Studio Ghibli

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Merely seeing this Vanity Plate on screen has been known to get cinema audiences to applaud.

The fact is that out of the 15 top-grossing animation films made in Japan, eight of them have been credited to the work of Studio Ghibli.

Studio Ghibli (スタジオジブリ, sutajio jiburi, pronounced "jiblee")[1] was founded on the fifteenth of June, 1985, by celebrated Japanese Anime directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, and producer Toshio Suzuki. Studio Ghibli is known for its incredibly rich and detailed animation, exacting attention to detail, imaginative plots (frequently involving flying scenes, a personal favourite of Miyazaki's).

Ghibli is a household name even among non-Otaku. Ghibli is known for high quality and critically acclaimed films: Spirited Away, to this day, is the only Anime to receive an Academy Award win for the Best Animated Feature category, being the only animated work to break through the Oscar's heavy bias towards America produced films. New Ghibli releases are usually nominated for the Japanese Academy Film Prize for Animation of the Year, and are favourably received by audiences and critics alike.

Their box office returns are just as promising: new Ghibli films are consistently the top grossers — Spirited Away held the record for the highest grossing anime film for 19 years before it was surpassed by Demon Slayer: Mugen Train in 2020 — for the year in Japanese theaters. Releases such as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke have gained a mainstream following in North America (in part thanks to a distribution deal with Disney and, later on, GKIDS). The studio tends to focus on films rather than television series, prioritising quality over quantity. Whereas other studios release several television series a year, Ghibli usually only release one two-hour film each year. Despite this, Ghibli productions are frequently the "gateway drug" for new Anime fans.

Ghibli is also like Disney in that Ghibli maintains their animation staff as full-time employees instead of the typical Japanese practice of employing freelance artists paid on a piecework basis, intended to improve the quality of the animator's life and their output. Salaries at Ghibli are double salaries in the rest of the anime industry. Job openings for The Boy and the Heron in 2017 indicate staff are paid 200,000 yen ($1534.40 USD) or more per month, along with social insurance and transportation costs covered -- around the same salary as staff working at Kyoto Animation. Finishing (digital paint) staff in 2019 has remuneration starting at 250,000 yen, contrasting the 2015 industry average at 162,000 yen. Contrast with other studios, where the average animator earns 1.1 million yen ($8439.20 USD) a year (source:, 2015 Japan Animation Creators Association survey of 759 animation staff). Compared to western firms, Ghibli underpays their employees, but compared to other anime studios, they overpay -- a depressing statement of the absurdly low pay in the anime industry. The higher salary at the studio does come with a price: overwork. Almost everyone in the anime industry is overworked, but especially Ghibli. It's common for animators to work late nights every day, to the point where people in the studio make dinner, and some animators sleep on their desks. Deadlines are strict. Isao Takahata is a strict director, who is "notoriously difficult to work with", and "his work demands indirectly caused the death of character designer and animation director Yoshifumi Kondō".

For anyone interested in perusing Ghibli's archives, JesuOtaku (of That Guy With The Glasses) has done a full retrospective of all the Miyazaki/Ghibli films. See also Studio Ponoc, founded by ex-Ghibli employees, and Topcraft, the predecessor to Studio Ghibli.

Their works heavily influenced the trope Opposite Gender Protagonists. Has absolutely nothing to do with the jibblies.


Pre Ghibli

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind‍'‍s success paved the way for the studio.

On the 29th of October, 1935, a baby named Isao Takahata was born. On the 5th of January, 1941, right in the middle of World War II, Hayao Miyazaki was born. Take notes, as those two names pop up quite a bit around these parts. Also keep the name Toshio Suzuki -- born on the 19th of August, 1948 -- in mind.

Miyazaki always had an interest in drawing, and joined Toei Animation in 1963. There, he met Takahata, where they both worked on films such as Hols: Prince of the Sun. The duo started with television work, but was unsatisfied at the limited range of emotions which can be portrayed, due to the large constraints in both budget and schedule. This served as motivation for them to shift to film production and eventually found Studio Ghibli. They left Toei in 1971, joining A-Pro, before jumping to several other studios such as TMS Entertainment and Nippon Animation. But that doesn't matter, as those studios played a relatively little role in the history of Ghibli.

However, what played a huge role was the little-known animation studio called Topcraft. They've done some work for Rankin/Bass Productions, and mostly stuck around as a supporting studio. Their name is little-known, with no films or series to call their own, and lacking an identity. That's all about to change, however.

On the 31st of May, 1983, the studio began work on Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. The film was released in 1984, and proved a massive box office hit, grossing ¥1.48 billion ($6.23 million) initially. The name "Hayao Miyazaki" was instantly made famous throughout Japan, and provided Miyazaki and Takahata with capital to start something ambitious. Taking the film producer Toshio Suzuku, a large chunk of the animators who worked on Nausicaä, along with funding from Nausicaä publisher Tokuma Shoten, the trio established Studio Ghibli.

