Across the River

One of my favorite scenes from Spirited Away, and there are many of those! Small Chihiro standing in a wide, empty street of the apparently abandoned theme park makes good use of contrast, and shows just how big a world she finds herself in, especially once night falls.

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Wolf Princess

When it comes to favorite Ghibli leads, San from Princess Mononoke has to be near the top of my list. She absolutely commands the screen whenever she appears. As fearless as San is though, she still has a softer side, revealed only to those she is closest to and trusts.

I also have a fabric wall scroll with this exact image on it, and it’s one of my most treasured anime related items.

The Girl Who Chases Cats

In the vast Ghibli catalogue, the small-scale slice-of-life tale Whisper of the Heart is one of my favorites. Well, I pretty much like every Ghibli film, but this one enjoys a spot closer to the top of my list.

As such, Shizuku earns a spot near the top of my favorite Ghibli leads list. Sure, she’s not saving the world from Ohmu or angry forest sprits, but is rather just a normal middle-school girl trying to sort out her life and dreams while growing up. Still, she is charming and the whole range of her emotions are explored in the film. In fact, on my most recent rewatch during my Ghibli chronology, her struggles reminded me a lot of a certain witch-in-training. It’s little wonder that Whisper of the Heart moves me in much the same way that Kiki’s Delivery Service does.

Feisty, Fearless Fio

When it comes to picking favorite characters from the Ghibli roster, it’s just about impossible, because they all are great in their own way. Fio Piccolo from Porco Rosso is another standout for me, though. Fio also has a special place for me because she is also one of my favorite engineers in anime (and video games), with the likes of Kohran Li (Sakura Wars), Skuld (Ah! My Goddess), and Lucca (Chrono Trigger).

The film may be named after its part-porcine protagonist, but Fio has equal share of the spotlight in Porco Rosso, since without her aviation design and engineering expertise (at the age of seventeen!), The Crimson Pig wouldn’t have gotten very far.

Miss Witch

A town with an ocean view

Out of Studio Ghibli’s vast catalogue, Kiki’s Delivery Service is near the top of my favorites list, and is the film I would recommend for anyone not familiar with Ghibli and might be wondering where to start. I think it strikes a good balance between the more whimsical stories and the more dramatic ones, not going too far in either direction, but having enough of each to be a well-rounded film.

Kiki herself is unsurprisingly one of my favorite Ghibli leads. She is determined and hard-working, but also charming and cute. As she tries to forge her own path in the world at age thirteen, you can’t help but want to see her succeed through all the ups and downs – literally and figuratively. Her cat Jiji is also a constant source of amusement.

For me, Kiki’s Delivery Service really reaffirmed its status on my latest rewatch, which was several years after the last time I saw it. I actually had emotional responses to several scenes of the film, which I don’t think even happened in the past. This was significant to me because lately many films (or shows) haven’t been able to draw those kinds of responses from me even when they have in the past. My emotions haven’t been completely closed off, after all!

And those are just a few of the reasons that Kiki’s Delivery Service will always hold a special place for me.

The Path of Wind

My Neighbor Totoro is one of Hayao Miyazaki’s most famous films, and with good reason. It is a tale of childhood wonder and joy, and is capable of brightening any day. It also has a fantastic score by Joe Hisaishi, including one of my favorite pieces of music in the entire Ghibli catalogue: “The Path of Wind”.

vocals by the Suginami Children’s Choir

Fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies is one of Studio Ghibli’s finest achievements. Despite its esteemed place in cinema history – animated or otherwise – it can be a very difficult film to watch.

Setting the tone for this beautiful film is an equally beautiful score by Michio Mamiya. If you are familiar with the film, the main theme “Fireflies” will transport you back to the film’s world and all the feelings that go along with it. Hope and tragedy go hand in hand, and this music captures it perfectly.