatsuo Hori
(The Wind Rises)

The Wind Has Risen is a poignant novel by Tatsuo Hori that tells the story of a young man named Jiro, who dreams of designing beautiful airplanes. Set against the backdrop of early 20th century Japan, the novel explores Jiro’s passion for flight and his struggles to create aircraft that embodies both beauty and innovation.

As Jiro navigates personal and professional challenges, including the devastating impact of war on his dreams, Hori’s lyrical writing captures the emotions of hope, longing, and determination. The novel is a moving tribute to the joys and sorrows of following one’s dreams in a turbulent world.


The Cat Returns by Aoi Hiiragi (The Cat Returns)

The Cat Returns by Aoi Hiiragi is a delightful manga-turned-animated film that enchants with its whimsical storytelling. The story revolves around Haru, a shy high school student, who saves a cat from being hit by a car, only to find herself in a world where cats hold royal status. As she navigates this unfamiliar world, encountering talking cats and magical adventures, Haru learns valuable lessons about courage and self-confidence.

Hiiragi’s charming illustrations and clever dialogue bring the fantastical tale to life, capturing the imagination of readers and viewers alike. The Cat Returns is a charming and heartwarming journey that reminds us of the magic hidden within everyday life.


Whisper of the Heart by Aoi Hiiragi
(Whisper of the Heart)

Whisper of the Heart is a beautifully crafted coming-of-age manga by Aoi Hiiragi, which was later adapted into a critically acclaimed animated film by Studio Ghibli. The story follows Shizuku, a young girl with a passion for reading and writing, as she explores her dreams and discovers her true self. As Shizuku embarks on a journey of self-discovery, she encounters unexpected friendships and love interests that challenge her perceptions of the world and her own aspirations.

┬áHiiragi’s evocative storytelling and exquisite artwork immerse readers in Shizuku’s journey, exploring themes of self-expression, determination, and the power of following one’s passions. Whisper of the Heart is a touching and inspiring tale that celebrates the beauty of the creative spirit.


The Little Mermaid Hans Christian Andersen (Ponyo)

The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen is undoubtedly a significant source of inspiration for Ponyo, the enchanting animated film by Studio Ghibli. While Ponyo takes a unique approach to storytelling, it draws many thematic and narrative elements from Andersen’s beloved fairy tale. Both stories explore the longing for a different life, the sacrifices made for love, and the powerful connection between the human and underwater worlds.

The character of Ponyo, a fish who desires to become human, mirrors the yearning of Andersen’s mermaid to be with her beloved prince. The themes of love, transformation, and the ocean’s wondrous magic intertwine, creating a beautiful homage to Andersen’s timeless tale in the breathtaking world of Ponyo.


Studio Ghibli’s films are known for their ability to transport viewers to captivating worlds filled with enchantment, wonder, and profound storytelling. The books listed above have provided the source material for some of the studio’s most memorable films. What is your favourite Studio Ghibli film? Did you know these books inspired Studio Ghibli films? Comment below and let us know!


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