As a side note, Miyazaki and Takahata weren't the only creators influenced by the film. Hideaki Anno made a name for himself working on the sequence where the God Warrior fires its deadly laser beam in the film. This would later pave the way for Neon Genesis Evangelion, dealing with the same Angsty themes the Nausicaä manga touches on. Ever wondered why Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water and Laputa: Castle in the Sky both feature a girl with a mysterious past, possessing a MacGuffin jewelled pendant which makes them wanted, before meeting a boy and going on epic adventures? You can thank Princess Nausicaä for that.

Early Ghibli

Ghibli's first film was Laputa: Castle in the Sky.

Any animation studio needs a name. Miyazaki has said that he chose the name of a World War II Italian fighter for his studio based on his love of aviation and Italy (vis. Porco Rosso). Unfortunately the wrong characters were chosen to represent "Ghibli" in Japanese based on a mispronunciation (the word is actually pronounced "ghee-blee" in Italian) but Miyazaki didn't discover this until after he'd already named the studio. He has since pronounced himself satisfied with the "jiblee" pronunciation, even though it's technically wrong. Several Maserati automobiles and at least one modern fighter plane (The Caproni Ca. 309 which inspired the studio's name) have also been named Ghibli, which means "hot wind off the desert". This is actually a Libyan word -- the Italian equivalent is "Scirocco" -- and it refers to a particular wind that sweeps across the Sahara.

Now that the name is settled, Ghibli was officially founded in June 1985 -- the same year Pixar was established. Unlike Pixar, the studio immediately went to work, producing their first film Laputa: Castle in the Sky and releasing it a mere year later. Whereas other animation studios choose to focus on television series to generate a continuous income, Ghibli, until 2014, focused exclusively on film production. While their C unit occasionally branches out into television work, the main studio always remained with film. In addition, the studio stubbornly refuses to make sequels, their longest franchise being one film and one spinoff. "Long Runners" was simply not in the studio's dictionary[2].

Ghibli was established to produce high quality content, with careful attention to detail, achieved through their higher budget, longer production times, and a priority of quality over quantity. Starting from Kiki's Delivery Service, the studio set a fixed salary system, aimed to double employee wages, and to regularly recruit and train new employees, all actions which further improve the quality of the studio's output. This attitude means that Ghibli was expensive to run, the costs fortunately being balanced out by their massive box office returns.

Growth and Critical Acclaim

Ghibli's second studio.

Ghibli needs to grow to remain operational in a world where their animation costs are through the roof. Signs of the growth first came in 1989, with the release of Kiki's Delivery Service, topping the box office. Toru Hara of Topcraft, now in charge of Ghibli, stated that the studio was "High cost, high risk, high return". Because Ghibli uses a fixed salary system, they cannot afford to take any breaks from animation. In addition, most of Ghibli's animation is produced in house instead of being outsourced, further increasing costs. They immediately went back to work on Only Yesterday, which once again became the highest grossing Japanese film in 1991. The trend continues with Porco Rosso and Pom Poko. Their next film, Whisper of the Heart, did not top the box office, however from 2001 to 2013, if Ghibli released a film, then that film topped the box office. When Spirited Away was aired on Japanese television, it pulled in an insane rating of 46.9%. Needless to say, the studio has more than enough funds to secure operation, and began expansion.

In 1993, Ghibli introduced a filming department, with two computer-controlled stands, making them into a Jack of All Trades studio, with all departments needed to complete an animated work. In 1999, Ghibli constructed their second studio. The third studio opened in March 2000. All three buildings are next to each other. The second and third studio were designed by Miyazaki. In parallel with the production of Spirited Away, Miyazaki designed and opened the Ghibli museum in October 2001.

International Audience

John Lasseter's Executive Meddling with other staff at Disney prevented Ghibli's works from sitting on the shelf.

Ghibli's first journey into the market outside of Asia was, let's just say, bad. It came in the form of Warriors of the Wind, a heavily edited and modified version of the Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind film. The film's creators believed that it's a Macekre, refusing to let any other studios cut a single frame from their works. The only time when any company is allowed to touch their visuals is when they're translating the credits. Ghibli is less strict when it comes to dubs, allowing changes to dialogue, so people of different cultures can understand some uniquely Japanese concepts. Warriors of the Wind scared the studio so much, they refrained from international distribution deals for a decade.

