As the streaming giant adds the final batch of Studio Ghibli features to its platform, we suggest which ones to prioritise in your queue
It being April 1st, the arrival of seven previously unavailable-to-stream Studio Ghibli films sounds like the stuff of an April Fool's prank, and yet… it's true: Netflix have dropped the studio's remaining features onto their streaming platform as of today, meaning all twenty-one of their brilliant gems are now available for your relentless viewing pleasure. It's the stuff of self-isolating miracles! Here we break down the latest Netflix additions to arrive from legendary Japanese studio, ranked from the good to the truly essential…
7. From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)
As the son of legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki, Gorō Miyazaki (somewhat begrudgingly) directed a number of features for the studio – this is one of them. Though it doesn't come close to anything in his dad's canon, the post-Korean war-themed From Up on Poppy Hill trumps his previous Tales from Earthsea by quite a margin. Yet it also has a somewhat odd love story, and is missing what you might call that “Ghibli magic.” Worth a watch, but not a classic.
6. When Marnie Was There (2014)
Based on a British children's book by Joan G. Robinson, When Marnie Was There follows the adventures of a girl named Anna Sasaki, who travels to the Kushiro wetlands in Japan's Hokkaido region to stay with relatives. There she encounters the titular Marnie, a girl who possesses some uncomfortable secrets about her own life. Thematically this is quite a bold film, with one of the strangest tones in the Ghibli canon. Interesting, if a bit frustrating.
5. Pom Poko (1994)
Isao Takahata, the other great animation genius who helped to make Studio Ghibli the institution it is today, directed this amusing comic caper about Japanese raccoon dogs going up against pesky real estate agents. On the surface it seems quite silly, but the film actually has a lot to say beneath its wacky exterior. Pom Poko couldn't be further from a Miyazaki film in tone, but thematically it deals with much of the same subject matter as the ecologically-minded Princess Mononoke. Namely, treat the planet with respect, won't you?
4. Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
Another Ghibli animation based on the work of a British children's author, Howl's Moving Castle finds a young girl named Sophie on a rollicking steampunk adventure after she's transformed into an old woman. Had it come from basically any other filmmaker, Howl's Moving Castle would be considered a masterpiece. For Hayao Miyazaki, it's a minor work – especially when compared to the likes of Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. It's beautifully animated and there are memorable characters in abundance; but there is something missing in the execution and storytelling. Maybe because it's based on an existing property?
3. Whisper of the Heart (1995)
Yoshifumi Kondo, well on his way to becoming “the new Miyazaki,” only got the chance to direct one Ghibli movie before he died from a brain aneurysm at the young age of 47. Whisper of the Heart, his only completed feature, was good enough to cement his legacy, though. It tells the charming coming-of-age tale of a young girl who dreams of becoming a writer. It's a lovely piece of work with a beautifully-realised world, and a film that utilises John Denver's classic tune “Take Me Home, Country Roads” to great, sentimental effect.
2. Ponyo (2011)
Loosely based on The Little Mermaid, Ponyo just might be Miyazaki's most plainly joyful cinematic experience, telling the adorable story of a fish who becomes human and, uh, goes in pursuit of ham? It's more child-friendly than most of his works, comparable to his own My Neighbour Totoro, whilst its titular character is about as adorable as Miyazaki heroes come. As one would expect, the animation is absolutely gorgeous, and the sea – endlessly vibrant and detailed – is teeming with life. It's impossible to watch this without grinning from ear to ear.
1. The Wind Rises (2015)
Upon screening The Wind Rises for his staff, Hayao Miyazaki admitted it was the only one of his films to have ever made him cry – which kind of says it all. By far his most thematically ambitious and adult-orientated film, it's also his most personal. Inspired by the story of Jiro Horikoshi, a gifted engineer whose beautifully designed planes were harnessed as instruments of war, was also based on a similar plight faced by Miyazaki's own father – another plane obsessive. Miyazaki has spent much of his life struggling with the juxtaposition of planes as pieces of art and as killing machines. You can feel his thoughtful touch within every frame of this quietly affecting, anti-war masterpiece.