For fans of the legendary anime studio, Christmas has come early.

Christmas is still a week away, but Studio Ghibli has generously decided to give us 250 presents a week early. OK, maybe the yuletide timing is just a coincidence, but in any case, the legendary anime production house has just released its fourth and final batch of free-to-use images from its anime films, and it saved some of the best for last.

As with the previous bundles, Ghibli has made 50 high-quality stills from each movie free-to-use “for reasonable purposes.” This time, that finally includes the very first Ghibli anime, Laputa: Castle in the Sky.

Originally released in 1986, Laputa comes from a time when the anime industry as a whole, and especially the traditionally minded staff at Ghibli, were still doing essentially all of their work by hand. For artists at the top of their game, the result was lush painted backgrounds and cel coloring with a warm, organic feel to it, especially in the rendering of the floating island’s greenery.

Of course, calling Laputa “the first Ghibli anime” is somewhat open to debate. Yes, it is the first film released after the formal founding of the company, but Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, which premiered in 1984, was created through the passion of many of the key figures who would go on to found Ghibli.

Nausicaa is really the first theatrical work in which Hayao Miyazaki had the sort of complete directorial freedom to fully display the storytelling sensibilities and thematic elements that would become the company’s signature style.

Of course, Miyazaki isn’t the only Ghibli director, as fellow co-founder Isao Takahata’s works, such as Only Yesterday, have a charm all their own.

Only Yesterday’s artwork is particularly interesting in that when the film was released in 1991, it wasn’t a period piece. However, the then-contemporary setting looks quite different from the Japan of today, in terms of fashion, architecture, and more, making the anime a window into Japan’s recent-yet-fuzzy past for modern audiences.

The new batch of images also has two surprise inclusions, starting with The Red Turtle.

A co-production between Ghibli and French production company Wild Bunch, Ghibli’s Toshio Suzuki and Isao Takahata served as producers on the film, which was directed by Michael Dudok de Wit. As a result, cinephiles may have differing opinions on whether or not The Red Turtle qualifies as full-fledged Ghibli film or not, but the artwork, particularly the environments in which the story takes place, are frequently breathtaking.

The other surprise appearance is On Your Mark.

Unlike the theatrical features discussed above, On Your Mark was a music video for the song of the same name by J-pop stars Chage and Aska. As such, it’s only a few minutes long, but that short run time means nearly every frame is packed with visual detail, and it even manages to tell a concise yet compelling story despite having no character dialogue whatsoever.

With this fourth batch of images, Ghibli has now accounted for all of their theatrical anime so far except Grave of the Fireflies, which is the only film the studio produced which it doesn’t control the rights to. So does that mean this is the end of Ghibli’s free image generosity? Maybe, but then again not. The inclusion of On Your Mark gives us just a tiny glimmer of hope that maybe at some point in the future Ghibli might consider releasing stills from the anime shorts that play only at the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, like the sequel to My Neighbor Totoro. In the meantime, though, we’re happy to spend time admiring the art from these films, and the new batch can be found here.

Source: Studio Ghibli
Featured image: Studio Ghibli (1, 2, 3) (edited by SoraNews24)
Top image: Studio Ghibli
Insert images: Studio Ghibli (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
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