In the late 1990s, Ghibli negotiated a deal with Disney to bring their works over to America. This wasn't the most successful deal, as Ghibli's initial films grossed little in America and became Cult Classics. Princess Mononoke was released by Miramax Films. Of course, given Miramax's infamous tendency to cut and dice up films, Ghibli's staff had to fight extra hard. It was rumoured that Miyazaki sent Miramax founder Harvey Weinstein a katana, with the words "no cuts" written on it. Later, it was confirmed that it was producer Toshio Suzuki who did that. He knew of a small, hidden store specialising in sharp-looking but ultimately dull movie props, brought one, boarded a plane with it, flew to America, and presented it in front of a conference room, yelling "Mononoke Hime, NO CUT!". In the end, the film was released uncut, with all the gory scenes intact, earning its PG-13 rating. [3]

Unfortunately, Princess Mononoke, due to its mature themes and violent imagery, grossed a disappointingly low amount. This put the American releases of other Ghibli films in question. Fortunately, Pixar's John Lasseter stepped in, and did some Executive Meddling to ensure that the other release would be given the green light, in perhaps the world's only example of Executive Meddling leading to a positive outcome. The decision to keep going was only enforced by Spirited Away‍'‍s Oscar win. Despite that, Ghibli films grossed low amounts in America, leading to a series of films with a small, dedicated cult following.

Initial dubs of Ghibli films weren't faithful to the source material as the later ones. Disney's initial 1998 dub for Kiki's Delivery Service made the cat Jiji more snarky, replaced the opening and ending songs, and added in new soundtracks. Disney's later blu-ray release restored the original Japanese songs, removed the additional music, as well as dialogue filling the silence, but kept Jiji's snarkiness.

In the 2010s, the distributor GKIDS, specialising in indie animation, took over as Ghibli's distributor. They re-released all films on Blu-ray, with steelbook collections. Starting in 2017, and in every year except 2020, GKIDS held Studio Ghibli fest, where a select number of Ghibli films would be screened in American theatres to a small but dedicated audience.

2010s Struggles

When Marnie Was There is the last film produced before Ghibli's restructuring in 2014.

Despite all the success, however, there were many concerns on the part of Studio Ghibli management over their ongoing lack of a new generation of directors capable of taking over for founding directors Miyazaki and Takahata. Miyazaki did choose his successor — Whisper of the Heart director Yoshifumi Kondo — however Kondo died shortly after the decision due to a dissecting aortic aneurysm. The directorial debut from Hayao Miyazaki's son, Goro Miyazaki, titled Tales From Earthsea was not considered a success, being the lowest rated film the studio has produced since its founding in terms of critical response. Miyazaki appears to have chosen The Borrower Arrietty director Hiromasa Yonebayashi as his successor, who later went on to direct When Marnie Was There. Ghibli's troubles weren't over, though. Despite their box office successes, in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis Ghibli started struggling financially, as they can no longer rely on overseas film grosses. Their practices mean the studio requires huge amounts of money to run each year. According to interviews with Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli would shut down if The Borrower Arrietty did not do well enough at the box office to allow Ghibli to secure financial backing for another film. Fortunately for the studio, the film did relatively well (over 80 percent of Ponyo‍'‍s receipts), allowing the studio to release several other films.

In 2014, the founding fathers of the studio all announced their retirements (producer Toshio Sukuzi still remains as a general manager, and was involved in several productions after this announcement), and Takahata died in 2018 from lung cancer. The studio's last film to be produced in "classic Ghibli" fashion is When Marnie Was There, after which the studio's future became uncertain, as Ghibli shut down their animation department. Although the studio was open, it stopped producing films. Potential successor Yonebayashi, following this shutdown, departed to form his own Studio Ponoc, taking some Ghibli staff along with him, leaving the future of the studio in question. In 2016 new hope gathered for the studio when The Red Turtle, a co-production between the studio and several European companies, was released.

A New Ghibli

Hayao Miyazaki's 2023 The Boy and the Heron

It's clear that Ghibli must learn to move on from Miyazaki and Takahata's legacy. However, there is one more Miyazaki film to come. In 2016, the previously retired Miyazaki, in true Ten-Minute Retirement fashion, returned to direct The Boy and the Heron (original title How Do You Live?, the English title was changed for no apparent reason), and Ghibli reopened their animation department, presenting a project proposal in 2016. In 2017, Ghibli started posting job listings. The film was scheduled to be released in 2020 in time for the Tokyo Olympics, although the project did not make this target. On the 13th of December, 2022, the film's Japanese date was announced to be the 14th of July, 2023. Producer Toshio Suzuki returned for the project.

In 2020, Goro Miyazaki released Earwig and the Witch, serving as a project for the younger staff at the studio. It is the studio's first 3D movie, after three decades of traditional, hand drawn animation. Ghibli has always played with 3D CG, being friends with Pixar, and integrating a very limited amount into their 2D productions, but has never made a full-blown 3D animated film. It's the first project for a younger generation at the studio, made without the guidance from the older, more experienced staff. Miyazaki stated he wanted to work on the film, but was busy with The Boy and the Heron. The film, upon release, received criticism for its CG, story, and characters. Most were directed at the film's animation. The film was Ghibli's first since Tales From Earthsea to obtain a rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

On the 1st of November, 2021, the studio opened the Ghibli Park, with a cinema for watching short films, and a Defictionalization of iconic locations from Ghibli films.

In early April 2023, producer and co-founder Toshio Suzuki replaced Koji Hoshino as the president of the company.

