So I really, really, really dig Studio Ghibli.
In the past, I was mainly a Pixar dude. But my brother said a few months back that he thinks Ghibli is better than Pixar, I think I've shared that feeling that way for the past year or so as well.
Anyway, Ghibli. Home of masterful animation and enchanting stories. Founded by director Isao Takahata, producer Toshio Suzuki and director Hayao Miyazaki. While Miyazaki is often praised as the single godlike face of Ghibli, the studio wouldn't be anywhere without the other two either. Ghibli has had about 7 feature directors on their stuff. 4 recurring, 3 one-timers (though the late Yoshifumi Kondo had signed for another before he died). An incredibly hard-working team based on pure integrity and imagination.
At this stage I only have The Cat Returns, The Wind Rises, and The Tale of Princess Kaguya left to watch. For the ones I have seen, I'll give them rough rankings and provide quick, poorly-written blurbs. I know there are a few Ghibli fans here and it would be cool to see some opinions and lists. I'm including Nausicca too. So this list is loosely ranked because I feel so strongly about them at different times. Really, a lot of it is interchangeable.
Also, before you read this, you should realise this is just me heaping on praise for a thousand words.1. Princess Mononoke
An epic adventure which draws heavily from old Japan and forges its own mythical identity, which remains unmatched in quality and depth. A number of interesting and likable characters are present (except San maybe), especially Lady Eboshi who is arguably one of the most complex characters in the Ghibli Canon. The finest action-adventure there is.2. Spirited Away
An enchanting folk fairytale, beautifully created. Absolutely delightful. A typically fantastic score by Joe Hisaishi. Brimming with originality. Hyperbole, hyperbole. This one scores high points on its setting alone. Like other Ghibli films, it features a young female protagonist coming to terms with the events around her as well as her own nature. There have been few film worlds rendered with such individuality and visual brilliance as Spirited Away. 3. Porco Rosso
Lean and fun. While it features the typical Miyazaki charm, Porco Rosso features more serious thematic power to it than it first appears. While Porco is a cool badass, his character is informed by some serious happenings. The ring of pilots sequence maybe one of the most powerful moments in a Ghibli film. It features all the classic hallmarks of Ghibli films and can be experienced as pure entertainment or something deeper.4. My Neighbours the Yamadas
My personal favourite from Isao Takahata. Different from other Ghibli works, it does not follow a typical plot, it explores middle-class Japanese family life in the form of vignettes. Sharp and very funny, it really puts across the absurdity and wonder of family life. A fantastic selection of characters. Like most of Takahata's works, the whole spectrum of emotion is felt throughout the experience. It's one of the most visually different and gorgeous Ghibli films.5. Kiki's Delivery Service
A charming and heartwarming film about a young witch finding herself. There is no antagonist, no opposing force to the main character. It's just about self-discovery. This is another Miyazaki work where one simply just falls in love with the setting. There is just something so warm and loving about this film.6. Howl's Moving Castle
Pure over-the-top Ghibli magic which is endlessly entertaining. The writing doesn't maintain its high quality towards the end but it doesn't even matter much as the execution is so superb and sincere. The English dub for this one is fantastic. Miyazaki at his most extravagant.7. Only Yesterday
One of Takahata's adult dramas. A film that feels so real and honest. There's a sad sense of nostalgia throughout the film- the sense of a confusing and disconnected childhood or the feeling of looking back on the happy moments from so long ago. Also present is the uncertainty and confusion of adult life. The back and forth between the protagonist's present day life and her childhood past works well, especially with the distinction between art styles (ultra-realistic for present day and slightly stylised and washed out for the past). A sensitive and beautiful film.8. Castle in the Sky
An ultra-compelling action adventure which features a great blend of humour and intense action. One of the few Ghibli films with a conventional antagonist. Fantastically structured and paced. Another great show of world-building as well, from the small towns etched into cliff-sides to Laputa itself.9. Grave of the Fireflies
The most sombre and serious of Ghibli's films. Takahata claims that it isn't an anti-war film but the effect is undeniable. It's difficult to watch the despair and death these children face as their relationship and their actions are rendered with such a sense of truth and reality. Seeing the spirits of the children bathed in the red glow may be one of the most haunting things I've ever seen on screen.10. My Neighbour Totoro
A delightful film speaks for Ghibli as a brand and as an idea better than any other. Another Ghibli film where the drama is light or mostly amps up near the end. Much of enjoyment is felt in exploring and feeling the environment that is portrayed which such love and detail. Lovely characters and a pleasant setting. It actually improves on subsequent viewings. Great atmosphere, aided both by the art and Hisaishi's great score.11. From Up on Poppy Hill
