On January 20th, 2020 Netflix made the
announcement to the world that they had acquired exclusive worldwide streaming
rights to the Studio Ghibli film library – unless you lived in Canada, Japan or
the U.S. (where the upcoming HBO Max will host the catalogue).
Ghibli fans around the world celebrated the arrival of the
beloved Japanese animation studios’ timeless collection of films that have
enchanted audiences since the mid-1980s.
The works of the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata,
Yoshifumi Kondō, Hiroyuki Morita, Gorō Miyazaki
and Hiromasa Yonebayashi were suddenly made instantly more accessible.
Previous attempts to collect these films in their purest and
most honest state has been an endurance test to say the least.
Until now, the films have only been available through
physical media which, due to different rights agreements, often meant that
these films would ticket for a far higher price than your average DVD or
Not to mention the infamous early years of Studio Ghibli’s
presence in the West, through butchered releases of films such as Nausicaäof
the Valley of the Wind (1984) and the treatment of Princess Mononoke (1997)
under the hands of Harvey Weinstein at Miramax.
These films hold a special place for many worldwide viewers,
through their timeless themes of adolescence, honour, nature, youth, atonement
and of course the intent focus on crafting strong female characters.
While Studio Ghibli’s presence on Netflix is a huge win for
fans seeking ease of access to these beloved films, the move to the world’s largest
streamer opens to the floodgates to new viewers becoming acquainted with the
imagination and pure masterful craftsmanship of Hayao Miyazaki.
Rather than releasing the entire library all at once,
Netflix has opted for the wise decision to roll the films out on a monthly
basis, to avoid any newcomers from becoming overwhelmed by the sheer variety of
titles to choose from.
As of February 1st, 2020, the films available are
Castle in the Sky (1986), My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Kiki’s
Delivery Service (1989), Only Yesterday (1991), Porco Rosso (1992),
Ocean Waves (1993) and Tales from Earthsea (2006).
Arriving on March 1st, 2020 are, Nausicaäof
the Valley of the Wind (1984), Princess Mononoke (1997), My
Neighbors the Yamadas (1999), Spirited Away (2001), The Cat
Returns (2002), Arrietty (2010) and The Tale of the Princess
Finally, April 1st, 2020 will see the release of Pom
Poko (1994), Whisper of the Heart (1995), Howl’s Moving Castle (2004),
Ponyo (2008), From Up on Poppy Hill (2011), The Wind Rises (2013)
and When Marnie Was There (2014).
These films all offer unique and beautifully crafted
messages that can be experienced by almost all ages, making the Studio Ghibli
library an absolute god-send for families looking for endearing and thoughtful
animated family experiences outside the typical Disney wheelhouse.
Films including My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Kiki’s
Delivery Service (1989) and the Academy Award winning Spirited Away (2001)
present the world at its most innocent, magical and honest, that are at times
removed from the sappy melodrama often present in animated works from Hollywood.
Better yet, these adventures are all experienced through the eyes of Miyazaki’s
fully realized, young and inspirational heroines.
Some Studio Ghibli films like From Up on Poppy Hill (2011),
offer slightly more mature experiences focusing on love and war, while the
recent event of the Australian bushfires certainly makes the eco-friendly
message of Princess Mononoke (1997) all the more prevalent and alarming.
As of writing, the only missing title is Isao Takahata’s
anti-war film Grave of the Fireflies (1988) – arguably the heaviest film
(thematically speaking) in Studio Ghibli’s library. While the film is currently
entangled with different distribution rights, holding off on streaming the film
may prove beneficial for Netflix attempting to introduce new audiences to
Ghibli’s more uplifting works.
While the film is no doubt a powerful masterpiece in its own
right, its intense use of grief and tragedy in wartime conditions, certainly
makes it a harder experience to sell amongst the whimsy of Miyazaki’s
If you’re coming into these films fresh, I envy you, I truly
do. Experiencing these films for the first time invites a truly genuine sense
of wonder and joy that very few filmmakers get to achieve authentically.
The monthly rollout from Netflix invites a trial and error
approach to see which stories work best for you and possibly your family.
Perhaps a film might not click with you the way you’re initially expecting, but
with a Studio Ghibli film, any viewing is rarely a wasted experience.
Better yet the films are all dubbed in English, or if you
can overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, they can be experienced in
their native Japanese.
Would owning all of these films on Blu-ray be the preferred
way to access these films? Absolutely. But in an increasingly digital age, the
Studio Ghibli library being available on Netflix is the best outcome one can
hope for in making these films accessible.
Allow either of the seven films introduced each month, the
opportunity to sell you their world and characters. If you do, you may just
fall in love with an experience that you never knew existed.
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