In June 2023, Ghibli announced that The Boy and the Heron will release in Japanese theatres without any promotional or marketing material other than a vague teaser poster. No information about the plot or cast will be announced. On the fourteenth of July, The Boy and the Heron was released in Japanese theatres, to generally positive reviews, and a pretty impressive $17.5 million USD opening weekend. It was praised for its imaginative visuals and impressive animation, although it is noted for being complex and requiring multiple viewings to understand. Many noted that it features many recurring Miyazaki themes, such as War Is Hell, and that it feels like a personal film. GKIDS has acquired rights to the film, and it will be released in late 2023 in North American territories (there are no news about the release in other territories). The film's theme song, "Spinning Globe" (地球儀, Chikyuugi), is by Kenshi Yonezu.

The film did well at the box office. In fact, saying it did "well" is more than a little understatement. As of late August 2023, the film has grossed $50.6 million USD in Japan, beating out Pixar's Elemental. $50.6 million isn't a lot, but the film's international release should bring in plenty more money. That $50 million figure is especially impressive for a film with Invisible Advertising.

Other Activities

The Ghibli Museum in Mitaka

Ghibli has its own museum. The short that evolved into Ponyo was first shown here. The studio also has a theme park, appropriately titled Ghibli Park. Both locations feature cinemas which showcase exclusive short films. The studio has an inactive subsidiary — Studio Kajino — which pursues live action production as well as music videos which deviate from Ghibli's usual style.

Ghibli distributes Western animated films in Japan such as the works of Michel Ocelot, Sylvan Chomet, and Aardman under the Ghibli Museum Library label.

Creator Works

Major Film Productions

The Wind Rises official promotional image

Other Works

Studio Ghibli produced the following anime series:

A Video Game produced cooperatively by Studio Ghibli and Level 5 was released in 2010 titled Ni no Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn, later released as the improved Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. Before that, they provided the character designs and artwork for the PS2 monster battler Magic Pengel.

In 1995, they released a music video, titled On Your Mark, for the song by Chage & Aska.

Ghibli has a number of short films which screen exclusively at the Ghibli Museum and Ghibli Park. Even if you make the effort of going there, you don't get to choose which film you watch; you have to live with whatever one is currently playing. These films include:

  • Koro's Big Day Out (2001)
  • Mei and the Kittenbus (2001)
  • The Whale Hunt (2001)
  • Imaginary Flying Machines (2002)
  • The Day I Brought a Star (2006)
  • Water Spider Monmon (2006)
    • Its story bears some similarities to the plot of Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, involving members of two different species falling in love, and frequent underwater shots.
  • Looking for a Home (2006)
  • A Sumo Wrestler's Tail (2010)
  • Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess (2010)
  • Treasure Hunting (2011)
  • Boro the Caterpillar (2018)

Minor Productions

Ghibli have worked as a support studio (as many Asian studios have) through their C unit (Hayao Miyazaki runs the A unit and Isao Takahata runs the B unit, their C unit is random) on the following anime:

Creator Tropes

Studio Ghibli and their works are the trope namer for:
Studio Ghibli provided the trope name for Ghibli Hills, visible in this picture from Kiki's Delivery Service.
Studio Ghibli and their works provide examples of the following tropes:

Applies to Ghibli Themselves

These tropes apply to the studio, rather than the works the studio made.

