Studio Ghibli, the legendary Japanese animation film studio, has blessed movie enthusiasts with top-notch animated films for over three decades.
Founded in 1985 by two friends and long-time collaborators - Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, Studio Ghibli forever changed the face of animated films, which went on to become some of the most critically acclaimed and financially successful movies globally.
Miyazaki's and Takahata's dream of blending fantasy and reality is evident in all of Studio Ghibli films, but they have miraculously managed to preserve the emotional aspect of the films - all of which are based around a heavy-on-the-heart plotline.
As Wes Anderson once said while talking about Isle of Dogs, "With Miyazaki, you get nature and you get moments of peace, a kind of rhythm that is not in the American animation tradition so much."
Here are five of the best Studio Ghibli films for anyone who loves art styles that are vibrant, flashy and colourful, and films that can tug at one's heartstrings set in a magical premise.
5. The Cat Returns (2002)
Studio Ghibli films do not always tether to reality. The Cat Returns is one of those movies that fall heavily on the surreal end of the spectrum which is full of wit, character and weirdness.
The movie sends the protagonist Haru, a shy girl who can talk to cats, on an Alice in Wonderland-like adventure through a magical cat kingdom after she saves the cat prince, Baron, from an impending accident.
To repay her noble deed, the entire cat kingdom sends her a yard full of gifts - mice, catnip, cat toys, fish, and other cat essential items. And they do not just stop at gifts. Haru ends up in the cat kingdom and slowly starts transforming into a cat herself.
She must return to her world before sundown to stop her transformation, but the journey back home is paved with obstacles.
If you're a cat person, it's a colourful imagining of what a cat society could look like. If you're not a cat person, it's a lot to take.
4. Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
Speculated as an overtly anti-war film, "Howl's Moving Castle" is set against the backdrop of a futile war fought using 20th century technology and magic.
A young milliner heads to the countryside in search of a cure when she is cursed by a witch and turns into an old woman. There, she encounters the eponymous castle and its owner, a troublesome wizard called Howl.
Howl's Moving Castle animates a world of magic, demons, and whimsy, but also incorporates the horrors of violence and war. For the protagonist, Sophie, it's about her journey to find her own beauty and love.
But it's also about Howl - the lonely wizard hurled into a human war that wasn't his war to fight.
A lot of Miyazaki's favourite themes, from anti-violence to female empowerment to sacrifice, are embedded in one of his most highly detailed visual works.
The film is filled with framed details almost to a cluttering degree, but Miyazaki brings his fairy-tale vision back to what people love the most about Studio Ghibli while maintaining one of his most strident messages - to love and spread love.
3. My Neighbour Totoro (1988)
Totoro is the Ghibli mascot and a world icon - a gigantic rabbit that loves to roar.
"My Neighbour Totoro" can be defined as the gateway drug for an addiction to Studio Ghibli. This quiet film is simply one of the most delightful and enjoyable children's films ever to be made.
At its core, My Neighbour Totoro is the story of an imaginary creature discovered by two girls crumbling under the emotional stress of a hospitalised sick mother and a relocation with their father. The daughters end up befriending the spirits living in the nearby forest, including Totoros of various sizes and a giant cat shaped like a bus.
Every parent should make their children watch My Neighbor Totoro. It's one of those movies that can be watched over and over again without losing any of its powers to incite a child-like wonder even within adults.
2. Spirited Away (2001)
In the two decades since its release, "Spirited Away" has become more than just an animated hit.
The film is about a 10-year-old girl named Chihiro, who embarks on a journey in the spirit-filled Wonderland after moving to a new village.
"Spirited Away" highlights the wonders of the natural world and the friendly monsters that inhabit it. However, it's also a story about courage and belonging, and one that has had a profound impact on audiences both young and old.
This artful film does not talk down to its younger viewers. Instead, it lets children become legitimately scarred by some of the film's hauntingly bizarre scenes.
The hand-drawn animation is as great as it can be by turning a fantasy world into a series of intricate, playful artworks. It is everything Studio Ghibli specialises in - artwork, animation, storytelling and intricacy.
1. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Set on an evening in 1945, shortly after Japan surrendered at the end of World War II, "Grave of the Fireflies" is one of Studio Ghibli's most harrowingly sombre films. The film's excruciating story, based around siblings Seita and Setsuko in Kobe, Japan, during the final months of the war will tug the heartstrings of even the strongest of hearts.
The siblings are faced with calamities such as hunger, diseases, homelessness as the world around them crumbles to dust after they lose their mother early in the film from a bombing.
The film opens with Seita dying of starvation and then flashes back to how it all started.
This movie does not house talking cats, magical worlds, or moving castles, but the two most unforgettable animated characters in history compensates for the lack of mystical fantasy.
"Grave of the Fireflies" is a film about a world lost, of innocence lost, of pain and suffering and love. It's also a story about two children forced to dig out an existence in a harsh, unforgiving wasteland.
The director of the film, Isao Takahata, details the human cost of war, but in a way which cannot be surpassed by even live-action films.