It’s hard to stay still at home when the world seems to be crashing down around us. We have to admit that sometimes, the best thing we can do is wait and watch (donating and volunteering aside). Luckily, there are tons of great things to watch on Netflix as we wait for things to settle down. For those with a weary heart and soul, Studio Ghibli’s films released on Netflix this April may leave you feeling refreshed. They’ll help you to feel your feelings while understanding more about Japanese culture and the complexity of human emotions.
Not to mention that a lot of these films feature themes of chaotic worlds where human conflict and nature’s wrath come together. Rising above the darkness, however, are philosophical themes of family, friendship, and world peace. Brighten your mood by watching these seven beloved masterpieces below:
This drama fantasy is set in 1960s Tokyo. Typical. But wait, there’s more—a clan of tanuki or raccoon-like creatures with shape-shifting abilities try their best to save their forest home from getting wrecked by the environment. Wild, right? If you’re a fan of Japanese folklore and surreal animation, this highly spirited and oddly hilarious film is right up your alley.
You’ve heard of or listened to: “lo-fi beats to relax / study to”, a popular live music stream on YouTube. Ever wondered where the “forever studying” brown-haired girl came from? She’s the main character from Whisper Of The Heart! Join Shizuku, a bookworm and aspiring writer, on a path to self-discovery. One day, she discovers that a boy named Seiji Amazawa has been borrowing the same library books. She chases after a cat, meets an antique dealer, and makes friends with Seiji. She discovers that he’s an aspiring violin-maker.
The hilly town scenes, slow-paced storytelling, and Japanese rendition of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” have a funny way of healing viewers’ souls. For those who feel the cold reality of adulthood, this charming classic will show you how to romanticize life and appreciate your surroundings. Just like the lo-fi this girl represents, the movie is pretty chill and aesthetically pleasing.
Who could forget this whimsical classic? Howl’s Moving Castle continues to move audiences across the world! Meet Sophie, a young hat seamstress with mundane life. Her world changes when she meets wizard Howl and goes for a ride in his steampunk-inspired flying castle. However, the jealous Witch of the Waste decides to turn beautiful Sophie into a 90-year-old woman. Howl and Sophie make their way across warring nations to find a cure and to restore peace to all.
The plot is simple enough: human boy Sosuke meets goldfish princess Ponyo. Sosuke sneaks out of his village to see the forbidden surface world. There, he meets Ponyo, and forges a strong friendship. Ponyo’s desire to become human is so strong, she becomes more human-like the more she spends time with Sosuke. She sneaks out of her kingdom one day to join him. Watch this one along with the little ones and enjoy this lighthearted fairy tale.
Fun fact: this fantasy film was inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid!
This one’s directed by Goro Miyazaki, the son of Hayao Miyazaki. While the film is set in the aftermath of WW2, the film production was affected by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. The movie is set in Yokohama while Japan is undergoing a period of modernization. The story follows Shun Kazama (newspaper club member) and Umi Matsuzaki (a hardworking girl whose father was killed during the Korean War). They try to stop the high school chairman from demolishing their beloved clubhouse, Quartier Latin.
The characters parallel Japan’s culture post-WW2—commemorating painful memories but still looking forward to a brighter future. While the conflict isn’t as complex as Princess Mononoke or Howl’s Moving Castle, it’s a slice-of-life film that is just as charming.
This was supposed to be Hayao Miyazaki’s last movie. The story is centered around Jiro Horikoshi, who dreams of being a pilot, but cannot be one due to his nearsightedness. One day, he meets aeronautical engineer Giovanni Battista Caproni, who tells him that designing planes are better than flying them. Jiro then begins designing sleek planes for the Japanese Empire.
This fictionalized biopic features an elegant musical score, a compelling story, and stunning animation techniques. Hayao Miyazaki’s love for aviation and pacifism is obvious in this spectacular film. Personally, I still remember the quote that left a lasting impact on me as I went through a difficult time:
“The wind is rising. We must try to live!”
Like I mentioned above, Hayao Miyazaki came out of his retirement to direct this critically-acclaimed family drama. No wonder it got nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards!
A frail girl, Anna Sasaki, goes with her foster parents on a trip to the countryside for health reasons. There, she encounters an abandoned house and meets Marnie, a mysterious girl with flowing blond hair. The more time she spends with Marnie, the closer she arrives at the truth about her family. Be warned, you may need a box of tissues ready beside you.
Which one’s on your list? We hope that whichever one you choose will help you through these tough times.
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