This forest spirit has become the defining logo of the Studio Ghibli empire. Big Totoro can't be seen by everyone — it even takes time for Mei's sister Satsuki to be able to see him — but he brings
excitement, progress and pure joy to whomever graces his presence. He’s a catalyst for the imagination, making him a worthy representation of the Ghibli name.
The hand-drawn Princess Kaguya sticks out because of how daring her form is when compared to the rest of Ghibli’s characters. She is a child of nature, and her movement evokes the rhythyms of the natural world.
Perhaps the most emotional Ghibli film ever made, “Grave Of The Fireflies” details the hardships of siblings Setsuko and Seita in war-torn Japan. Their incredible bond stays strong against devistation, making them one of cinema’s great brother-sister pairings.
Despite all of the imaginative splendor on display in Miyazaki's Oscar-winning Best Animated Feature — including an abundance of dragons and spirits — no creation comes close to matching the memorability of No-Face. Credit his minimalist design, which makes him stand out even more in the film's sea of eye-popping creatures.
There are wolves and then there is Moro, a 300-year-old wolf goddess capable of speaking human languages and displaying divine knowledge and great maternal protection. How's that for your lovable animal sidekick? The adoptive parent of the titular Princess, Moro is both mother and warrior. Her devotion to her kin makes her an integral figure throughout the movie.
It’s not every Ghibli film that you get a completely dispacable character, but Yubaba is certainly one of them. No wonder she’s so memorable. If her grotesque appearance isn’t scary enough, consider the fact she can control anyone whose name she posesses. Yikes!
Based on the popular manga character of the same name, Nausicaä is the kind of beautiful princess who isn’t afraid to be courageous and get her hands dirty. She takes girl power to a whole new level.
If there’s one thing Studio Ghibli does well, its turning even the most inconsequtional creations into inonic representations of their brand. Take the susuwatari, cute little sprites who resemble spiders. They hardly make an impact in “Totoro,” but their design was so popular that they practically wrote themselves into another Ghibli classic, “Spirited Away.”
Ghibli is well known for its many strong female characters, and Kiki certainly fits the bill. Her search for indepedence is so rousing because of her rebellious spirit, and she’s got enough vulnerability to keep her relatable at all times.
Porco Rosso is an Italian WWI ex-fighter pilot who has been turned into an anthropomorphic pig. With his dashing bravery and suave charisma with the ladies, he resembles some kind of Hollywood Golden Age hero…only in pig form.
Few Studio Ghibli characters have as strong of an arc as the sorcerer Howl. His brute personality hides his good guy soul, and his story ultimately finds him figuring out how to guide his own masculinity. It’s a mature character for even Studio Ghibli’s standards.
One of only a few Ghibli characters to be based off a real person, Horikoshi was a renonwed Japanese engineer who designed the Mitsubishi aircrafts utilized in World War II. His creations were beautiful in design but destructive in purpose, and it’s this juxtaposion that makes the character one of Ghibli’s most tormented and layered.
The most famous of the Ghibli female protoganists, San is a progressive badass who speaks to wolves and holds her own against evil spirits. The image of her riding Moro is as classic as Ghibli gets.
Jiji proves Ghibli gives Disney a run for its money when it comes to animal sidekicks. Super smart and incredibly witty in her physicality, Jiji is as handy and entertaining as sidekicks come.
These tiny forest ghosts don’t say a word and hardly have any hold over the plot of “Princess Mononoke,” and yet their spirit-like design and sheer number have made them a staple of Ghibli iconography.
Nausicaä’s pet fox-squirrel has a humorous temper and an unwavering loyalty that’s hard to forget. Along with Jiji, Teto is Ghibli’s most memorable animal sidekick.
Though brief in screen time, the robots play an integral role in the story, protecting the protagonists on their journey to locate the eponymous floating kingdom of Laputa. Though old and rusty in design, the bots are capable of exacting great destruction and accessing even greater knowledge. They are a symbol of Ghibli’s ingenuity.
When you’re thinking about all the things Studio Ghibli does best with its characters, Chihiro emerges as the unification of these answers. Equal parts brave, imaginative, vulnerable and selfish, she proves why Ghibli is the master of layered character building.
Part feline (his grin brings back memories of the Chesire Cat from “Alice in Wonderland”), part transportation vehicle, Catbus is the kind of bit supporting player that has no real need to be as inventively imagined as it is. And yet, that’s exactly why it’s an integral piece of Ghibli iconography.