(Welcome to Pop Culture Imports, a column that compiles the best foreign movies and TV streaming right now.)

For the first time in its 36-year history of making some of the most breathtaking animated masterpieces of all time, all of Studio Ghibli‘s movies are available to stream right now. The Japanese animation studio best known for its adorable raccoon-like mascot and the acclaimed works of animation titan Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli is often written off as the maker of peculiar arthouse animes — too philosophical for western kids used to fast-paced Disney movies, and too anime for cinephiles. Well, I’m here to prove those hypothetical haters wrong. Or, at least, to lend a helping hand to those who are interested in diving into the works of Studio Ghibli, but are unsure about where to start or if the studio’s films will even appeal to them. I can assure you, of the 21 feature films (and one TV movie) released by Studio Ghibli since its inception in 1984, there will be something for you.

So in this week’s Pop Culture Imports, I’m shaking things up a bit and spiriting you away across the Pacific to give you a beginner’s guide to Studio Ghibli movies.

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isao takahata legacy

“Why must fireflies die so young?”

On April 5, the world lost an animation titan. Isao Takahata, the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, a frequent collaborator with Hayao Miyazaki, and the director of stunning anime films like Grave of the Fireflies and The Tale of Princess Kaguya, died at 82. But not many people outside of hardcore Studio Ghibli fans may recognize his name.

Takahata’s films are rarely given international acclaim and Disney hasn’t rushed to bring his movies Stateside like they have for his partner, Miyazaki. Until a few years ago, most of his filmography wasn’t even available to buy in the U.S. Which is a huge shame. Much credit has been given to Miyazaki for elevating anime to international heights and testing the limits of anime’s narrative and creative potential. But the Isao Takahata legacy is just as groundbreaking, if not more so.

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Good news for fans of Hayao Miyazaki and films from Studio Ghibli: the company has taken action to secure rights to two film titles, and in doing so has given us the name of two new projects. Hayao Miyazaki’s next film seems to be called Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises), and we know that it will tell the story of the man who designed the Zero fighter plane for Japan. The  new project from Grave of the Fireflies director Isao Takahata, meanwhile, is Kaguya-Hime no Monogatari (Princess Kaguya Story), based on the folk story ‘Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.’ Read More »