Goro Miyazaki proves that he is a worthy successor to masters Miyazaki and Takahata by delivering his post-war drama From Up on Poppy Hill. The film is done in a formal style, full of restraint and elegance- somewhat like Ozu's work (I'm pretty sure I saw some pillow shots too!). The story takes a surprising twist at the midpoint which puts the relationship of the two main characters into question but the film resolves itself in a mostly satisfying way. This film makes me excited about the future of Goro Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.12. The Wind Rises
Hayao Miyazaki's final feature film, a meaningful and mature addition to the Ghibli canon. The film brings together many of Miyazaki's interests as well as aspects of his personal life, to create a film which feels original and touching. There is a sort of finality to the work but also a sense of hope, the urge to continue living, an idea which is central to the film. The film, while decidedly taking on a different approach to Miyazaki's earlier works, still feels distinctly Miyazaki. He even manages to incorporate a fantastical element to the film, which in no way detracts from the straightforward realism. Above all, I admire the way the film evolves into a true love story, because it feels heartfelt and it's handled differently to all other Ghibli films. I don't think Miyazaki could have finished his career with a more appropriate film.13. Whisper of the Heart
The only directorial effort by Ghibli veteran Yoshifumi Kondo, who unfortunately died 3 years after its release. Whisper of the Heart is a drama which stays rooted in reality but the story itself is wonderful. The protagonist of the film is unique and prone to self-doubt, leading her to be quite an interesting central figure. The film features that typical Ghibli pleasantness which makes the actual emotional nature of the film even more powerful. There is a romantic element film to this film but it does not take the main stage as it focuses its attention on other ideas such as the will to prove oneself and the need to find an identity, making it a thematically rich feature. John Denver makes things a little awkward though.14. Ponyo
Arguably the cutest Ghibli film. Pure entertainment that presents its themes at a kid-friendly level. The rise in drama isn’t entirely compelling but the focus on the colourful characters and the story-world is largely appealing. Visually stunning.15. Pom Poko
Takahata's foray into fantasy, something more commonly associated with Miyazaki's works. Despite its superficially happy styling, this one has some dark themes and implications to it. In terms of the fantastic, it's clear that Takahata can stand up to Miyazaki. There's a central sequence in this film which is almost absurd with how brilliant it is, easily one of the best Ghibli fantasy sequences. This, like all of Takahata's films, demonstrates his range and willingness to experiment- he takes far greater risks than Miyazaki. The story is told in a fairly interesting manner, the sense of community to the events and the focus on a number of different characters makes it distinct. It's also the most bizarre Ghibli work, you won't see more magic scrotums in any other animated film.16. Nausicaa of the Valley of The Wind
Solid action fare. A favourite of most Ghibli fans but I think Miyazaki has greatly surpassed this film- heck, he surpassed it on his next project (Castle in the Sky). Miyazaki was already accomplished by this stage but I feel he was still a little undeveloped here. This is a serious work and it shows the beginnings of 'True Ghibli Miyazaki'. Almost seems like this could share the same universe as Castle in the Sky. Though I have not read it myself, I hear the Manga is the more accomplished version of the story.17. Ocean Waves
This is probably the most unheard of Ghibli film. Made for TV by Ghibli's younger staff, it's a short drama focussed on a few highschool students. It’s a surprisingly mature effort, I wish it could have been longer. It really depicts how confusing love can be and how we can't even understand how we truly see and feel about people. Probably the most grounded of Ghibli's work. The visual style is realistic, light and appealing and it is complemented by a unique soundtrack. People are complicated.18. The Secret World of Arrietty
Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s first directorial effort. Visually perfect. A somewhat weak screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa but it's interesting enough. It's very clear that Yonebayashi could do something incredible with a stronger, more daring script supporting him. A modest but enjoyable adventure. 19. Tales of Earthsea
Goro Miyazaki's first attempt at the directing job without any prior experience. It almost works. There is no doubting the level of quality in the craft but the film becomes rather disengaging as it continues. It's disappointing, as the early parts of the journey are greatly intriguing. It hints at a stunning world and a grand adventure but for half of the film we're bogged down at a farm and a grey castle. The characters aren't particularly interesting and the protagonist is a very, very confused and confusing lad. Far too on the nose at times.
I'll be updating this thread with all Ghibli-related stuff except trivial lame merch (unless it's really, really cool).
-add Kaguya atsp.