Top 5... - July 13, 2015

The Tale of Princess Kaguya (and five of the best films from Studio Ghibli)
by James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor,

The Tale of Princess Kaguya (and five of the best films from Studio Ghibli)

Founded in 1985 by directors Hayao Miyuzaki and Isao Takahata, along with producer Toshio Suzuki, Studio Ghibli has been making beautiful and unique films for three decades now and its charming and imaginative animations have earned the studio a loyal and dedicated fanbase.

Sadly though, at the time of writing, the studio's future still seems uncertain. When Hayao Miyuzaki announced his retirement in 2014 he gave a television interview in Japan stating that he did not think Studio Ghibli would be making any more feature films. Initially this was blamed on a mistranslation, but since then he has repeated the claim and others from the studio seem pessimistic about the idea of any new feature films coming from Studio Ghibli, and indeed the idea of pencil and paper animations in general.

All of this means that there are only two more completed films from the studio that have yet to find their way onto DVD and Blu-ray and, though we sincerely hope this isn't the case, they may be the studio's last. One of these is the studio's adaptation of the children's book When Marnie Was There, released in cinemas last year and yet to be given a confirmed home entertainment release. However, the other – Isao Takahata's superb The Tale of Princess Kaguya – arrives this week.

Winning an Academy nomination for Best Animated Feature Film, Takahata's film was eight years in the making and the English version boasts a voice cast that includes Chloe Grace-Moretz as the titular princess, alongside James Caan, Lucy Liu, Mary Steenburgen, Beau Bridges and James Marsden, among others.

The film, based on an old Japanese folk tale, tells the story of a tiny young girl who is discovered inside a bamboo cane by an old bamboo cutter and his wife. The finger-sized girl grows rapidly into a young woman and when the bamboo cutter also finds valuable items like gold and silk robes in the same bamboo forest, he becomes convinced she is a princess. Deciding that their life in the country is not suitable for her, they move her to the city where she is taught how to behave like a princess, although Kaguya is not so impressed with the prim and proper ways she is taught and feels that life should be full of laughter and struggle.

When the Emperor takes a romantic interest, Kaguya is reluctant and soon reveals the truth about her origins and how she came to be in the bamboo forest. To say any more would be to reveal too much about the film's plot, but this really is a special film and if you're new to Studio Ghibli's films, this is as good a place as any to start falling in love with them.

You can find the trailer for The Tale of Princess Kaguya below and underneath we've picked five of our favourite films from the unique Japanese studio (Each of them is also available to purchase from our online store by clicking on the title). Enjoy...

Castle in the Sky

It all started here in 1986 with Studio Ghibli's first feature film, directed by Hayao Miyuzaki and produced by Isao Takahata. Originally in Japanese, and English dubbed version was released in 2005 and includes the voices of Mark Hamill, Anna Pacquin, James Van Der Beek and Cloris Leachman.

The story centres a boy named Pazu who discovers a girl, Sheeta, mysteriously floating down from the sky into his mining village. Sheeta is an inhabitant of the last floating city, built by an earlier civilisation but all thought to be destroyed, except for one, although nobody has ever seen it. Pazu is keen to explore as his grandfather, a pilot, had claimed to have seen the city inside a thunderstorm, but the pair's adventure in the clouds soon puts them both in danger.


Grave of the Fireflies

Isao Takahata's 1988 film is based on the semi-autobiographical short story by Akiyuki Nosaka. Set during the last months of the Second World War, the film tells the story of a brother and sister struggling to survive the war. When most of their village is destroyed by fire after heavy bombing, the pair stay with their increasingly mean aunt who becomes resentful at feeding them as war rations are depleted, forcing them to loot homes for food during air raids.

Of all of the films Ghibli has produced of the years, Grave of the Fireflies is still one of the most moving animations they've ever created.


Kiki's Delivery Service

Miyazaki's 1989 film tells the story of Kiki, a 13-year-old who leaves home to train to be a witch and uses her new broomstick flying abilities to provide a delivery service for a local baker, in exchange for somewhere to stay. She is invited to a party by a young aviation-obsessed boy named Tombo, but clashes with his friends and becomes depressed. To make matters worse, she discovers she has lost her ability to fly and has to suspend her delivery service, but then an airship accident puts Tombo in danger and Kiki has to find a way to regain her powers to save him before its too late.

The director has said that the film is about the difference between the traditional and restrictive way that Japanese girls are taught to behave, and the increasing desire for independence among young Japanese women. The English version includes voices from Phil Hartman and Kirsten Dunst.


Porco Rosso

First released in 1992, Porco Rosso tells the story of an Italian ex-WWI fighter pilot name Marco, now making his living as a bounty hunter in the post-war years. Hiwever, after becoming the lone survivor of an airborne battle he blacks out and wakes to find that a curse has transformed him into a pig, earning the nickname 'Porco Rosso', or 'red pig'.

Porco finds himself the target of a jealous American pilot named Curtis after they both fall in love with the same girl, Gina. Curtis claims to have shot Porco's plane down and killed him, but he survives and returns to fight one last duel for the prize of Gina's hand in marriage.


Spirited Away

We've saved the best for last here and of all the films Studio Ghibli has produced, Spirited Away has been by far the most successful. Winning an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film and overtaking Titanic as Japan's biggest box office hit, the film is one of the most imaginative the studio has produced and tells the tale of a girl who accidentally wanders into a strange world of gods, where humans – including her parents - are turned into animals. She takes a job in a bathhouse and sets about finding a way to free herself and her parents from the sprit world and return to Earth. If you only watch one film on this list, make it this one – we promise you'll want to watch more when you're done.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

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