Studio Ghibli finds a new home on Netflix
In Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbor Totoro, a pair of siblings find friendship with a giant rabbit-like spirit creature by the name of Totoro.

Studio Ghibli finds a new home on Netflix

MORE ADVENTUROUS - Fiel Estrella (The Philippine Star) - February 1, 2020 - 12:00am

I didn’t become a conscious Studio Ghibli fan until I was 20, when my creative writing professor showed us Whisper of the Heart one day in class. I remember getting the shivers as soon as the starlit cityscape appeared onscreen, Olivia Newton-John’s version of Take Me Home, Country Roads suddenly making me want to cry because it was haunting in the best way.

My professor had probably shown it to us to teach us about character development, or just so we would be inspired to write the next great story. (I know I definitely was.) It had everything: literature nerds, wooing, violins, cats, even a story-within-a-story. There was slice of life and magical realism. I fell for — and felt for — the characters fumbling toward their dreams, growing up, and each other, bonding over library books and music.

I went home that day and gave it five stars in the little notebook I was keeping as a film journal. Then I watched every other Studio Ghibli film I could get my hands on. 

It wasn’t all that easy for me to find or access them — a problem that has been solved, as all 21 films from the studio will soon be available to stream globally on Netflix, with the first seven added on Feb. 1. To make them even more accessible, the movies will be subtitled in 28 languages, and dubbed in up to 20 languages.

The Ghibli movies aren’t obvious childhood staples to me the way Disney classics have been, but sometimes I wish I’d grown up with them. I have flashes of Howl’s Moving Castle being part of the nightly 7:30 movie slate of my favorite kids’ channel, and Totoro is an institution in and of himself, but I didn’t quite appreciate them fully — as an adult, though, I find myself moved over and over again by the detailed and quaint animation styles, the stories of belonging in found family and found selves, the beautiful soundtracks, even the ASMR-worthy food.

It’s powerful and terribly endearing stuff; wholesome and ageless, limitless in its appeal — which is exactly what makes it great for reaching new generations of fans. Of the partnership with Netflix, Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki said, “In this day and age, there are various great ways a film can reach audiences. We’ve listened to our fans and have made the definitive decision to stream our film catalogue. We hope people around the world will discover the world of Studio Ghibli through this experience.”

The first batch of Studio Ghibli titles on Netflix will include its first title, the 1986 fantasy-adventure Castle in the Sky, which was directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki whose name is practically synonymous with the studio. Also included are My Neighbor Totoro, about a pair of siblings who make friends with a giant rabbit-like spirit creature, and Kiki’s Delivery Service, a coming-of-age tale about a witch in training. There’s Porco Rosso, about an ace pilot cursed to look like an anthropomorphic pig, and Tales from Earthsea, about strange occurrences in a mythical land. For stories more grounded in reality, there’s Only Yesterday, about a young office worker who takes a trip to the countryside, and finally Ocean Waves, about high schoolers trying to navigate friendship, attraction, and their nearing future.

Other favorites like Oscar winner Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, From Up on Poppy Hill, and, yes, Whisper of the Heart will be added in the coming months — making the guaranteed joy of discovering and rediscovering them easier than ever. (But let’s hope that my creative writing professor is still out there, showing Ghibli movies in class and changing lives in such a way.)

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