In what can only be described as an attempt to one-up to Disney+, HBO have revealed the latest offering available on their soon-launching streaming service: 21 Studio Ghibli movies to stream exclusively through their platform. Because this week, WarnerMedia have acquired streaming rights of the Studio Ghibli catalogue for the first time.
Until now, Ghibli has famously never licensed its precious anime offering to appear on any streaming service, as fans of the extensive repertoire will attest. It’s always been a case of relying on buying expensive DVD or Blu-Ray imports to satisfy the anime craving. Now, with all this work going public, there’s no doubt many fans’ lives will be made easier and the work much more accessible to a wider audience.
But why HBO Max? At $14.99/month, the service, which will launch next Spring, already has a notable collection, including Friends, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and the highly-anticipated DC Entertainment series, Batwoman. Why now, and not years ago?
In the ongoing streaming wars, I can only think of this as a jab at Disney+. Just this week, the rival megacorp launched an impressive tweet announcing their entire collection, which included more than 800 shows and movies which will be released on the service come November 12. It’s certainly impressive, but without the rare Ghibli collection, it means that HBO Max just about has the upper hand.
According to IndieWire, the not-insignificant list of movies included is as follows:
Castle in the Sky
The Cat Returns
From Up On Poppy Hill
Howl’s Moving Castle
Kiki’s Delivery Service
My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbors the Yamadas
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
The Secret World of Arrietty
The Tale of The Princess Kaguya
Tales From Earthsea
When Marnie Was There
Whisper of the Heart
The Wind Rises
In a statement, Studio Ghibli chairman Koji Hoshino said:
“We are excited to be working with HBO Max to bring the complete collection of Studio Ghibli films to streaming audiences in the U.S. As a premium content brand, HBO Max is an ideal home for our films. Upon launch of the service this spring, existing Ghibli fans will be able to enjoy their favorites and delve deeper into the library, while whole new audiences will be able to discover our films for the first time.”
HBO Max chief content officer Kevin Reilly added:
“Studio Ghibli films are visually breathtaking, completely immersive experiences. Exciting, enchanting, and deeply humanistic, these wonderful films have captured people’s hearts around the world, and we are proud to showcase them in an accessible way for even more fans through HBO Max.”
But I can’t help but think of this being at odds with the studio’s ethos. Bearing in mind this is a studio whose North American distributor GKids once said, “Studio Ghibli does not make their films available digitally, whether for download or streaming, anywhere in the world. They continue to believe that presentation is vital and particularly appreciate opportunities for audiences to experience the films together in a theatrical setting.”
While the move means more accessibility, it’s unfortunate that not even Ghibli could resist the changing times and give into online licensing. It also means that HBO Max might just have a more successful swipe at your wallet.