  • Animation Lead Time: Yes. Due to their careful attention to detail, only messing up occasionally, Ghibli requires a lot of time to make their works. For example, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya took eight years to make, and initial concepts for the film date fifty years back to the mid 1960s. Miyazaki's The Boy and the Heron took seven years, beginning in 2016 and ending in 2023.
  • Breakthrough Hit: Spirited Away, which, after its Academy Award win, encouraged Disney to accelerate their distribution deal with the studio to bring their films to American audiences.
  • Broken Streak: Almost all the works from the studio are acclaimed and beloved, except Goro Miyazaki's Tales From Earthsea, and, more recently, Earwig and the Witch. Every single one of the studio's works, except the aforementioned two films, has a 'fresh' rating on the site, with three films getting the prestigious '100%'.
  • Creator Thumbprint: The thumbprint belongs to Miyazaki more than the studio, but elements such as a Cool Plane, pigs, young girls on their Coming of Age journey, and of course Ghibli Hills frequently feature in their works.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Ghibli's first film, Laputa: Castle in the Sky features elements such as a Big Bad, whose usage is averted in almost all of the studio's subsequent productions. It places more of an emphasis on the plot, and uses more animation tricks like prolonged periods of still frames and Everybody Do the Endless Loop. Furthermore, it is Ghibli's only production which can be classified as science fiction.
    • It is possible to see their house style develop in the film, however. Traces of Grey and Gray Morality are present in the form of the Dola clan, and their focus on environmentalist themes starts to shine.
  • The Film of the Book: Their works tend to be adaptations of existing books (Howl's Moving Castle (anime) and Howl's Moving Castle (novel), The Borrower Arrietty and The Borrowers, When Marnie Was There (film) and When Marnie Was there (novel)), manga, and even folk tales.
  • Genre Roulette: The studio often releases two thematically different films next to each other, frequently switching between genres:
  • Good Old Ways: Despite pioneering the integration of CG and traditional animation in Princess Mononoke and Howl's Moving Castle, the studio later shut down their 3D CG department for Ponyo, keeping everything hand drawn. The studio still uses paper for animation, only sparingly using CG in their productions.
    • It appears they have reopened this department, however, as there are some visible CG segments in The Borrower Arrietty, released after Ponyo.
    • This is averted in the production of Earwig and the Witch, a fully 3D animated film intended as a project for the younger staff at the studio.
  • Iconic Logo: The hand drawn Totoro, the blue background, and the capitalisation on "STUDIO GHIBLI" all make their Vanity Plate memorable. It helps that theirs is often the only vanity plate in their films.
  • Invisible Advertising: Done with The Boy and the Heron, which has no release material other than a vague teaser before its release. If you dig deeper, you can find some additional information, like Joe Hisaishi being the composer, but the poster and the vague premise of an "Fantasy Epic" are all that's released. The only news about the film prior to release is that there is no news.
  • Logo Joke: The studio's standard film productions from 1986 to 2014 all use the standard blue vanity plate. Some productions, like The Red Turtle, an international co-production released in 2016, uses a red background, to differentiate them from the studio's usual productions. In Ghiblies Episode 2, the Totoro swings open like a door to reveal a man, who changes the phrase "スタジオブリ作品" (Sutajio Jiburi['s] Work) to "スタジオブリ作品" (Sutajio Giburi['s] work), replacing the "ジ" (ji) katakana with the similar sounding "ギ" (gi) kana. It's pretty obvious the latter's a joke, although whether the former is for humour is up for debate.
  • Meaningful Name: "Ghibli" is a plane named after the wind descending from Libya towards the Mediterranean Sea. The founders hoped that the studio would sweep a new "wind" across the realm of Anime. In addition, being named after a plane reflects the many films that have flying sequences. They also have "Studio" in their name because they are an animation studio.
  • Most Writers Are Male: All the studio's directors are male. This leads to an interesting subversion: the studio is known for bringing audiences many strong female protagonists, and their films are usually dominated by female leads in addition to the usual male characters. The girls in Ghibli films are just as strong, if not stronger, than their male counterparts, and their films feature no fan-service targeted towards either male or female audiences.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Their adaptations of existing English books tend to be this. For example, The Borrower Arrietty and When Marnie Was There updates the setting from England to Japan to reflect the target demographic. Howl's Moving Castle places more of an emphasis on War Is Hell messages than the original book.
  • Production Posse: Hideaki Anno's Studio Khara, since their establishment, assisted with many Ghibli productions, like Ponyo, The Wind Rises, When Marnie Was There, and From Up on Poppy Hill. To return the favour, Ghibli did work on Khara's third and fourth Rebuild of Evangelion films. This relationship goes back to 1995, when Anno was still working at Gainax, and Ghibli co-produced episode 11 of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
    • Directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata are responsible for most of the studio's output. Not surprising, considering that they're the founders. Them, alongside Toshio Suzuki, Yoshifumi Kondo, Masashi Ando, Goro Miyazaki, Yoshiaki Nishimura and Hiromasa Yonebayashi, are all long time employees.
    • Composer Joe Hisaishi has collaborated with Miyazaki on every single one of his productions at the studio.
  • Production Throwback: These guys love referencing their prior works, inserting characters (or even their own name) into the background. They never go overboard and spam every other frame with references, though. Totoro is a popular character to reference. Totoro appears in Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea and Kiki's Delivery Service, and a wooden toy Anna holds in When Marnie Was There looks like Totoro. The name "Ghibli" itself appears in Kiki's Delivery Service and From Up on Poppy Hill.
  • Series Mascot: The "Company Mascots" variation. Totoro serves as this for the studio, appearing in its Vanity Plate.
  • Signature Style:
    • All films from the studio as a whole tend to prioritize world-building over the Plot, leading to moments where the plot is put to a standstill as the studio shows you a work's world. Because of this, Ghibli's works can be perceived as being slow paced. Hiromasa Yonebayashi's works at the studio turns this Up To Eleven, using more long establishing shots, with many of them on greenery, and often being even slower paced.
    • Hayao Miyazaki's movies tend to focus on feelings of magic and wonder within the film's world, evoking child-like senses of imagination.
    • Isao Takahata's works are much slower paced than the Miyazaki ones, and are identifiable via their heavy focus on human emotions.
  • Start My Own: Miyazaki and Takahata started the studio after the success of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, taking many employees from Topcraft, the studio which provided animation services for the film. Topcraft itself is a Start My Own studio branching off Toei Animation.
  • Ten-Minute Retirement: After Hayao Miyazaki retired, the studio temporary gave up making animated films, choosing instead to shut down their animation department in 2014 after the release of When Marnie Was There. They returned to their role when Miyazaki came back from his own Ten-Minute Retirement, opening their animation department, and began work on The Boy and the Heron.

