NOWO'S Studio Ghibli Cheat Sheet - Part Five: Underrated Gems
Updated: Apr 21
When I started coming up with different categories for all of the films, I struggled to think of one for the following films until I realised that they were some of my favourites yet nobody ever really spoke about them. Your average fan may not even know that they exist! So you should definitely take a look into some if not all of the films in this section.
Whisper of the Heart (1995) – Before When Marie Was There stole my heart, Whisper of the Heart was my favourite, making it my second favourite now! Whisper of the Heart is another one of those ‘in the day of the life’ films where not a whole lot of crazy happens but still it’s not boring! The plot follows Shizuku, a young girl with her head in the clouds and her nose in a book dreaming up stories and attempting to write her own. She doesn’t however have a clue of what she wants to do with her life, she just lives each day as it comes. Shizuku is always in the library and one day notices that every book she checks out is checked out by the same person before her, somebody named “Seiji Amasawa”. Shizuku then tracks down Seiji at school and finds that he is the most infuriating person she’s ever met! One day Shizuku finds herself at an antique shop and is fascinated by a cat statue inside. She decides to test out her writing skills by writing a story about the cat statue, once she’s persuaded by the shop’s owner who just so happens to be Seiji Amasawa’s grandfather! The film continues on following Shizuku and Seiji as their relationship goes from strength to strength along with Shizuku’s self-confidence. This film probably isn’t for everyone, it’s almost like a teen rom-com with added charm and less cheese, I love these kinds of films so it’s perfect for me but if you’re more of an action fan, maybe leave this until you’ve got through more of the heavier ones.
From Up on Poppy Hill (2011) – And now for my 3rd favourite! Once again again again, this is a day in the life film but with a little more action, just a little. From Up on Poppy Hill is the story of a young girl named Umi who lives in a large house with her younger siblings, her grandmother and some lodgers. Umi’s mother often travels for work and her father died when she was young so Umi is often in charge of the cleaning and cooking dinner for everyone. At Umi’s school various clubs are held at a giant clubhouse that everybody is pleased to be a part of, until the idea is bought up to knock it down by the local government. Umi and her peers now have to fight to keep the clubhouse together which brings her close to new people at her school and even closer to one of the boys that runs the school newspaper; Shun. From Up on Poppy Hill is basically about Umi trying to balance home life, school life and her new blossoming relationship with Shun. Similar to Whisper of the Heart, it’s like a very sweet teen romance but don’t worry it’s not cheesy or formulaic, it really can be enjoyed by all.
The Secret World of Arrietty (2010) – Ever heard of ‘The Borrowers?’ Well, this is the Ghibli version! There’s a bit of a mess with this film when it comes to releases. It was released in Japan and has 2 English versions, one with a British cast named “Arrietty” – released by Studio Canal and one with an American cast released by Walt Disney Pictures named “The Secret World of Arrietty”. I’ve only seen the British version but I’m sure the US release is pretty much the same except for the accents. If you’re not aware of what The Borrowers is; it was originally a novel by English children’s author Mary Norton – it’s a story of tiny people living in the walls and cracks of a house that sneak out at night and ‘borrow’ small items from humans that they won’t notice are missing. For example: sugar cubes, tissues, sewing needles that kind of thing. These items are used to build houses and a civilisation inside the walls for the Borrowers. The Secret World of Arrietty follows this basic plot but with the addition of Shō a young boy with a heart condition who befriends Arrietty even though it’s against Borrower rules to even be seen by humans. This film follows the lives of some of the last remaining Borrowers in existence and the struggles they face as well as the lives of the humans in the house they inhabit. If this hasn’t convinced you enough, remember it’s Ghibli so think of the beautiful scenery in this film, with its close up shots of raindrops and flowers it really is a feast for the eyes.
Laputa: Castle in The Sky (1986) – This film seems to have all the typical Ghibli traits rolled into one film. You’ve got the planes, the war, the environment vs civilisation and big celebrity cameos – some of you may be aware of a small time voice actor that goes by the name Mark Hamill? He’s in this! This film that is sometimes just known as ‘Castle in the Sky’ follows the story of yet another young girl named Sheeta who is found floating down from the sky - after narrowly dodging capture from government agents and a band of sky pirates - by a young boy who works in a workshop named Pazu. The two then go on an adventure dodging the agents and pirates all over as well as trying to find a secret kingdom in the sky known as Laputa. This is a whirlwind adventure film full of near misses and exciting chases as well as sweet intimate moments , there’s never a dull moment in this film, it is always worth the watch.
Day 5 comes to a close and we'd love to know if you like what you've read here and we'd love to hear from you either way. If you're just plain impressed why not head over to Hope Eliza's own blog; hopeelizab.co.uk and let her know if you do watch any of her recommendations via twitter or Instagram which is @hopeelizab on both.
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