Top 5 Studio Ghibli Films

Originally written for WatchPlayRead.com

Studio Ghibli has released so many quality films over the years that I had a hard time limiting myself to five films for this list. After some deliberation, I was finally able to whittle it down to the five films that I included on this list. In full disclosure, I have to admit that at the time I compiled this list, I had not yet seen The Wind Rises, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, or When Marnie Was There.

5. Only Yesterday (1991)

This is the second film that Isao Takahata directed for Studio Ghibli, and it has the distinction of being the only Studio Ghibli feature that has not yet received a home video release in North America even though Disney holds the distribution rights for the title. I was finally able to see Only Yesterday about two years ago, when my husband bought the Hong Kong Blu-ray release of the film that includes English subtitles for me as a gift.

Only Yesterday is a great film, but I can see why Disney has passed on releasing it after I watched it. The main character is an office lady in her late twenties named Taeko Okajima, and she takes a trip into the country to help the family of her elder sister’s husband with the safflower harvest. While Taeko is on her trip, she begins recalling memories of when she was a 10-year-old schoolgirl in 1966. Over the course of the film, Taeko’s memories of her 10-year-old self are intertwined with what’s happening to her in Yamagata, and Taeko finds herself questioning not only her feelings, but also what she wants in life. Between having an adult as a main character, as well as some of the topics that are included in Taeko’s memories, Only Yesterday just doesn’t fit with the other Studio Ghibli films that Disney has dubbed and released over the years.

I was in my later thirties when I watched Only Yesterday, so I could relate to Taeko and understand where she’s coming from. I also enjoyed the story and thought that Takahata took quite the chance by producing and releasing an animated film that is a realistic drama written for adults.

4. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

My Neighbor Totoro is set in the 1950s. Two girls named Satsuki and Mei are the protagonists of the film, and they move into an old house in rural Japan with their father in order to be closer to their mother, who is staying in the hospital due to illness. One day, Mei plays outside and sees a creature with two white, rabbit-like ears. She follows the creature under the house, and discovers two magical creatures; the creatures lead her through a briar patch and into the hollow of a large tree. Mei meets and befriends a bigger version of these spirits, and the big spirit identifies itself through a series of roars, which Met interprets as “Totoro.” One day, after believing her mother’s condition has worsened, Mei heads out on foot to the hospital. Satsuki enlists the help of Totoro and the Catbus, a large bus-shaped cat, to help her find her sister.

My Neighbor Totoro has a very sweet story with child characters that are very compelling, and I thought that Hayao Miyazaki was able to tell the story, convincingly, through the eyes of the child protagonists. The animation in My Neighbor Totoro perfectly accompanies the story that’s being told, and it captures the audience’s imagination. The look of the fantastical creatures like Totoro and the Catbus is very endearing, and Mei is simply cute. I have to admit that I kind of feel like a kid again whenever I watch this movie.

3. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

This is the first film that Isao Takahata directed for Studio Ghibli, and it’s an adaptation of a semi-autobiographical novel written by Akiyuki Nosaka. The film is set near the end of World War II in Japan, and features two children, Seita and Setsuko, whose lives are disrupted after the firebombing at Kobe. They survive, but their mother is caught in the air raid and dies from burn wounds. Seita and Setsuko’s father was serving in the Japanese navy and away from home when the attack occurred. As a result, the children are sent to live with an aunt who treats them cruelly over time. The siblings can only take so much before they leave and live in an old, abandoned bomb shelter.

Grave of the Fireflies is a realistic portrayal of this event and the aftermath of what happened. It’s gritty and at times, it gets rather dark. While this film may star children, it’s not a film aimed at that audience. It’s a very gripping film, which probably includes one of the saddest scenes ever to appear in an anime film. While I’ve seen this film three or four times now, I choke up and bawl like a baby every time I see this particular scene. In addition, I also become very angry at Seita and Setsuko’s aunt every time I see this film. To me, always having these strong emotional responses each time I watch the film is a testament to how well written the story is. It also shows how emotionally invested the audience can get when it comes to Seita and Setsuko.