Commonly Used Tropes

These tropes show up all the time in Ghibli works.

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: There are no Ghibli films that are pure, 100% action. Some, like Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso, and Princess Mononoke have more action than others. These films still feature plenty of quiet scenes, whether they be character building moments, Slice of Life actions, or Establishing Shots of the landscape.
  • Action Girl: These heroines are often quite plucky, too. Wherever there is a Plucky Girl, there is an Action Girl, and oh boy, there are a lot of Plucky Girls in Ghibli territory. Examples include Nausicaa, Sheeta, San, Ponyo, Arrietty, and Fio.
  • Arcadia: The protagonist in the majority of their films live a simple lifestyle. Many characters reside in a city, but they are never too far away from greenery, and the chances that their entire house is covered with plants (such as in The Borrower Arrietty) are high. Other films, such as The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and When Marnie Was There use this trope as a major plot point.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Some of their films, such as Laputa: Castle in the Sky, When Marnie Was There, and From Up on Poppy Hill ends with a goodbye sequence. Although the characters changed for the better, and new friends were made, the act of saying goodbye makes their ending bittersweet. All Ghibli films produced in the 2010s either have a Downer Ending or a bittersweet ending — thematically reflective of the studio's hiatus starting in 2014. This is usually combined with a Thematic Theme Tune.
  • Blush Sticker: Their heroines tend to get them quite often. Some have them permanently, others get them when they are embarrassed. Blush Stickers come in all shapes and favours, from characters such as Kiki who always has them, to Arrietty, who temporarily stops responding, indicated by Blush Stickers!
  • Captain Obvious: Many of their characters repeat what is clearly shown on screen. This is partially intended to bring foreign audiences up to date with some Japanese customs and norms, and as such is more prominent in their dubs than their native Japanese audio tracks.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: In almost every single wide establishing shot the studio makes. They're known for attention to detail and completely ignoring The Law of Conservation of Detail, showcasing many real-life details that usually don't end up in animation. The Cast of Snowflakes is one such detail.
  • Conspicuous CG: While the studio does use special effects in their works, they keep it to a bare minimum, using it to enhance the story, instead of taking over. There are some elements like 3D backgrounds and rendered 3D which produce a distinct visual style that cannot be replicated by hand. These elements stand out when put next to traditionally animated characters. Subverted, in that when they use CG, they work hard to ensure that it blends in with the traditionally animated elements, and that it fits into their works. In Ghibli productions, 3D elements are just another part of the world. It does not mean someone stole assets from your PS2 and performed brain surgery on hand-drawn animation.
    • In Howl's Moving Castle, it's easy to tell the titular Howl's Moving Castle is CG, although the studio worked hard to ensure that it blends into the 2D animated characters and backgrounds. Similarly, some elements in Princess Mononoke are distinctively computer generated.
    • Note the studio is still fully digital, and their works are often scanned and colored in by computers. However, these devices rarely add special effects. Miyazaki allows a maximum of 10% of his works to feature special effects.
  • Cool Plane: What do you expect from a studio named after an airplane? Miyazaki absolutely loves incorporating these into his works, to the point where you'll be hard-pressed to find a Miyazaki film that doesn't have a cool plane. Leave it to Miyazaki to find ways of shoving a cool plane into a teenage witch's coming of age journey, a post apocalyptic man vs nature film, and a fantasy fairy tale. There's a film about the creation of a Cool Plane, and another one about a pig flying a Cool Plane. Hopefully you're not sick of these Cool Planes, because we've got Those Magnificent Flying Machines on the horizon. When you've sat through the many magnificent flying machines in Laputa: Castle in the Sky, prepare for Dola's Cool Airship. If it flies, Ghibli probably drew it.
  • Creative Closing Credits: A large number of Ghibli movies put backgrounds from their films over their ending credits. Some, like My Neighbor Totoro, feature original drawings created specifically for the ending credits. If you get really lucky, like in Kiki's Delivery Service or The Borrower Arrietty, you get credits imposed on a fully animated epilogue.
  • Dueling Dubs: Early Ghibli films — Laputa: Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Porco Rosso — all had English dubs done by Streamline pictures. In the 2000s, Disney produced another dub as part of their distribution deal, resulting in double English dubs. Kiki's Delivery Service is a notable example, as there are three dubs: the original one produced by Streamline Pictures, the 1998 one produced by Disney, and a revision to the 1998 dub intended to make it more faithful to the original Japanese track. This practice has all but disappeared in the 2000s, as Ghibli finally sorted out a distribution deal to bring their works to the English-speaking world, until The Borrower Arrietty arrived. The British StudioCanal produced a dub for the film, to reflect the British origin of its source material. Disney, as part of their distribution deal, produced another dub. The StudioCanal one is more faithful to the original Japanese track than Disney's one.
