When people hear Studio Ghibli, generally the first thought that comes to mind is that of a mystical, fantasy, emotional and heartwarming story. A tale of young girls and boys, the challenges they face and overcoming them. However, there are also tales woven together by Studio Ghibli which don’t necessarily end happily or provoke that heartwarming feeling. Instead, they create a rollercoaster of emotion that is generally heartwrenching. Here are the most heartwarming and the most heartwrenching Studio Ghibli films!
Let’s start with one of the most well-known films, which is called Grave of the Fireflies. This film revolves around World War II and its effects on the families left behind in the devastation of war. It follows the story of two siblings named Setsuko and her older brother Seita and their struggles to survive following the loss of both of their parents. Their father went to war and never came home and their mother perished from severe injuries caused by bombings.
The reason this film is so heartwrenching is the strong content of wartime and the constant struggles faced by the two siblings. I won’t ruin the ending for those who haven’t seen it but if you are interested in wartime history, this film is a pretty accurate portrayal. Grave of the Fireflies was also adapted into a live action film as well but that one does differ slightly in parts simply due to differences between the animation and adapting it into real life. This film will make you cry both during the happy moments and the sad ones. It is a film that I have only been able to watch once but has left a lasting impression on me.
The next film is one of the newest and reportedly one of the last real Studio Ghibli films to have been produced with Hayao Miyazaki’s input, called When Marnie Was There. The story focuses on a girl named Anna who is struggling with the idea of who her real family is and finding her own identity because of it. She meets a strange girl named Marnie and the two quickly form a close bond as the story evolves. While this film ends on a happier note than the film mentioned above, it will still have you crying along with Anna and in general has a way of drawing you fully into the story. Even though it is new, When Marnie Was There had a lot of time invested into it. This really does show in how it grabs your attention and keep you focused on the happy moments, the scary moments and of course the sad moments.
Let’s turn things around and start with a well-known classic – My Neighbor Totoro. This is a film that is known even by those who aren’t all that familiar with Ghibli or not familiar with them all! My Neighbor Totoro is classified as one of the main films created by the company and is a completely heartwarming work from start to finish.
Now, for those who have seen the film, you know that there is a small bit in it that will get your heart racing in fear. Other than that small fraction of the film, it is the perfect example of childhood curiosity and innocence as well as the strong bonds that exist between families and on a larger scale humans and nature. There are so many reasons that make this a heartwarming story to watch, including my absolute favourite scene, when Totoro roars out his name. It just makes me smile every time.
The other film that is among the most heartwarming Studio Ghibli films, would have to be Kiki’s Delivery Service. It’s a film that shows how hard it is to find your own way in life and how we all need the courage to pick ourselves up and push forward, even when we feel lost.
Kiki is a young witch who is starting a journey to find out more about the world around her and about herself. She faces some challenges along the way, but she manages to make new friends and family. As a result, she begins to live a happy life being true to herself while she is away from home. This classic tale is heartwarming because many people who have faced similar things during adolescence and into their young adulthood can relate to its story. It proves that even when things seem tough, there is always another option and it’s encouraging to see a young heroine face these challenges head on.
So what is your favourite heartwarming or heartwrenching Ghibli film? Some readers might agree with me and others might have a different opinion, but they are opinions I’d love to hear. Studio Ghibli is my favourite animation company (even more so than Disney) and I’m hopeful there will still be more wonderful films produced Studio Ghibli for many years to come.