2. Princess Mononoke (1997)

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Princess Mononoke was the Studio Ghibli film that started getting the company attention in the United States. The film is set during the Muromachi period of Japan, and it focuses on the struggle between the supernatural guardians of the forest and the humans that try to consume its resources. Ashitaka, the last Emishi prince, is cursed when he kills the demon form of Nago, the boar god. He leaves his village because of the curse, and he comes upon Irontown, a refuge for social outcasts near the forest that’s inhabited by the animal gods and the Forest Spirit. Ashitaka finds himself thrown into the middle of the conflict when San, a human girl adopted by wolves, attacks Irontown. He tries to become a peacekeeper between the gods of the forest and the people of Irontown, who clear the forest to get more iron ore for the firearms that they manufacture.

Princess Mononoke tells a compelling story, which focuses on two ideas: the environment and the fact that no one is necessarily either good or evil. What I really appreciated about the storytelling in Princess Mononoke is the fact that Miyazaki was able to tell this story without falling into the trap of “the forest animals and the animal spirits are the good guys, and that Lady Eboshi and the citizens of Irontown are the bad guys.” The animation in the film is also breathtaking, and it perfectly conveys the feelings and emotions Miyazaki wants the viewer to experience while watching the film.

1. Spirited Away (2001)

Spirited Away is Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki’s best known film, thanks in large part to winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards. The main character of the film is a spoiled 10-year-old girl named Chihiro, who is unhappy about moving to a new home and going to a new school. As they drive to their new home, Chihiro’s father becomes lost. The family finds an entryway to a mysterious tunnel, which appears to be an entrance to an abandoned theme park. Chihiro’s parents find food at one of the stalls and help themselves to the meal. Chihiro declines to eat, and goes off to explore more of the park. During her exploration of the park, Chihiro comes across an older boy who warns her she must leave the park before it is dark. Night is quickly falling when she returns to the food stall, only to discover that her parents have turned into pigs. The film follows Chihiro as she learns what she needs to do in order to survive trapped in the spirit world. She also must find a way to return her parents to normal and return to their world.

With Spirited Away, Miyazaki tells a compelling coming of age story as Chihiro begins to change as she goes through her experiences in the spirit world. Miyazaki also successfully combines the fantastical elements of the spirit world with the realism of Chihiro’s maturation. Spirited Away is also filled with memorable characters such as No-Face, Haku, Yubaba, and Boh.

The animation in Spirited Away is breathtaking, and at times, it almost looks realistic. The look of the film adds to its overall atmosphere and helps to enhance the fantastical elements that are included in it. The combination of the storytelling and the animation help to make Spirited Away one of the best films that Studio Ghibli has ever released.

This list represents my personal opinion, it is not meant to be a definitive list of the best Studio Ghibli films of all-time. Which films would be in your personal top five? Let us know in the comments!

Winners of the 9th Annual Seiyu Awards

The organizers of the 9th Annual Seiyu Awards have announced the award winners:

Best Lead Actor Award
Award for best leading performances from an actor during the year
Daisuke Ono
Agency: Mausu Promotion
Roles: Valvrave the Liberator, Sengoku Musou, Durarara!!×2 Sho

Best Lead Actress Award
Award for best leading performances from an actress during the year
Sayaka Kanda
Roles: Frozen, Good Luck Girl!

Most Votes Award
Hiroshi Kamiya
Agency: Aoni Production
Roles: Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, Durarara!!×2 Sho

Best Supporting Actor Award
Award for best supporting performances from an actor during the year
Katsuyuki Konishi
Agency: Ken Production
Roles: Akame ga KILL!, D-Frag!