  • Ending Theme: Every film has one. Sometimes (Laputa: Castle in the Sky with "Carrying You", My Neighbor Totoro with "My Neighbor Totoro", Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea with "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea", The Borrower Arrietty with "Arrietty's Song"), the theme is a reprise of the established Leitmotif used in the film. Often the theme is a song that already exists, but isn't popular enough for it to qualify as a Real Song Theme Tune.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Princesses often occur in their works. Let's see... there's Nausicaa, the princess of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Lucita Toelle Ur Laputa, San in Princess Mononoke, and even a Rebellious Princess in the form of Princess Kaguya. Some of these characters are informed princesses, however, as it's hard to tell who they are without the film explicitly stating.
  • Expressive Hair: The hair of Ghibli heroines tends to conform to their emotions, and move up or down depending on what they are feeling. Typically combined with GASP.
  • Food Porn: Their movies are often filled with mouth-watering food, such as the bacon and eggs in Howl's Moving Castle or the ramen in Ponyo.
  • GASP: Ghibli heroines frequently do this after receiving news from another character.
  • Ghibli Hills: Of course, the Trope Namer. Every Ghibli film contains some sort of ornate greenery, and the studio emphasizes shots of those. Lush, rolling hills covered with trees spreading out from the landscape are common, and are often inhibited by both humans and animals. It's easier to list the Ghibli movies that doesn't use the trope, even then, the studio can't resist incorporating elements from Ghibli Hills.
  • Good Parents: Ghibli does have a reputation for making wholesome and heartwarming films, as long as you don't go into their dark side, and Good Parents is about as wholesome as you can get.
  • Green Aesop: Many of the studio's works feature environmentally conscious messages, partially demonstrated through lush portrayal of the setting.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: If Ghibli has an antagonist, they work hard to ensure that they are established as just another person, carrying about their day-to-day tasks. An exception to this is Laputa: Castle in the Sky, where Muska is in the black, however there are still traces of gray here and there in the form of the Dola clan.
  • Implied Love Interest: Used between characters such as Arrietty and Spiller, instead of actual love interests due to their usage of No Hugging, No Kissing.
  • Kid Hero: Not surprising given the studio's young target demographic, with the occasional adult film thrown in. Most of the studio's protagonists — Arrietty (14), Umi (16), Fio (17), Kiki (13), Haru (17), and more — are teenagers. Others, such as Souseke (5), Mei (4), Anna (12), and Chihiro (10) are pre-adolescent children. This allows the studio to focus on childhood innocence and the wonders of the world from the perspective of a child.
  • Leitmotif: A common technique used in all of Joe Hisaishi's scores. Each Ghibli movie scored by him (and many without his involvement) has a distinct and memorable main theme. As a result, most of their works use a Theme and Variations Soundtrack.
  • Lull Destruction: Averted in the studio's works themselves, but played straight in some English dubs. Whereas western animation seeks to advance the story with every scene, Ghibli often pauses and has quiet, contemplative moments where the soundtrack, story, and dialogue stops. That doesn't stop their dubbers from adding in extra lines and songs, though. Early Disney dubs added extra lines and songs to Kiki's Delivery Service, and extended the soundtrack to Laputa: Castle in the Sky.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: There's a lot of Slice of Life stuff in Ghibli films, stuff that everyone will do in their life like going to the supermarket or driving to school. Ghibli, however, has a method of making these mundane tasks seem awesome without turning anything Up to Eleven or introducing massive explosions. The secret lies within the detail of Ghibli's works, and the realistic depiction of human life, combined with the romanticization of nature and detailed backgrounds. This allows the audience to see gorgeous aspects of the world while being reminded that the "world" is the one they live in.
  • No Antagonist: Ghibli's conflicts in their slice of life works are often internal and character driven, instead of being caused by an outside source.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: This is played straight in half of their works, but averted in others. In some films, like The Wind Rises or Howl's Moving Castle, romance is a major focus in the plot. However, other films, such as Laputa: Castle in the Sky and Kiki's Delivery Service, have no romance despite having both a boy and a girl as central characters. Others, such as My Neighbor Totoro or The Borrower Arrietty don't have romance, simply because it would be inappropriate with the story that's being told.
  • Opposite Gender Protagonists: Go to the page for the trope, and scroll down to the Anime and Manga section. What do you see? A big wall of text listing so many Ghibli films it can double as a "list of Studio Ghibli films" page. In fact, the studio's works is the biggest source inspiration for the creation of the trope on All The Tropes. Having a female and male lead is common in almost every Ghibli film, and other characters aren't significant enough to be classified as a lead character. For example: in Kiki's Delivery Service, the main characters are the Cute Witch Kiki and the Adorkable Tombo. Although other characters such as Osono exist, they don't have enough screen time to be classified as a primary character. Although they play a role in the story, they don't drive it forward enough to be classified as a main character.
  • Plucky Girl: To the point of being the image on the trope's page. Ghibli heroines are strong and independent. They will face many hardships, especially from their internal conflicts, but they always get back up.
  • Retraux: The studio went digital starting from My Neighbors the Yamadas, so film and cel imaging grain is no longer a problem for the studio, but the studio manually adds them back in, through digital software.
