10 best Studio Ghibli anime, as picked by Japanese fans– Different ages have different answers

There’s some overlap at the top, but after that teens and older top 10 lists start to deserve.


Between how quickly the anime industry changes and how youth-oriented the medium is, sometimes studios enjoy a brief period of intense popularity only to fade from the limelight just a few years later. Find passionate fans of, say, the studios Tatsunoko, Madhouse, and Kyoto Animation, and odds are you’ve also found three fans from different age groups.

A very big exception, though, is Studio Ghibli. The anime films of director Hayao Miyazaki and his cohorts are loved by both young and old in Japan. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Ghibli fans of all ages love the exact same films. Illustrating that is a recent poll from Line Research which asked users of the Line messaging app “Which Ghibli anime do you like?” , then broke the answers down by age group.

Each participant was allowed to pick up to five films, and a total of 5,254 responses were collected, 526 from users age 10-19, 1,052 from those in their 20s, 1,050 each from the users in their 30, 40s, and 50s, and 526 from participants in their 60s. Let’s start by looking at the youngest group, then make our way up.

● Favorite Studio Ghibli anime (ages 10-19)

1. Spirited Away (chosen by 46 percent of respondents in this age group
2. My Neighbor Totoro (33.8 percent)
3. Castle in the Sky (30.2 percent)
4. Ponyo (28.6 percent)
5. Kiki’s Delivery Service (25.4 percent)
6. Howl’s Moving Castle (24 percent)
7. Arrietty (21.6 percent)
8. The Cat Returns (19.2 percent)
9. Princess Mononoke (14.6 percent)
10. When Marnie Was There (11 percent)

Topping the list here is Spirited Away, which is also the last time that we saw Ghibli in full force animating a dramatic directed-by-Miyazaki fantasy tale. Actually, Spirited Away shows up on the top 10 list for all six age groups in the survey, as do My Neighbor TotoroCastle in the SkyKiki’s Delivery Service, and Princess Mononoke. Conversely the 10-19 age group was the only one with Arrietty or When Marnie Was There on their list, suggesting that maybe they’re more open the directorial style of Hiromasa Yonebayashi. On the other hand, this group was the only one without Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind or Porco Rosso in its top 10.

● Favorite Studio Ghibli anime (ages 20-29)

1. Spirited Away (50.1 percent)
2. My Neighbor Totoro (40.3 percent)
3. Kiki’s Delivery Service (33.9 percent)
4. Howl’s Moving Castle (30.5 percent)
5. Castle in the Sky (27.1 percent)
6. The Cat Returns (19.9 percent)
7. Princess Mononoke (19.8 percent)
8. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (16.1)percent
9. Ponyo (14.2 percent)
10, Porco Rosso (12.1 percent)

The 10-19 and 20-29 age groups were the only ones where The Cat Returns, the frequently forgotten semi-sequel of sorts to Whisper of the Heart, cracked the top 10, even though Whisper of the Heart itself didn’t.

● Favorite Studio Ghibli anime (ages 30-39)

1. My Neighbor Totoro (53.1 percent)
2. Kiki’s Delivery Service (44.7 percent
3. Spirited Away (44.1 percent)
4. Castle in the Sky (40.4 percent)
5. Princess Mononoke (32.3 percent)
6. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (25.2 percent)
7. Whisper of the Heart (20.8 percent)
8. Howl’s Moving Castle (17.4 percent)
9. Porco Rosso (15.2 percent)
10. Pom Poko (12 percent)

Studio Ghibli’s most instantly recognizable character takes the top spot here, and in every other age group too from here on out. A unique quirk of the 30-39 group is that it’s the only one without Ponyo on its list. That might have something to do with the 2008 film being an unabashed children’s movie that this group could have seen in theaters when they were somewhere between 16 and 25, having outgrown such kiddie stuff but not yet being old enough to find it nostalgic. This group was, however, the only one bold enough to vote Pom Poko, and its hundreds of exposed tanuki testacies, into its top 10.

● Favorite Studio Ghibli anime (ages 40-49)

1. My Neighbor Totoro (52.8 percent)
2. Castle in the Sky (47.8 percent)
3. Kiki’s Delivery Service (41.1 percent)
4. Spirited Away (39.1 percent)
5. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (38.5 percent)
6. Princess Mononoke (22.8 percent)
7. Ponyo (16.5 percent)
8. Howl’s Moving Castle (15.6 percent)
9. Porco Rosso (15.5 percent)
10. Grave of the Fireflies (14.6 percent)

This is the first appearance of Grave of the Fireflies.. An unflinching look at the hardships faced by the downtrodden in the aftermath of Japan’s defeat in World War II, it’s arguably the most important-to-watch film in Ghibli’s catalogue. However, its heavy tone means it doesn’t get broadcast on summer vacation Friday nights like the rest of Ghibli’s anime do, and it’s a much less popular video rental for the same reasons. However, during its Japanese theatrical run in 1988 Grave of the Fireflies showed as a double billing with Totoro, so fans who are old enough to have gone to see Totoro on the big screen (i.e. this age group and older) may have been exposed to the tragic anime then.

● Favorite Studio Ghibli anime (ages 50-59)

1. My Neighbor Totoro (47.9 percent)
2. Spirited Away (46.9 percent)
3. Castle in the Sky (34 percent)
4. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (32 percent)
5. Kiki’s Delivery Service (28.9 percent)
6. Princess Mononoke (20.9 percent)
7. Porco Rosso (18.3 percent)
8. Howl’s Moving Castle (15.3 percent)
9. Grave of the Fireflies (14.5 percent)
10. Ponyo (13.6 percent)

It was 50-somethings who showed the most appreciation for Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, though maybe some respondents skipped it not because the don’t like it, but because it was made before Hayao Miyazaki, fellow director Isao Takahata, and producer Toshi Suzuki formally founded Ghibli.

● Favorite Studio Ghibli anime (ages 60-69)

1. My Neighbor Totoro (57.6 percent)
2. Spirited Away (46.7 percent)
3. Kiki’s Delivery Service (38.7 percent)
4. Castle in the Sky (25.9 percent)
5. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (24.9 percent)
6. Princess Mononoke (24 percent)
7. Grave of the Fireflies (17.5 percent)
8. Porco Rosso (14.4 percent)
9. Ponyo (13.2 percent)
10. Whisper of the Heart (12 percent)

One of the bigger headscratchers in the results is that 60-somethings and 30-somethings were the only age groups with Whisper of the Heart, a junior high love story, on their lists. Older 30-somethings would have neem right on the cusp of starting junior high school themselves when the movie came out in 1995, and maybe older fans feel a kinship with male lead Seiji’s grandfather and his ability to remember the past while still also enjoying life in the here and now.

On the other hand, the oldest age group was the only one to skip Howl’s Moving Castle, the only Ghibli anime in which the heroine spends a significant amount of the movie with the body of a senior citizen.

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