Toshiyuki Morikawa
Agency: Ken Production
Roles: Naruto Shippuden, Hero Bank

Best Supporting Actress Award
Award for best supporting performances from actresses during the year
Miyuki Sawashiro
Agency: Mausu Produce
Roles: Sword Art Online II, Gekkan Shojo Nozaki-kun

Kana Hanazawa
Agency: Office Osawa
Roles: D-Frag!, Durarara!!×2 Sho

Best New Actor Award
Award for noteworthy performances from an actor who debuted within the last five years
Ryota Ohsaka
Agency: Early Wing
Roles: Hamatora, Valvrave the Liberator

Soma Saito
Agency: 81Produce
Roles: Mysterious Joker, Haikyu!!

Natsuki Hanae
Agency: Across Entertainment
Roles: Nagi no Asukara, Your Lie in April

Best New Actress Award
Award for noteworthy performances from actresses who debuted within the last five years
Sora Amamiya
Agency: Music Ray’n
Roles: Akame ga KILL!, Aldnoah.Zero

Reina Ueda
Agency: 81Produce
Roles: Hanayamata, CROSS ANGE Rondo of Angel and Dragon

Aya Suzaki
Agency: I’m Enterprise
Roles: Tamako Love Story, Kill la Kill

Best Singing Award
Award for singing by a voice actor or actress under own name or in a role
μ’s unit from the Love Live! School idol project franchise

Personality Award
Award for a voice actor or actress that have done notable work in radio, web radio, or TV as a personality, whether under their own name or a character’s.
Daisuke Ono
Hiroshi Kamiya

Merit Awards
Award for the seiyu who have contributed to many genres, including foreign works, over the years
Hiroshi Ohtake
Agency: 81produce
Roles: Cyborg 009‘s Albert Heinrich/004, Kaibutsu-kun Dracula, Paman’s Booby

Fuyumi Shiraishi
Agency: Ken Production
Roles: Cyborg 009‘s Ivan Whiskey/001, Kaibutsu-kun‘s titular character, Mobile Suit Gundam‘s Mirai Yashima

Synergy Award
Award for the work that demonstrated the appeal of voice-acting to the fullest
Yokai Watch
Haruka Tomatsu (Music Rayn)

Kei Tomiyama Award
Award for the male performer who broadens the profession of voice acting in every form of media
Akio Ohtsuka
Agency: Mausu Promotion
Roles: Metal Gear Solid‘s Solid Snake, Regal Bryan in Tales of Symphonia the Animation: Tethe’alla Episode, voice-overs for Antonio Banderas and Steven Seagal in various works

Kazue Takahashi Award
Award for the female performer who broadens the profession of voice acting in every form of media
Gara Takashima
Agency: Haikyo
Roles: Slayers Revolution‘s Gioconda, Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy‘s Hild, voice-overs for Carrie Fisher, Sharon Stone, Julia Roberts in various works

Kids/Family Award
Award selected by children
Etsuko Kozakura
Agency: Little Portal
Roles: Pocchama in Pocket Monsters: Diamond & Pearl, Jibanyan in Yokai Watch, Tamama in Sgt. Frog

Special
Performers, works, or acts that do not fit within a category that deserve commendation
Wake Up, Girls! idol unit (represented by Mayu Yoshioka, Minami Tanaka, Yoshino Aoyama)
Agency: 81produce

Source: ANN

Manga Box Adds That’s life when you’re a woman Manga

DeNA’s free Manga Box smartphone and tablet app is adding Yoshiko Kon’s That’s life when you’re a woman (Onna nanode Shoganai) manga in English.

Manga Box describes the story as:

We are criticized just because we’re women and hurt each other just because we’re women. This is the story of women bound by the pressure of womanhood in love, work, and childbirth, who continue to live on, ragged and ungraceful. Miki Aoki is 31, single, and sick of life, but her slowly building savings balance keeps her going. She’s surrounded by people like her old-fashioned boss who tosses off things like “This is why I hate women” (shut your face) and her fossil of a mother who puts pressure on her, saying things like “So when are you going to get married and have children?” (please stop talking). And then there’s a younger staff member at work with whom she only has superficial relationships (just do your jobs). She could really care less about the lot of it. This is the bitter and sad story of women who live like that, an anthem to cheer on all women.