    • The Wind Rises has its audio in mono, despite being a fully digital production released in 2013.
    • The Tale of the Princess Kaguya uses a much older art style reflective of ancient paintings, with rougher outlines and less detail, rather than Ghibli's signature style.
  • Scenery Porn: Visible in almost every work from the studio. Miyazaki's films are notable for using this, often having detailed landscapes, rolling hills, or lush grass in almost every single shot. The Borrower Arrietty takes this to the next step, often focusing on detailed shots of foliage, complete with realistic water physics and reflections. Try watching one of their films and not take screenshots.
  • Shown Their Work: Although there are slip ups here and there, the studio typically does a lot of research in the development of a new project. For example, the airplanes in Jiro's dream are real in The Wind Rises (The Chinese Wikipedia has a list of airplanes and boats that appear in the film). In The Borrower Arrietty, rain and water drops have realistic surface tension. Cats close their eyes halfway to display affection, just like they do in real life. If you see a plane in one of their movies, chances are, it's a plane that exists in real life.
  • Slice of Life: Even in their epic fantasy works, there are still slice of life moments like cleaning a house, waking up in bed, or cooking breakfast, adding a feeling of immersion to the story. Often, the pacing of the entire plot will be interrupted for these moments. This is excluding their actual slice of life films.
  • Silence Is Golden: Ghibli's films are filled with moments like these, often interrupting the story to deliver a relaxing scene for the sake of world building. Examples of this are the train scene in Spirited Away and the bus stop scene in My Neighbor Totoro. In addition, Ghibli's works often have long moments of silence in the soundtrack, to the point where composer Joe Hisashi was asked to extend the Castle in the Sky score when it was dubbed as Disney informed him American audiences are uncomfortable with long periods with no music. Miyazaki has described it as 'mā', calling it the space between claps. The Red Turtle takes this up a notch by having no spoken dialogue.
  • The Song Remains the Same: Most of their ending songs remain in Japanese once brought over to the west, partially due to their strict "no edits" policy and the difficulty of replicating the original performance. There are some aversions, however, including My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and The Borrower Arrietty where the ending songs are dubbed into English. In the latter, this is done by the song artist with Surprisingly Good English.
  • Thematic Theme Tune: Plays over the ending credits of most of their works. These song lyrics, when translated into English, recreate the mood, tone, and themes presented within the film they are used. For example, Spirited Away ends with "Always with Me", which discusses themes of saying goodbye and wonders of the world — just like the film itself. Howl's Moving Castle uses "The Promise of the World", which explores themes of love. The studio occasionally opts for a Title Theme Tune, such as in My Neighbor Totoro and Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. Sometimes, like in The Borrower Arrietty, the ending song has elements from both tropes: "Arrietty's Song" has a title from Title Theme Tune, but lyrics from Thematic Theme Tune.
  • Those Magnificent Flying Machines: Many of the flying machines from Miyazaki and the studio feature unconventional, Steampunk designs, reflective more of dreams of flying machines than flying machines themselves. The trope is prominent in Laputa: Castle in the Sky and Howl's Moving Castle, but also features in The Wind Rises to a lesser extent, the latter capturing the spirit of the machines and mixing it with more conventional aircraft designs.
  • War Is Hell: Miyazaki's works are filled with anti-war messages. This is prominent in Howl's Moving Castle, where you can see the effects that war has left on Howl and how it has left him more and more exhausted. Bombings are depicted, along with many, many towns on fire.
  • When It Rains, It Pours: Happens in early Ghibli films due to technical limitations. In My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service, you have a three-second warning when the first drop of rain hits. If you do not find shelter within the three seconds, expect to become dripping wet in the next second. In later films, such as The Borrower Arrietty where the film-making technology is more advanced, less intense rain can be portrayed on screen, although the trope is still used in The Wind Rises.

Averted Tropes

Sometimes, you expect a trope to be used in an animated production. Not here, though.

  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: Um, no. Ghibli's works are heavily focused on Slice of Life elements, and as a result, contain lots of background details that you won't need to understand the story. Massive shots of crowds, or long shots into the distance, are present in almost every Ghibli work. While this does nothing for the story, it contributes a lot to the magical feeling of a Ghibli movie.
  • Limited Animation: Ghibli only produces around two hours of animation a year, as opposed to other anime studios tackling multiple series at the same time. In the latter, compromises have to be made to achieve that quantity on a strict deadline with a limited budget. Not here, though. Ghibli has the resources to fully animate everything. The problem with this approach is that Ghibli takes much longer and requires much more money to make anything.
  1. sort-of named after the Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli fighter
  2. Probably because, you know, they're Japanese. Why would an English word be in a Japanese dictionary?
  3. Therefore, Ghibli taught us that bringing katanas to meetings can solve your problems.