There are a lot of TV shows out there and in this golden age of TV streaming, the choices have never been greater. So how do you cut through the noise and find the “Best of” for any chosen topic? Well, we’re here to help celebrate and shine a spotlight on some of the latest, greatest and unforgettable shows through the years.
For our ongoing series of articles depicting the best anime, our attention this time turns to Studio Ghibli. From heartwarming adventures like Spirited Away to emotionally-driven narratives like Grave of the Fireflies, this studio has delivered a massive impact on many anime fans’ lives.
Of course, if we’ve missed any of your favorites, feel free to comment below and we’ll get them added on!
Grave of the Fireflies
Grave of the Fireflies is a heartbreaking anime with a historical touch. This movie demonstrates the problems that stem from war and how it poorly affects everyone involved. From its gritty atmosphere to its chilling depiction of war, many fans will find themselves shedding multiple tears while watching this anime.
Our story takes place near the end of World War II, when Japan is suffering from widespread chaos in the form of American bombings, leading to the massacre of innocent people and the destruction of multiple cities. At the center of it all are our protagonists Seita and his sister Setsuko, two children whose lives are ruined by this war.
These children have lost their parents, home, and hope for a better future. Now orphaned and homeless, Seita and Setsuko must drift across the countryside, meeting new people who they hope will lend them a helping hand. Unfortunately, these two will realize that war changes people, and that hoping for a bright future is a mere fairy tale.
As mentioned earlier, this is a brutal film and doesn’t include the happy-go-lucky atmosphere seen in most Studio Ghibli works. If you go into this film expecting nothing but the worse for its protagonists, then you’re in for a satisfying yet cruel time.
Princess Mononoke is an action-packed fantasy film and is regarded as one of Studio Ghibli’s finest works. With its strong environmentalist message to its likable characters, this film will capture the hearts of most fans. Our tale takes place during a brutal fight between a demonic boar and a remote village called Emishi.
At the center of it all is Prince Ashitaka, who is willing to do whatever it takes to defend his tribe. Before the demon boar fades away, it implants a curse on Ashitaka’s arm, granting him demonic powers. This exchange forces Ashitaka to head west to locate a cure. When Ashitaka arrives at Tatara he ends up in a pickle.
Tatara’s Lady Eboshi and Princess San are arguing over something important. The former is promoting deforestation while the latter and the sacred forest spirits are against her wishes. Attempting to establish peace between nature and the human race, Ashitaka battles the latent demon within him as the different groups clash in a dangerous struggle for survival.
Princess Mononoke is a film that features deep messages regarding life and why it’s essential to cherish it all. The action sequences are exciting and well-animated. The characters have wonderful attributes and designs that help them stand out. If you’re looking for a captivating film that will make you appreciate the outside world and its beauty, check out Princess Mononoke.
Whenever fans think of Studio Ghibli, Spirited Away is the film that ends up being brought up automatically. Despite being one of Studio Ghibli’s later works, this film impressed multiple audiences after it was released in 20o2. With its captivating visuals, colorful world, and distinct character designs, Spirited Away is one of those films you’d recommend to people who aren’t into anime.
This anime revolves around a stubborn 10-year-old named Chihiro, who is currently traveling with her parents to their new home. On their way, they discover an abandoned amusement park, leading Chihiro to wander inside. Inside, Chihiro and her family get whisked away to some fantasy world, as her parents get transformed into pigs after eating some food.
Chihiro learns that she’s entered the spirit world and must summon the courage to live and work amongst the other spirited figures. With the help of a boy named Haku, Chihiro must locate a way back to her world while also figuring out how to return her parents back to normal. This is a wonderful anime full of exploration and unfamiliarity.
Everything about Spirited Away feels fantastical, alluring, and charming. While Chihiro encounters many adorable-looking critters during her expedition, she’ll meet fierce beasts and cruel individuals wishing to torment her. If you haven’t watched this film, do yourself a favor and check it out. You won’t be disappointed.
The Tales of Princess Kaguya
The Tales of Princess Kaguya follow a bamboo cutter named Okina, who enjoys chopping away at the hollow plants every day. One day, he finds a baby inside a glowing shoot and takes her home without question. He believes she’s a princess sent to Earth as a divine blessing from heaven.
With his wife Ouna, Okina raises and watches the child grow and become an energetic young girl named Kaguya. Kaguya enjoys her life in the village and loves spending her time playing with the other villager’s children and going on outings. Things take a dramatic turn after Okina discovers a giant fortune of gold and treasure in the forest.
With this newfound wealth, Okina forces his daughter to become a real princess by abandoning their rural lives in favor of something more fashionable and wealthy. Now forced into an unwanted livelihood by her adoptive father, Kaguya undergoes a philosophical journey to discover her true purpose and origins.
This Studio Ghibli film contains a visually distinct watercolor art style that helps it stand out from its other works. Kaguya’s character reacts to her parent’s selfishness in authentic ways that will convince fans to empathize with her. This is a film that will relate to those who lived in strict households and were forced to make decisions to appeal to their parents and other family members.
If you’re looking for a visually engaging film that tackles relatable themes and follows a likable female protagonist, check out The Tales of Princess Kaguya.
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Going from a princess to a witch, we have Kiki’s Delivery Service. This anime will resonate well with people who adore fantasy, magic, and romance. Its female protagonist Kiki is a wonderful bundle of joy that will have you smiling during its runtime.
With its coming-of-age-themed narrative to its relaxing atmosphere, Kiki’s Delivery Service is a splendid anime that everyone can enjoy. Our tale revolves around a 13-year-old witch-in-training named Kiki. She must live alone in a distant town for a year to become a full-fledged witch but ends up being accompanied by her black cat Jiji.
