Lift your spirits during lockdown: Studio Ghibli

With coronavirus keeping us all stuck indoors, binging Netflix and catching up on movies has become the perfect way to pass the extra time. But by now, you may be starting to run out of good new titles to see, and the boredom is creeping in. Don’t worry, because Studio Ghibli is here to save the day. These beautifully hand-drawn Japanese animations are the perfect watch, sure to capture your attention and captivate your imagination. What’s more, their wholesome messages will leave you feeling uplifted and hopeful, something we definitely need during these uncertain times. So, here are 5 of my favourite Ghibli movies (that you need to watch), which can all be found on Netflix.

“So beautiful! One of my favourite Studio Ghibli films”- Izzy Burnett (SAS senior)

For those who are new to Ghibli, I recommend you start with Ponyo. As amazing as they are, Ghibli’s films do have a heavy Japanese cultural influence, meaning that some may find the crazier ones a bit too weird as their first watch. Ponyo is definitely one of their easier and lighter films. Featuring a princess of the sea — Ponyo — who is also a goldfish, we witness her evolution throughout the film. She uses magic and determination to turn herself human and join her newly-made friend on the surface. But this ambition doesn’t come without consequence, as she unknowingly causes all sorts of natural disasters and revives ancient sea life that have been extinct for millions of years. 

“This is one of the cutest movies I’ve ever seen”- Saskia Vuijk (SAS senior)  

Castle in the Sky is a timeless story of good vs evil, as the story’s protagonists struggle to evade pirates and the military, and search for a floating city full of treasure and great power. As Ghibli studio’s first ever film, the simple story is nonetheless packed with action, chases, and plot twists. The two main characters Sheeta and Patsu are orphans who find each other and grow together as the film evolves, fighting for each other against various forces and succeeding despite the odds. This film brings you into an amazing world with gravity-defying flying ships, giant powerful robots, and a mysterious glowing amulet. It leaves you wondering if somewhere, beyond the clouds, these strange and beautiful lands might truly exist.

An academy award winner, Spirited away is by far one of Ghibli’s best films and my personal favourite. 10 year old Chihiro accidentally becomes transported into the spirit world, and has to hide to survive. With the help of Haku, a mysterious spirit, she learns to fit in and manages to stay safe. The morals of this movie teach kindness and forgiveness, as Chihiro’s good deeds transform selfish and manipulative spirits who want to use her into honest and true friends who protect her. Throughout the story all of the characters grow as they learn to overcome their self-doubt and faults, implying that people’s bad deeds really stem from their fears and shedding light on the value of giving second-chances. With imagination bursting from every element of this movie, it absorbs you into an amazing alternate world. That being said, this creativity contains some weird and scary parts, so it’s important to keep an open mind.

“So beautiful! One of my favourite Studio Ghibli films”- Izzy Burnett (SAS senior)

Another one of Ghibli’s most loved movies, Howl’s Moving Castle is a masterpiece. It takes you on a journey through a war-torn world as its characters grow and find themselves amidst the chaos. Its main character Sophie is a humble young girl who becomes cursed, turning her into an old woman. Only Howl, a powerful (and stylish) wizard can help to lift the spell and return her to her original body. She joins him in his magical walking castle with their companions, traveling through beautiful scenery and transporting them to new lands. As Sophie and Howl go on their journey, you begin to wonder who is really saving who in this touching story of friendship and love. 

“It’s such a sweet story and it’s so creative”- Lily

Totoro may be one of Ghibli’s best-known movies, with its adorable fluffy characters considered as the studio’s most famous mascots. This wholesome story is shown from the perspective of two young children, highlighting the happiness that can come from the simple things in life. Moving into a new house to be closer to their hospitalized mother, the two sisters have to have hope and find courage as they adjust to life without her and learn how to take care of themselves. What’s more, they discover that they’re not alone in their new home, and are sharing the land with a number of forest spirits. As they befriend them and go on nighttime adventures together, they find their own strength and learn to embrace this difficult period in their lives.

Arguably some of the best animated films of our time, Studio Ghibli set themselves apart from the rest with their powerful characters and their heartfelt stories. They show us that you don’t need to be a superhero to save the day, as true strength comes from choosing to be kind and compassionate during scary times. They urge us to see the best in people and teach us to appreciate the little things. As our current world state grows more and more uncertain, their lessons are especially valuable to us now, more than ever. 

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