As the popularity of anime has grown in the West, streaming platforms have tried their best to acquire exclusive licenses to shows and films to bring more viewers. HBO Max has taken a very different strategy in this regard as they are primarily focused on offering subscribers popular anime films instead of focusing on building a catalog of mainstream shows like other platforms. Therefore, fans who wish to immerse themselves in the magical world of animated movies should look no further.
12. Spirited Away (2021)
Studio Ghibli’s ‘Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi’ or ‘Spirited Away’ is arguably the greatest anime movie ever made. The critically acclaimed film is a coming-of-age story that revolves around the recurring popular culture themes of courage, resilience, love, identity, and self-discovery. It follows 10-year-old Chihiro Ogino, who is quite stubborn and spoiled. One day while going to a new house with her parents, she comes across an abandoned amusement park.
Intrigued by what they may find there, the family decides to explore the premises. But soon Chihiro comes to the realization that there is more to the park than it first appears. Soon ghostly apparitions and other supernatural phenomena begin to haunt her. As her parents are somehow turned into pigs, she finally concludes that she has somehow crossed over to the spirit world. This marks the beginning of a life-changing journey for Chihiro that completely transforms her into a new person. You can watch the anime here.
11. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
Howl is an infamous magician who lives in a moving castle. According to some rumors, he is a womanizer and possesses magical powers beyond anyone’s imagination. Sophie is a young girl who is familiar with these stories. She is the daughter of a hatter and lives a very ordinary life. However, he happens to cross paths with Howl when she ends up in a disturbing situation. Although he rescues her, Howl’s enemy Witch of the Waste does not like it one bit. In order to take out her frustration, she turns Sophie into an old woman. The curse turns Sophie’s life around and she embarks on a quest to return to normal. You can watch the film here.
10. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Studio Ghibli’s ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ or ‘Tonari no Totoro’ is a supernatural adventure film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. When Tatsuo Kusakabe learns that his wife is hospitalized due to a long-term illness, he feels that it would be the right decision to relocate to the countryside with his daughters Satsuki and Mei. One day, Mei accidentally encounters a bunny-like creature and while chasing it ends up in the forest. There she meets a giant named Totoro and manages to befriend him.
In the following days, Satsuki becomes friends with Totoro as well and it marks the beginning of a dramatic turn in the sisters’ life as they suddenly start going on magical adventures all the while becoming acquainted with the fantastical creatures of the woods. The film is accessible for streaming here.
9. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
In order to become a full-fledged witch, the witches in training are expected to live on their own in a distant town. Kiki, a 13-year-old goes to the coastal town of Koriko for the same purpose. She first finds a roof over her head when she meets Osono, who runs a small bakery. Kiki starts doing deliveries for her only to eventually start her own courier service with a broomstick that gives her enough money to live life on her own terms. However, her journey is filled with challenges and she slowly learns the true meaning of responsibility thanks to her experience. You can watch the film here.
8. Ponyo (2008)
When a goldfish manages to sneak away from home, she eventually ends up on the shore where she is rescued by a five-year-old boy named Sousuke. Interestingly, she heals one of his wounds, following which the two become friends. Sosuke then named her Ponyo not knowing that she has a father and her real name is Brunhilde. When she is captured later, she runs back to the surface again determined to become a human. However, her decision leads to a host of consequences that she had not intended. You can watch the film here.
7. The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (2013)
Inspired by the 10th-century Japanese folk tale of the same title, ‘The Tale of The Princess Kaguya’ is a fantasy anime. The Isao Takahata directorial follows Okina a woodcutter who accidentally comes across an abandoned baby inside a glowing shoot. He not only rescues her but decides to raise her as his daughter with the help of his wife. The baby soon grows up to become a friendly and warm girl named Kaguya. One ordinary day, Okina surprisingly discovers a big fortune of gold and treasure that turns his life around. He uses his newfound wealth to give Kaguya the life of a princess, not knowing that her life purpose will soon reveal itself. You can watch the film here.
6. The Wind Rises (2013)
Jirou Horikoshi wants to be a pilot but because of his nearsightedness, his dream looks beyond his grasp. But he still attends the Tokyo Imperial University to study aeronautical engineering with the hope of following in the footsteps of his hero, Italian aircraft pioneer Giovanni Battista Caproni, and designing a plane. But his arrival in Tokyo is followed by a historical tragedy that marks the beginning of a horrible period in Japan that is constantly plagued with conflicts. As the odds stack against his dream, Jirou becomes more determined which leads him to design the infamous Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter aircraft. The film follows him as he runs after his goals and braves countless challenges in his path. You can watch the film here.
5. Porco Rosso (1992)
In the Adriatic Sea, ships are terrorized by sky pirates who are afraid of no one. The only person brave enough to confront them is the former World War I flying ace, Porco Rosso, who mysteriously turned in a pig during the war. As he prepares to go head-to-head against an American ace from the pirate crew, Porco takes the help of a mechanic named Fio Piccolo and his old friend Madame Gina. You can watch the anime here.
4. From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)
Studio Ghibli’s ‘From Up on Poppy Hill’ or ‘Coquelicot-zaka kara’ is a romantic drama film written by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa. The Gorou Miyazaki directorial follows Umi Matsuzaki, a high schooler who helps his parents manage the seaside boarding house named Coquelicot Manor. Near her house, a well-known clubhouse that is loved by the locals is expected to be demolished in preparation for the upcoming Olympics. As people protest against it, Umi contributed by helping to spread awareness about the issue. There she meets and befriends Shun Kazama. Since he is an orphan, the two start digging into his past and end up discovering things that shock them beyond belief. You can watch the film here.
3. Weathering with You (2019)
Hodaka Morishima is a runaway high schooler who finds a job at a small-time publisher after struggling to make ends meet in Tokyo. Shortly afterward, an orphan named Hina Amano crosses paths with him. Morishima rescues him from shady men and soon discovers that she possesses the power to call out the sun whenever she wants. The two set out to put her abilities to good use, not realizing that everything comes with a price. You can watch the anime here.
2. Only Yesterday (1991)
Taeko Okajima is an independent woman living in Tokyo, who decides to visit her family during the harvest to help them out and to relax. On her way, she recalls all her childhood memories. When she eventually reaches the village, she is picked by Toshio and the two end up befriending each other. As she lives the rural life, she experiences its stark contrast with urban life. Taeko also gets to experience the joys and challenges of farming. ‘Only Yesterday’ is the bittersweet story of an adult woman who confronts her past and makes peace with it. You can watch the film here.
1. When Marnie Was There (2014)
Studio Ghibli’s ‘When Marnie Was There’ or ‘Omoide no Marnie’ is a mystery drama film directed by Yonebayashi Hiromasa. The film focuses on Anna Sasaki, a young girl who is inflicted with frequent bouts of asthma attacks. Looking at her precarious condition, her doctor advises her to stay in the countryside if possible. Therefore, Anna visits her aunt and uncle in a small town. There she crosses paths with a mysterious girl named Marnie and the two become close friends. As their bond grows stronger, the secrets of the Marsh House continue to puzzle. In case you wish to learn how the story progresses, you can watch the film here.
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