OPINION: As we are currently blessed with every Ghibli film ever gracing our cinemas, it seems timely to look at the best of the best.
The Japanese animation company surpassed Disney in the '80s to become the greatest in the world and all of its works are worth seeing - even the worst, which is arguably 2006's Tales from Earthsea.
To whittle the best down to an amount countable on one hand is an excruciating task and one sure to upset fellow fans, but carry out this foolhardy task I have.
Here are my top five Studio Ghibli films.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
A trippy, post-apocalyptic fantasy film about the destructiveness of humanity and nature ultimately fighting back against it, this has grown to become my absolute favourite Ghibli work. Nausicaä herself is the best protagonist - eventually becoming the clear inspiration of Star Wars heroine Rey - and she's got the best sidekick in cute wee Teto. Quiet moments of exploration, fascinating factions engaging in a morally grey war, fantastical and unique beasts, a funky '80s soundtrack and a truly epic climax are among its charms; but everything I love about Ghibli films is in this and they're all done just right.
A beautiful ode to childish wonder, this is the Ghibli film I first love to show people who've never seen one. It's perhaps the most unthinkably imaginative; a bizarre spin on Alice in Wonderland that has greed turn parents into pigs, leaving the child protagonist to roam a fantastical realm of spirits, gods and dragons. It's a tale of the old world versus the new set in a magical bathhouse, and very deservedly won an Academy Award.
Grave of the Fireflies
Easily one of the saddest films I've ever seen, the power of Isao Takahata's classic is undeniable - even if it can feel a bit distastefully manipulative to some. Designed to remind Japanese youth of the '80s what their parents went through in World War II and its aftermath, it's superseded that goal and become immortalised as one of the world's greatest anti-war films of all time.
My Neighbor Totoro
Probably the most beloved Ghibli film by the studio's Kiwi fans I know, there's a decent handful of truly iconic scenes in this one that never get old - the girls and Totoro in the rain, the cat bus flying through the sky, the dance that makes trees grow... But what ties those scenes together is an achingly beautiful and surprisingly nuanced story of a family coming together to deal with hardship.
A fantasy war tale with a strong environmental message, this could easily be viewed as a sister film to Nausicaä. Extraordinary cinematography and artwork illustrate a morally complex conflict that has layers of meaningful themes built into it. While not quite as charming as Nausicaä, its combat is more spectacular and the filmmaking more mature. This is yet another Ghibli film you can't afford to miss.
Celebrate Studio Ghibli, presented by Madman Entertainment, is taking place in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Dunedin, Hamilton and Timaru from August 24 to September 20.