In Koriko Town, Kiki struggles to adapt and wanders the streets with nowhere to stay. However, a kind soul named Osono offers Kiki a place to stay in exchange for Kiki making deliveries for her small bakery. After completing several deliveries, Kiki opens her own courier service in an attempt to gain independence and understand the meaning of responsibility.
My Neighbor Totoro
Alongside Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro is one of their most iconic works. Whether in stores or online, you’d often stumble upon the giant grey furball whenever you’re looking up Ghibli-themed content. With likable human characters and a magnificent world, My Neighbor Totoro is an imaginative gem.
Our film takes place in the mid-1900s and follows a father and his two daughters Satsuki and Mei relocating to the countryside. One day, Mei meets a small bunny-like creature in her yard and chases it into the forest. She stumbles upon Totoro, a giant forest spirit who she befriends.
Satsuki notices her sister’s disappearance, leading her to head into the same forest. Eventually, Satsuki meets Totoro, and the two girls’ magical journey with him and the fantastical woodland creatures begins. This film feels like the animated manifestation of a child’s imagination. All the creature’s designs feel unique and creative.
From the giant Catbus to the smaller woodland critters, this world feels like an imaginative playground any human would want to explore. Satsuki and Mei don’t take a backseat to Totoro and his mystical friends. Everyone adds some level of charm to this world. It’s the journey these girls partake in that makes My Neighbor Totoro a classic Studio Ghibli film to many fans.
Howl’s Moving Castle
From one magical world to another, we arrive at Howl’s Moving Castle. This film offers more romance than the previous entry but contains a fun world like it. The story revolves around a hatmaker named Sophie, who’s in need of a goal to strive for.
Unfortunately, Sophie gets into a brief exchange between robbers and ends up hurling toward her doom. Thankfully, a handsome wizard named Howl saves her. Seeing Howl save Sophie enrages a nearby witch who places a curse on Sophie out of sheer jealousy. Sophie travels with Howl aboard his iconic flying castle in search of a cure.
The magical endeavors Sophie embarks on are thrilling. From magical fire demons to wandering scarecrows, Sophie meets many bizarre yet friendly entities while aboard Howl’s giant mechanical contraption. The film excellently builds upon her romance with Howl. Viewers don’t need to worry about the film rushing their romance to the ground. An exciting tale about romance and magic awaits you in Howl’s Moving Castle.
Ponyo is a delightful anime that’ll calm anyone’s nerves. This is the perfect anime to watch with your children because of the character’s cutesy designs and the companionship that blossoms between its protagonists.
This anime revolves around a goldfish who sneaks away from home by floating off the back of a jellyfish. She meets Sousuke, a five-year-old boy who lives with his parents along the shore. The goldfish heals Sosuke’s finger, and he gives it the name Ponyo. Unbeknownst to Sousuke, Ponyo’s real name is Brunhilde.
After her father Fujimoto catches her, Ponyo rejects her birth name and aims to become a human. With Sousuke’s blood, she gains arms and legs and escapes to the surface. However, numerous consequences unravel due to Ponyo’s decision. To secure her humanity and save the world, Sosuke endures an ancient test.
This anime feels as imaginative and grand as My Neighbor Totoro. The characters in this anime have wonderful personalities and chemistry with each other. This anime’s cutesy art style will warm the hearts of many fans. If you’re looking to get wrapped up in an anime that feels akin to Disney’s The Little Mermaid, check out Ponyo.
Porco Rosso is one of those obscure Studio Ghibli films. It doesn’t get brought up enough like their other works, which is unfortunate. This is a comical adventure of epic proportions. While it spirals in multiple different directions, it nails a solid landing.
Our tale follows Marco, who transforms into an anthropomorphic pig after being infected by a mysterious curse. He spends his days hunting sky pirates, collecting their bounties, and visiting the beautiful songstress Gina at Hotel Adriano. During one of his flights, Porco Rosso (Marco’s new alias) gets gunned down by the young American pilot Donald.
Donald spreads false rumors about murdering Porco to gain fame. Unbeknownst to him, Porco remains alive and has fled the area to take out a loan to repair his fighter plane. With the help of a young chief engineer, Porco must challenge Donald to regain his pride and status. This anime features a great blend of comedy, romance, and slice-of-life elements.
During the film, details surrounding Porco’s past life start cropping up, making matters more intriguing. The film takes its time revealing tidbits about Porco’s livelihood to viewers. Donald is an as unlikable villain with a humorous personality. His rivalry with Porco is fun to watch and makes for a phenomenal time. Check out this anime if you adore plane combat and funny characters.
Castle In The Sky
Looking for more airship and plane-themed Studio Ghibli anime, Castle In The Sky has you covered. This anime follows Sheeta, who gets kidnapped by government agents who seek her amulet. She finds herself trapped aboard an airship moments later. But her worries come to a stop when pirates raid the ship.
Sheeta takes advantage of the catastrophic situation and flees from her captors. She’ll run into Pazu, who wants to reach the fabled flying castle, Laputa. Unfortunately, the government agents are after Laputa too. Therefore, our tale revolves around Sheeta and Pazu’s quest to find Laputa before the government agents do.
Like any buddy fantasy film, this anime spends time growing Sheeta and Pazu’s feelings for each other. The mishaps they get involved in during their quest for Laputa are magical and somewhat funny. While the comedic exchanges may break up the epicness of their adventure, it never reduces the film’s overall quality.
So, there we have it, our picks for the best Studio Ghibli anime through the years!
What do you think of our picks? Do you agree? Are there any notable omissions? Let us know in the comments below!