Studio Ghibli will release its classic films on HBO Max this spring

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Graphic by Ceighlee Fennel

by Juniper Perkins, Staff Writer

“Spirited Away,” “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Howl’s Moving Castle” — what do these films have in common? They all come from the critically acclaimed Japanese animated film studio, Studio Ghibli. 

Netflix Australia and New Zealand announced in a tweet on Jan. 19 that all 21 of Studio Ghibli’s feature films will be available internationally come February. This news was music to the ears of fans across the world. 

But there’s a catch, the films won’t be available in the U.S. nor in Japan. 

On the bright side, Studio Ghibli has released its films to other companies.

In October 2019, HBO struck a deal with Studio Ghibli’s North American distributor, GKIDS. The deal granted all 21 feature films to stream on HBO’s new service, HBO Max, this spring, according to a press release from GKIDS. 

This marked the first time the Japanese studio has ever licensed its films to a streaming platform, according to the press release

And that’s not all in store for Studio Ghibli’s future. According to an article from IGN, the studio has confirmed the production of two new films set to be released within the next two years. 

In the meantime, let’s reminisce about some of Studio Ghibli’s most beloved films. 

“Spirited Away”

When 10-year-old Chihiro is forced to leave her old life behind, she inadvertently embarks on a transformative journey that teaches her strength and courage. She and her parents stumble upon an abandoned amusement park, teeming with magic. After finding herself in the park after dark, Chihiro loses her parents and is transported to a spirit world. 

The setting, a bathhouse, is whimsical and full of fantasy. The characters, ranging from humans to magical creatures and spirits, are dynamic and realistic. Even the food looks good enough to eat and the soot sprites cute enough to cuddle. 

Chihiro faces trials and tribulations that average 10-year-olds probably find in their nightmares or role play at recess, but the film’s hand-drawn scenes totally immerse the viewer. 

“My Neighbor Totoro”

Set in 1958 Japan, a university professor and his two daughters, Satsuki and Mei, move into an old, seemingly magical house. The house is adjacent to a large forest that Mei explores while Satsuki is at school. Their rapport is both adorable and relatable to almost anyone with a sibling. 

One day, Mei’s curiosity brings her to the heart of the forest where she meets the forest spirit Totoro. Totoro’s physique can best be described as soft, round and huggable. His forest is mysterious with light shining through the treetops to give a magical setting. 

The film tells a beautiful story about familial love and overcoming our fears. Not everyone has a real, powerful forest spirit watching over them, but store bought is fine. Studio Ghibli’s stuffed Totoros are soft and squishy companions. 

“Howl’s Moving Castle”

Protagonist Sophie is a young hat-maker whose life seems dull and never-changing until she encounters a difficult customer while closing up her shop one night. The customer reveals herself as a witch and curses Sophie with old age. 

In hopes of breaking the curse, Sophie leaves for the countryside where she encounters yet another magical being. She then embarks on a life-changing journey full of love and war. 

The film’s heavy anti-war message is highlighted through elaborate world-building and absurd-yet-realistic characters. 

These films only scratch the surface of Studio Ghibli’s expansive library. Until they’re available on Netflix and HBO Max, most of the films are available for individual purchase on multiple major platforms. But we won’t tell if you prefer to stream on 123movie or KissAnime. 

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