Top Ten Movies Hiromasa Yonebayashi Has Worked On

If you have seen one of my previous lists prior to this one, you should probably know I had published a list counting down the top ten movies that Isao Takahata had worked on, as it was in dedication to the Studio Ghibli director and producer in question who had just passed away this year in 2018. Though he may no longer be with us, his contributions and legacy still are. And so is his influence. This brings us to perhaps the youngest film director of Studio Ghibli who worked there before transferring to the recently established Studio Ponoc, known as Hiromasa Yonebayashi. From his directorial debut with The Secret World of Arrietty to directing Academy Award for Best Animated Feature nominee When Marnie Was There, Yonebayashi looks to be a major anime veteran paving the way for the new generation of animators in Japanese animated cinema. And so, this list will count down the top ten movies Hiromasa Yonebayashi has worked on.

Feel free to vote and add on to this list.
The Top Ten
1 When Marnie Was There

Of all the acclaimed works Yonebayashi has directed or worked on, When Marnie Was There seems to be arguably his most acclaimed movie to date. Not only was it the last film Yonebayashi worked on before moving from Studio Ghibli to Studio Ponoc, but it was also the only movie so far to have been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature under his name. The film is already breathtaking with its gorgeous animation and art style as expected of a movie made by Studio Ghibli, but the simple but engaging premise along with its main characters and more to name take that level of breathtaking to a new level. The film revolves around a young girl named Anna Sasaki living with her relatives in a seaside town, who one day stumbles upon an abandoned mansion and meets a mysterious girl named Marnie, who entrusts her with a promise to keep the secrets of the mansion safe and sound. As Anna's summer vacation goes day by day, she spends more time with Marnie and eventually learns the mystery of her family and foster care. Sadly, I have not watched this movie yet, but seeing as I know quite some people here who have watched it and loved it, I ought to give this masterpiece a watch whenever I can. Especially since it was an Oscar nominee for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

2 Mary and the Witch's Flower

If I recall correctly, this was one of 26 submissions chosen as potential nominees for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for 2018's Academy Awards. Honestly, I still can't get over the fact that The Boss Baby was nominated over this and those 4 other anime movies that deserved the nomination more. That said, Mary and the Witch's Flower is best known as the debut theatrical feature of Studio Ponoc, a studio formed by ex-Studio Ghibli employees. So if you looked at images of this movie and mistook Mary and the Witch's Flower for a Studio Ghibli film, you can probably now see why. That said, the premise is fairly simple. The film is about a young girl named Mary who finds a mysterious flower that grants her the power to become a witch for one night. I do have yet to watch the movie, but chances are it's a good film. While some critics feel the movie needs a little more polishing and isn't exactly a complete masterpiece, Mary and the Witch's Flower is still Yonebayashi's most recent piece of art yet, with gorgeous visuals, an engaging story, and an interesting cast of characters that you'd expect from someone who worked at Studio Ghibli.

3 Spirited Away

If my review of Spirited Away is anything to go by or if you knew me long enough, you should all probably know that Spirited Away is not only my favorite anime film ever, but quite possibly my favorite movie of all time as well. While Yonebayashi only worked on key animation, there's no doubt in my mind that every Studio Ghibli employees' contributions helped made Spirited Away the masterpiece it is. Here, our main protagonist Chihiro is thrust into a spirit realm where she must work at a bathhouse in order to save her parents who have been transformed into pigs from being butchered and recover her true name. Not only that, but along the way, she also comes across a mysterious boy named Haku, who helps her along the way and is connected to her in some way. Now of course, I've already seen Spirited Away, but I'm not going to spoil anything else further beyond there, but to boil down the film's strong points, Spirited Away is a phenomenal movie for its beautiful animation, both the hand-drawn and CGI aspects of it, its breathtaking premise, its emotionally gripping soundtrack, a fun cast of interesting and complex characters, and much more to praise.

4 The Secret World of Arrietty

You can't make a list about Yonebayashi's movies without including the one that gave him his directorial debut. That said, The Secret World of Arrietty tells the story of a young girl known as the titular Arrietty, who belongs to a group of tiny people known as Borrowers who live within the walls and floors of human households and borrow items from them to survive. As such, the story is driven by Arrietty encountering a human boy named Kamiki, creating conflict as not only does she have to avoid being detected by other humans, but if I recall correctly, when her own mother is detected by a human herself, it's up to Arrietty and her new friend Kamiki to save her. Now I haven't watched this movie yet, but I do recall seeing a lot of commercials and trailers for it on Disney Channel back when I was little and still had cable. Honestly, I really got to find some down time for a Studio Ghibli binge marathon, because this has to be one of those Studio Ghibli movies that I absolutely have to watch (except Tales from the Earthsea since that's considered the worst Studio Ghibli film...).

