Now that we have entered into the second year of Covid, the enthusiasm of newly introduced terms such as ‘Social-distancing’, ‘Self-Isolation’ etc and practicing them has worn off. Yes, we can’t go catch a meal with our friends or have fresh air outside to curb the spread of the pandemic. But, being able to have fun and find peace on your own is what the days of Covid have been teaching us, ain’t it?
As far as finding peace and calming your nerves is concern, the world of Hayao Miyazaki can pave the way if you are into animation. I can already visualize some sparkling eyes waiting for the name “Studio Ghibli’ to be taken!
Founded in 1985, Studio Ghibli is the Japanese version of Walt Disney. These Ghibli movies will take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Every film will make you feel flipping through a world of magic and mystery.
As we were talking about tranquility, the soul of Ghibli movies is neither the climax segments nor the ‘happily ever after’ scenes. What brings these movies so close to our hearts is the quiet moments. The moments when the Sakura leaves are falling down, when there are some household chores going on, when the spring birds are chirping or when there is just a heartwarming piece of nature with the city lights.
Narrowing down the movies you can watch to ease you down, however, is a bit of a challenge as all of these animated classics are my go-to favorites. Still, here goes the 5 Ghibli picks you can easily find on Netflix or HBO Max!
The Academy Award winner movie, Spirited Away, is where mother nature and humans come face to face. This movie is a jaw-dropping combination of daydream and nightmare. In the prologue, you will see one’s parents turning into pigs in an abandoned park by devouring the food of gods and this is where the mysteries start sprouting up. That poor ‘one’ is Chihiro, a lost girl, and this movie features her quest to get her parents back. This movie takes place in a strangely alluring park, which is magically possessed and full of bizarre creatures around. Ghostly scenes, multi-hued landscapes, quirky creatures, and the godly nature in the movie won’t allow you to blink for a second. This movie is a colorful escape into the universe of pure imagination.
Whisper of the Heart
Remember, we were talking about the quiet moments earlier? This is the movie full of those moments when you will pause the movie and imbibe every detail. Unlike other imaginative fantasies of Studio Ghibli, Whisper of the Heart stays grounded and takes place in a rustic setting. It tells a coming-of-age story of a different kind this time. The picturesque scenery of busy Tokyo city, Japanese culture, humans connecting through art, and searching for the meaning of life together – the coexistence of these throughout the movie will make you go A-ha! I hate to mention it, but, Whisper of the Heart is an underrated classic and when you are done watching, follow it up with the film’s sequel, The Cat Returns.
My Neighbor Totoro
Miyazaki never fails to portray a mundane world blending in three realms of the universe: human, nature and, supernatural entities. The pre-eminence of spirituality and untamed wilderness will compel you to rethink about being more empathetic towards the relationship among these three vital forces. Set in a pastoral backdrop, My Neighbor Totoro is a fable of two younger siblings meeting the titular wood spirit, Totoro. Befriending forest spirit, they only can see – these little girls discover layers of a world where magic meets reality. You must have seen this cuddly monster as the symbol of Studio Ghibli movies or at plush toy stores. This movie is an imaginary world through children’s eyes but beneath the simplicity, you’ll find depths of wisdom.
According to some critics, loosely adapted from The Little Mermaid, Ponyo is named after the daughter of the sea. This movie will sweep your mind to an ecstatic reverie. An aquatic creature, Ponyo finds her friend, a 5 years old boy, on the land and the bright splashes of magical moments start popping up on the screen. Ponyo is originally a goldfish princess and when she shifts from the ocean, the harmony of the natural world gets disrupted. You will see swift switches between magic and tragedy in this film. The intersection of ocean spirit and human land is beautifully depicted keeping the scenes emotionally intensifying.
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Directed by the co-founder of the Ghibli Studio, Isao Takahata kept the production house’s heritage high by adapting ‘Taketori Monogatari’, a 10th-century Japanese folk tale. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, an otherworldly masterpiece, will smoothly delve you into a world of pure beauty and sanity. Brace yourself to enter a hand-drawn world of Japanese countryside full of cherry blossoms, idiosyncratic culture, and melancholy. The story commences with a bamboo cutter discovering a tiny baby girl in a hollow intermodal stem. This movie runs at a slow-burning rhythm and unwraps mysteries of the Kaguya-Hime (the Shining Princess).
Amid this pandemic, you will surely sense a serenity connecting to the spirituality of these awe-inspiring movies. Allow me to name some more feel-good masterpieces of Ghibli, such as Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbors the Yamadas, The Secret World of Arrietty, From Up on Poppy Hill, etc. Keeping your monotonous lockdown diary aside, enter into the world of rousting adventure!
So, you ready with the popcorn bowl or not?