DeNA launched the app in Japanese and English in December 2013 with 28 titles. Shin Kibayashi, is serving as editor-in-chief of the app. DeNA plans to sell e-books and printed books of the manga published on Manga Box, and also plans “a variety of movie adaptations and merchandise based on the series in collaboration with Dentsu Inc.

Source: ANN

Anime Matsuri Announces Three More Guests

Anime Matsuri has announced that anime director Yasuhiro Yoshiura, animator Atsushi Nishigori, and Sushio will be guests at their next convention.

Yoshiura’s credits include Patema Inverted and Time Of Eve. Nishigori’s credits include Gurren Lagann, Kill la Kill, and Evangelion 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo. Sushio’s credits include Kill la Kill, Digimon Tamers, and Steamboy.

Anime Matsuri will be taking place April 3-5, 2015 in Houston, Texas.

Source: ANN

Premiere Date Announced for Sound! Euphonium

Kyoto Animation has updated the website for its forthcoming television anime adaptation of Ayano Takeda’s novel, Hibike! Euphonium (Sound! Euphonium) with the premiere schedule and a new promotional video.

The premiere schedule for the series is:

  • April 7: Tokyo MX (24:30~), Sun TV (24:30~), KBS Kyoto (24:30~), TV Aichi (25:30~)
  • April 8: BS11 (24:00~)
  • April 10: AT-X (23:00~)

It was also announced that an advance screening event for the first episode will be held at Movix Kyoto in Kyoto-city on March 28, 2015, with the three voice cast: Tomoyo Kurosawa (Kumiko Oumae), Ayaka Asai (Hazuki Kato), Chika Anzai (Reina Kousaka), and the director Tatsuya Ishihara.

I am also embedding the new promotional video below, and I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to view it due to region blocking.

Source: Crunchyroll

Attack On Titan Is the Highest-Ranking Manga Title on BookScan’s Top 20 Graphic Novels of February 2015

Nielsen BookScan’s list of the Top 20 selling graphic novels in the United States for February 2015 only included three manga titles:

  • Attack on Titan Volume 1 by Hajime Isayama (#13)
  • Naruto Volume 68 by Masashi Kishimoto (#16)
  • Akame ga KILL! Volume 1 by Takahiro (#19)

The BookScan rankings represent sales at Barnes & Noble and other book chains, independent bookshops, and online purchases. However, sales at comic book stores, Amazon, Walmart.com, and some other venues are not included.

Source: The Fandom Post

When Marnie Was There Gets a U.S. Release and Dub Cast

GKids has announced that Studio Ghibli’s When Marnie Was There anime film will open in U.S. theaters on May 22, 2015. The initial release will be limited to New York and Los Angeles, but GKids will expand the screening in the following weeks. The official Facebook page for the movie stated that it will announce theater information soon.

GKids also announced that the following actors will star in the English dub: Kiernan Shipka, Grey Griffin, Ava Acres, Raini Roodriguez, Hailee Steinfeld, John C. Reilly, Vanessa Williams, Geena Davis, Kathy Bates, Ellen Burstyn, and Catherine O’Hara.

GKids describes the story as:

When shy, artistic Anna moves to the seaside to live with her aunt and uncle, she stumbles upon an old mansion surrounded by marshes, and the mysterious young girl, Marnie, who lives there. The two girls instantly form a unique connection and friendship that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. As the days go by, a nearly magnetic pull draws Anna back to the Marsh House again and again, and she begins to piece together the truth surrounding her strange new friend.

When Marnie Was There adapts Joan G. Robinson’s classic English children’s novel of the same name. In his second film, director Hiromasa Yonebayashi has changed the setting from the novel’s Great Britain to a Japanese village on the shores of Hokkaido. Yonebayashi wrote the screenplay with Keiko Niwa and Masashi Ando. Ando also handled the character designs and animation direction. Takatsugu Muramatsu composed the film’s soundtrack.

The film first premiered in North America at The New York International Children’s Film Festival (NYICFF) in February 2015.

Source: ANN