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10 Studio Ghibli movies that began as books | English Movie News

May 25, 20247 Mins Read

Studio Ghibli, renowned for its enchanting animation and heartfelt storytelling, has a rich history of adapting beloved books into films. Many of the studio’s iconic movies have origins in literature, bringing cherished stories to life with their signature artistry. From poignant war tales to whimsical adventures, these adaptations have captivated audiences worldwide. Join us as we uncover the stories behind these cinematic gems and the books that inspired them.

Grave of the FirefliesImage Courtesy: Grave of the Fireflies- Official Website

Grave of the Fireflies, directed by Isao Takahata, is a poignant and heart-wrenching tale of survival during World War II. This film is based on the semi-autobiographical short story by Akiyuki Nosaka, first published in 1967. The story recounts Nosaka’s own experiences during the firebombing of Kobe and the loss of his younger sister. Through the eyes of siblings Seita and Setsuko, the film captures the devastating impact of war on civilians, particularly children. The adaptation remains faithful to the source material’s emotional depth, portraying the struggle for survival and the bond between the siblings with profound sensitivity. The stark realism and tragic beauty of Grave of the Fireflies make it a timeless classic that continues to resonate with audiences.

Kiki’s Delivery ServiceImage Courtesy: Kiki’s Delivery Service- Official Website

Hayao Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service is a delightful adaptation of Eiko Kadono’s 1985 novel of the same name. The story follows the adventures of a young witch named Kiki, who sets out on a journey of self-discovery and independence. In the film, Kiki, along with her talking cat Jiji, moves to a new town to begin her year-long training as a witch, using her flying skills to start a delivery service. While Miyazaki’s adaptation adds new characters and subplots, it retains the novel’s charming essence and themes of growing up, finding one’s place in the world, and the value of kindness and hard work. The film’s whimsical animation and heartfelt storytelling have made Kiki’s Delivery Service a beloved favourite among both children and adults.

Only YesterdayImage Courtesy: Only Yesterday- Official Website

Only Yesterday, another gem by Isao Takahata, is based on the 1982 manga by Hotaru Okamoto and Yuko Tone. The story revolves around Taeko, a 27-year-old woman reflecting on her childhood while visiting the countryside. The film delves into themes of self-discovery and the passage of time, interweaving Taeko’s memories of her 1966 fifth-grade self with her present-day life. Takahata’s adaptation expands on the manga by adding a romantic subplot and deeper exploration of Taeko’s inner thoughts and emotions. The film’s realistic animation style and thoughtful narrative create a nostalgic and introspective experience, highlighting the complexities of growing up and the enduring impact of our past on our present.

Porco RossoImage Courtesy: Porco Rosso- Official Website

Porco Rosso, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, is a unique blend of fantasy and historical fiction based on Miyazaki’s own manga, Hikoutei Jidai (The Age of the Flying Boat). Set in the 1930s Adriatic Sea, the film follows Porco, an Italian WWI fighter ace who has been transformed into a pig by a mysterious curse. As a bounty hunter, he combats sky pirates while grappling with his past and personal demons. The film’s rich backdrop of aviation and its anti-war undertones are complemented by its charming characters and adventurous spirit. While the manga serves as the foundation, Miyazaki’s film adds depth to Porco’s character and expands the story’s world, resulting in a captivating and visually stunning tale.

Ocean WavesImage Courtesy: Ocean Waves- Official Website

Ocean Waves, directed by Tomomi Mochizuki, is a coming-of-age drama based on the 1990 novel by Saeko Himuro. The film centres on the memories of Taku, a college student reflecting on his high school years and his complicated friendship with Yutaka and their mutual affection for a new transfer student, Rikako. Set in the coastal city of Kōchi, Ocean Waves captures the emotional turbulence and fleeting moments of adolescence. The adaptation remains true to the novel’s exploration of young love, friendship, and the bittersweet nature of growing up. Though one of Studio Ghibli’s lesser-known works, Ocean Waves is praised for its realistic portrayal of teenage emotions and relationships.

Pom PokoImage Courtesy: Pom Poko- Official Website

Isao Takahata’s Pom Poko draws inspiration from Japanese folklore and the 1989 book Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko by Kenji Miyazawa. The film tells the story of tanuki (raccoon dogs) in suburban Tokyo, who use their shape-shifting abilities to fight against human encroachment on their habitat. The narrative weaves together environmental themes with elements of traditional Japanese mythology, highlighting the tanuki’s struggle to preserve their way of life. Takahata’s adaptation is noted for its blend of humour, social commentary, and cultural references, making Pom Poko a uniquely rich and thought-provoking film. The animation’s attention to detail and the tanuki’s lively characters underscore the film’s message about the importance of coexistence and environmental stewardship.

Whisper of the HeartImage Courtesy: Whisper of the Heart- Official Website

Whisper of the Heart, directed by Yoshifumi Kondō and written by Hayao Miyazaki, is based on the 1989 manga by Aoi Hiiragi. The film follows Shizuku, a curious and imaginative young girl, who discovers that all the books she borrows from the library have been checked out by the same boy, Seiji. Their eventual meeting sparks a journey of self-discovery and artistic ambition. The film beautifully captures the trials of adolescence, the excitement of first love, and the pursuit of one’s dreams. The introduction of the character Baron, a mysterious cat figurine, adds a touch of magic and intrigue to the story. Whisper of the Heart is celebrated for its realistic portrayal of teenage life and its inspiring message about following one’s passions.

My Neighbors the YamadasImage Courtesy: My Neighbors the Yamadas- Official Website

Isao Takahata’s My Neighbors the Yamadas is a humorous and heartwarming film based on the yonkoma manga (four-panel comic) Nono-chan by Hisaichi Ishii. The film portrays the everyday lives of the Yamada family, consisting of the bumbling father Takashi, the practical mother Matsuko, their children Noboru and Nonoko, and the sharp-witted grandmother Shige. Presented in a series of vignettes, the film explores the ups and downs of family life with wit and charm. Takahata’s use of a watercolour-like animation style gives the film a unique and whimsical look, enhancing its lighthearted and anecdotal nature. My Neighbors the Yamadas stands out for its relatable humour and insightful observations on family dynamics.

The Cat ReturnsImage Courtesy: The Cat Returns

The Cat Returns, directed by Hiroyuki Morita, is a whimsical spin-off of Whisper of the Heart, based on Aoi Hiiragi’s manga Baron: The Cat Returns. The story follows Haru, a high school girl who saves a cat from traffic, only to find herself whisked away to the fantastical Kingdom of Cats. There, she is treated like royalty and even betrothed to the cat prince. With the help of the dapper Baron and his friends, Haru must find her way back to the human world. The film’s playful tone and imaginative setting make it a delightful adventure, celebrating bravery, friendship, and the importance of staying true to oneself. The Cat Returns enchants audiences with its charming characters and whimsical narrative.

Howl’s Moving Castle
Image Courtesy: Howl’s Moving Castle- Official Website

Howl’s Moving Castle, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, is a beloved adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’s 1986 fantasy novel. The story follows Sophie, a young woman transformed into an old lady by a witch’s curse. Seeking to break the spell, she encounters the enigmatic wizard Howl and becomes entangled in his magical world. Miyazaki’s adaptation stays true to the novel’s whimsical and adventurous spirit while incorporating his unique vision and anti-war themes. The film’s stunning animation, richly detailed settings, and complex characters bring the magical world of Howl’s castle to life. Howl’s Moving Castle is celebrated for its imaginative storytelling and profound messages about love, courage, and self-acceptance.

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