It’s time for Studio Ghibli fans to rejoice because most of the epically magical films are finally available for streaming in the United States.
These films are arriving just when many people may be running out of things to binge-watch during self-isolation.
There is nothing more soul healing than sitting down with some snacks and watching the breath-taking sceneries, nostalgic musical scores, and outstanding writing and animation of a Ghibli films. Famous writer and director (and my personal hero in all things animation) Hayao Miyazaki co-founded Studio Ghibli along with outstanding director Isao Takahata and phenomenal producer Toshio Suzuki. Takahata is no longer with us, but the influence of his work will never be forgotten.
Before you start your Ghibli marathoning, there are a few important things to note about the Studio Ghibli movie streaming options that fans can look forward to. The new HBO Max streaming service launched on May 27, 2020, which has been cause for much excitement. Get ready for all the details so you can be as comfy as a Totoro watching your favorite film and munching on snacks with as much enthusiasm as No Face eating everything in the bathhouse.
U.S. fans were feeling more than a little salty when the films became available for streaming on Netflix everywhere except for the U.S. However, that was because a separate agreement had been made between Ghibli and HBO Max. Previously, there was a deal between Ghibli and Disney, but Disney sold distribution rights to Gkids. Gkids then partnered with Fathom events to bring Ghibli films to the theaters in the United States. Miyazaki and fellow co-founders always intended for the films to be viewed in movie theaters, rather than home televisions.
For many fans, this makes sense, as Ghibli films are known for their immersive visual, auditory, and sensory eloquence. However, since then, distribution of the films has become more accessible for streaming platforms.
HBO Max offers most of the Ghibli films, except for Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies, which is on Hulu. If you don’t already know, it’s one of the saddest films that you could possibly watch (I could only watch it once and that was an emotional rollercoaster).
One of the first things to note is that HBO Max is not the same as regular HBO. If you stream HBO media already, it will not include Max. Additionally, HBO Max isn’t available on the Roku or Amazon Fire (yet). It is available for streaming on iOS, Android, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Apple TV, Android TV, Chromecast, and through web browsers for $14.99 a month. There are some special deals available for current HBO streaming customers looking to upgrade to HBO Max. AT&T, which is the company residing over HBO Max, has yet to reach an agreement with Amazon or Roku. So, us Roku owners (cries) won’t have those upgrade options. Perhaps it’s time to finally justify splurging on that PS4.
Many people are wondering what this will mean for the Ghibli Fest that Fathom and Gkids host yearly throughout movie theaters all over the United States. With quarantine keeping movie theaters closed for the time being, it’s hard to say, as things are constantly changing. However, Gkids still has distribution rights, so hopefully once things return to normal, we’ll be back to crowding our favorite movie theaters and watching Kiki take to the skies with Jiji beside her.
While there are both new and old distributors around the world, Studio Ghibli still remains its own independent animation studio. Not only that, but many fans know about Miyazaki coming out of retirement in 2017 to work on a new Ghibli movie called How Do You Live?
With many production delays still going on, it’s uncertain when we will get to see Miyazaki’s new film and enjoy the wonderful musical genius of Joe Hisaishi. According to Miyazaki, the film is meant to be for his grandson, as Miyazaki anticipates he himself only has a few years before entering “the next world.” Our beloved hero will be 80 soon.
Watching Ghibli films during quarantine may be the best time to rewatch or watch for the first time. With themes of environmentalism, anti-war, self-discovery, love, forgiveness, family, consumer greed, corrupted capitalism, and more, each film reflects some beautiful yet haunting truth that exists in human nature.
Each film’s artful hand-painted and hand-drawn techniques can take us on a journey even when we are confined to our homes. For those of us in need of a feeling of coziness, the films offer comfort and depth.
Ghibli films provide nostalgic relief during times of great stress. The level of catharsis and escapism allow many people to heal. In a time of unjust violence, overwhelming sickness, and economic hardship, Ghibli films shed light on mourning, but also, hope for love and peace.
Whether it’s through HBO Max, Netflix outside of the States, your Ghibli box set, digital download, or the magic of the wizard Howl, now is the perfect time to be spirited away by the soulful work of Studio Ghibli.
What's Your Reaction?
Danielle Broadway is an English Literature MA student at California State University, Long Beach. She has been published in Black Girl Nerds, LA Weekly and Medium, is a writer for CSULB’s the Daily49er, is a managing editor for Watermark, her school’s academic literary journal and is an assistant editor at Angels Flight • literary west. She’s an activist and educator that is inspired by her family to make social change both in the classroom and beyond.