2. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013)
A princess born from a bamboo shoot tries to live a normal life as she is elevated from a humble upbringing to nobility, while suitors compete to win her affections and her heavenly ancestors guide her back to her celestial home.
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is Isao Takahata’s greatest masterpiece, a passion project with so much care and attention lavished upon it, that took so long to complete, that not one but two feature documentaries touching on its making were filmed and released during production (Kingdom of Dreams and Madness and Isao Takahata and His Tale of the Princess Kaguya). The unique visuals paired with Joe Hisaishi’s gorgeous, paired-back score make this an all-encompassing, almost spiritual experience to watch.
Based on the popular 10th Century Japanese fable “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter”, Princess Kaguya is a dreamy, impressionistic animated retelling that sweeps you up from the start and leaves you transfixed. The film’s heartbreaking final sequence could very well be the most beautiful and transcendent few minutes in any Ghibli work, and the way the film is animated in general, with energetically sketchy lines highlighted with watercolour and deeper black ink highlights, show Takahata once again bucking his Studio’s trend.
1. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
A young hatter is cursed into early old age by a witch and decides to work as a housekeeper for a troubled war-fighting wizard and his unconventional family on his magical moving castle.
Howl’s Moving Castle tops this list because it juggles the most competing story elements and some of the biggest ideas and still manages to excel. This is a thematically rich and emotionally soaring tale of war and wizards; Miyazaki’s adaptation of Diana Wynne-Jones’ kids fantasy book has scale, humour and heart in abundance. The most unconventional and dysfunctional makeshift family unit imaginable come together to stop a wasteful war and save the soul of a corrupted innocent.
Howl’s Moving Castle always feels big, emotionally, thematically and in scope, with hellish steampunk war scenes, dazzling portrayals of the many different forms of magic spell usage, and the operatic visualisation of an inner turmoil manifesting on the outside of a being, the evil Witch of the Wastes literally melting and becoming mentally enfeebled through her pride and cruelty, and the magnetically attractive blonde wizard Howl undergoing transformation into a nightmarish harpy creature every night after dealing out death and destruction to his enemies.
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Agree with our ranking of the greatest of Ghibli, or do you have a vastly different take? Are you a Miyazaki stan, a Takahata die-hard or a staunch defender of one of the lesser-known people behind the drawings? Be sure to let us know your opinions in the comments and follow The Film Magazine on Facebook and Twitter.