Cosplay of My Neighbor Totoro. [Image: HH Fred / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)]

Studio Ghibli’s Films Now Available on Major Digital Platforms

Japan Asia

For the first time; Americans can enjoy renting many of Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpieces on major digital rental platforms, such as Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Microsoft, and Vudu. It’s an exciting time for Studio Ghibli’s fans and a pivotal moment to further Japanese cultural exchanges for many young Americans.

Despite living in the digital age, for years, the Japanese animation studio did not make their content accessible to mainstream audiences and viewers were unable to obtain the titles legally. However, interests for the films have remained wildly popular among American youths expressed through Anime conventions attendance and cosplay events held within the United States. What was once a small community of foreigners appreciating Japanese pop-culture have steadily become a strong international representation of Japan’s soft power influence.

Anime Expo is the largest celebration of Japanese anime and manga in North America and is hosted in Los Angeles, California every year (due to COVID-19 the 2020 convention was cancelled, and the 2021 convention was held virtually). The event originated in 1991 and was known then as, “Anime Con” by members of the University of California Berkeley’s Anime Club. In 2001, the number of attendees exceeded 10,000 participants and in 2016 another milestone was reached with over 100,000 participants — the conference continues to grow each year, cultivating more diverse participants and astonishing organizers.

Collaborations such as a three-minute short film, Zen – Grogu & the Dust Bunnies, between Studio Ghibli and Lucasfilm, available to stream on Disney+, showcases anime as a medium that has helped shaped some of the most iconic American animations and will continue to do so in the future.

Japan’s government has also heavily invested in cultural diplomacy by launching the anime ambassador program in 2008 described by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan as — “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, aiming to further the understanding and trust of Japan, is using pop-culture, in addition to traditional culture and art, as its primary tools for cultural diplomacy.”

The Ghibli Museum operated by Studio Ghibli in Japan attracts 650,000 visitors a year, selling out tickets within hours of its release to foreign visitors and Japanese alike. By sharing access to Studio Ghibli’s films to a wider audience in America through digital platforms; the scope for strengthening people to people cultural relations between the United States and Japan will help develop a keener interest in Japan and its culture here in the United States.

Thuy Nguyen is a research intern at the East West Center in Washington. She holds a Master’s degree in Diplomacy and Military Studies from Hawaii Pacific University, and is based in Honolulu, Hawaii.