8 underrated Ghibli movies that anime lovers should watch

The tanuki of Pom Poko (Image via Studio Ghibli)
The tanuki of Pom Poko (Image via Studio Ghibli)

Studio Ghibli has released several cinematic masterpieces, with movies like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and My Neighbor Totoro being extremely popular. But there are several Studio Ghibli movies which don't get as much viewership as they deserve. Here are a few of them.

8 underrated Studio Ghibli movies that deserve more attention

1) Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)


Though created before the studio was founded, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is considered a Ghibli movie. Written by Hayao Miyzaki and based on his 1982 manga series of the same name, it also marks composer Joe Hisaishi’s first collaboration with the Studio.

The movie is set in a post-apocalyptic world, revolving around the young Princess Nausicaa and her attempt to find a way for the Toxic Jungle and the people of her Valley to coexist.

2) Only Yesterday (1991)


Isao Takahata’s additions to the Studio Ghibli collection always center around very humanistic themes. Movies like The Tale of Princess Kaguya and Grave of the Fireflies are astute studies of society and human lives, and Only Yesterday follows the same route.

The movie is laden with nostalgia and follows Taeko Okajima as she muses over her childhood, adolescence, aspirations and struggles of adulthood.

3) Porco Rosso (1992)


Porco Rosso features two things that appear in most Ghibli movies directed by Miyazaki - his fascination for airplanes and anti-war commentary. Based in post-World War 1 Italy, the setting for the movie is more concrete compared to most of his other films.

Porco Rosso himself is introduced as a former World War 1 Italian fighter ace, who now works as a freelance bounty hunter. In the midst of romance, intrigue and action, the movie speaks about the changes in economy, politics and industry that swept through the nation in the aftermath of the war.

4) Pom Poko (1994)


Both Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata have created movies with environmentalism as their themes, but with starkly different treatments. While Princess Mononoke is a drama depicting nature as a larger-than-life aura, Pom Poko is satirical and humorous, depicting a band of tanuki trying to save their homes in the mountain forests.

The movie blends traditional folklore with modern media, portraying eco-terrorism and activism by the desperate tanuki.

5) Whisper of the Heart (1995)


Whisper of the Heart is as classic as Ghibli classics go. A coming-of-age romantic drama based on Aoi Hiiragi’s 1989 manga of the same name, the movie revolves around protagonist Shizuku and Seiji who has a crush on her.

While Seiji wants to become a world-class violin maker, Shizuku decides to pursue a path in writing. The musical elements of the movie make it heartwarming, and the rendition of John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads give it an especially nostalgic feel.

6) The Cat Returns (2002)


The Cat Returns is a spin-off of Whisper of the Heart, featuring a character from Shizuku’s fantasy story, a cat figurine called Baron Humbert von Gikkingen. While some characters reappear, the plot itself is completely unrelated, focusing on Haru, who gets dragged into the Kingdom of Cats and starts turning into a cat herself.

7) Arrietty (2010)


Arrietty is based on a 1952 novel by Mary Norton called The Borrowers. This Ghibli movie follows a young boy called Sho who finds a “borrower” called Arrietty. The borrowers are tiny people who borrow supplies from the household where they live in hiding. Sho and Arrietty become friends but trouble brews as the Borrowers’ presence is discovered.

8) From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)


From Up on Poppy Hill is another of the few movies by the studio with no magical elements. It deals with Umi and Shun, schoolmates who start growing closer while trying to stop the school club building from being demolished. As they develop romantic feelings for each other, a common link in their past threatens to ruin their blossoming love.

Studio Ghibli is popular for its hand-drawn animation and distinct treatment of storylines. Even if the story itself does not feature any fantasy elements, the movies have a magical touch to them.

It is only fair that lovers of anime learn about the more overshadowed projects, each having its own charm.