5 Princess Mononoke
6 Howl's Moving Castle

Once again, Yonebayashi only worked on key animation for this film. If Wikipedia is correct (honestly, I shouldn't even trust Wikipedia in the first place since its information is unreliable), Hayao Miyazaki stated that this was his favorite creation. And it truly shows in execution. Howl's Moving Castle does have amazing visuals in terms of art style and animation, but the meat of the movie is really it's themes. Ranging from anti-war themes to themes of old age along with the value of compassion, who knew Miyazaki's opposition of the Iraq War would be a huge influence on what is now a Studio Ghibli classic in spite of the fear that it would be poorly received in the US for his beliefs? When Miyazaki said that he wanted to convey the message that life is worth living, I'm sure he was very successful in doing so. Getting to the synopsis of the movie, Howl's Moving Castle tells the story of a young female hatter named Sophie who is suddenly cursed by a witch into transforming into an old woman. Things only get more hectic when she meets a wizard named Howl, who is leading a resistance in the name of his king. Like almost every other movie on this list, I have yet to watch Howl's Moving Castle, but if it really is Miyazaki's favorite creation, that gives me more reason to want to watch this masterpiece.

7 Ponyo

Surprise, surprise, Yonebayashi mostly only worked on key animation for this film. That said, this brings us to one question. You all heard of Lu Over the Wall? Well, about less than 10 years prior to that movie's release, Studio Ghibli gave us Ponyo. Basically, imagine The Little Mermaid, but with younger main protagonists and the traditional Studio Ghibli art style. Ponyo follows the story of the titular young female goldfish Ponyo who meets a young boy named Sosuke and desires to become a human girl. While I can't say much about the movie as I've only seen a little glimpse of the first few minutes of the movie along with a few clips, I have to admit that the overall tone and style of the movie was quite cute. Plus, I just love imagining and seeing images of Ponyo and Sosuke all grown up. That said, Ponyo carries out the job of a Studio Ghibli film as expected of any Studio Ghibli film. It has fluidly beautiful animation, it has a simple but intriguing premise, and its characters are likable and interesting. Oh, and let's not forget those deliciously detailed noodle bowls Sosuke's mom prepared for her son and Ponyo!

8 From Up On Poppy Hill

Without surprise, Yonebayashi worked on key animation for this movie. While I barely know anything about this movie in comparison to more famous Studio Ghibli films, it certainly looks to be one that's a Studio Ghibli classic like those films. From Up on Poppy Hill is set in 1963 Yokohama, Japan, where a high school girl named Umi Matsuzaki meets a male member of her school's newspaper club named Shun Kazama, who are suddenly thrust into a fight against land development when they decide to clean up the school's clubhouse and are subsequently opposed by their school's chairman Tokumaru, who desires to demolish the clubhouse for redevelopment. With the help of Shiro Mizunuma, it's up to Umi and Shun to convince their school chairman not to demolish the clubhouse. Basically, From Up on Poppy Hill's premise is almost like an anime version of Hey Arnold: The Movie, but with positive reviews. Of course, I can't say much about this movie since I haven't seen it like all the others, but as always, expect good animation, good story, good characters, and good everything in a Studio Ghibli movie like this.

9 My Neighbors the Yamadas

Anyone remember this movie from my Isao Takahata list? If so, then Yonebayashi worked on in-between animation for My Neighbors the Yamadas. While I could care less to watch it since it's more comedy-oriented than the more emotionally gripping Studio Ghibli films, I had to put something on this list. But hey, I'm pretty sure this film has its fans. If I am to reiterate the last time I mentioned this movie on my Isao Takahata list, My Neighbors the Yamadas is essentially a slice-of-live movie telling loosely connected episodes of a normal family and their everyday lives. Again, I can't really care much for this film since it's not my type, but I'll say it again, I'm pretty sure this film has some appeal to those who appreciate it for its comedy. That's all I can pretty much say at this point..

10 Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade

Alright, so I don't know much about Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, but hey, I had to put a 10th movie on here to make this list complete. What else did you want me to put on here? Tales from Earthsea? That's not happening under my watch.

From what I've gathered on Wikipedia, Yonebayashi only worked in the in-between animation department for Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. Additionally, here's a little "What Could Have Been" fact: Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade was originally going to be a live-action film. Thankfully, the creator, Mamoru Oshii, changed his mind and opted for animation, giving us the alternate history thriller that is Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade.

The film was animated by Production I.G., a studio best known for works like the Ghost in the Shell series and Attack on Titan. It boasts gritty, cinematic animation. The story revolves around Kazuki Fuze, a member of a special police unit set in an alternate historical period during the 1950s Japanese riots. Fuze is faced with trauma and drama on multiple fronts. Not only is he forced to kill a frightened young girl and witnesses her committing suicide via explosive despite his refusal to execute her, but he also encounters her sister after visiting her grave and forms a peculiar relationship with her.

Okay, so that last sentence was longer than it should have been. But hey, I only know so much about the movie. From what I can gather, Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade seems to be a decent Japanese thriller animated film from the late '90s and early 2000s.

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