Generally regarded as one of the best animation studios in the world, Studio Ghibli continues to be hailed for its impeccable art style and unique storytelling capabilities. While much of that praise centers on the wholesome, immersive vibe of works like Kiki’s Delivery ServiceStudio Ghibli’s darker, creepier subject matter has been integral to their continued success.
Many of these darker Studio Ghibli movies have become iconic in their own right for the spine-tingling spirits and monsters they bring to light. Even though viewers are meant to root for the human (or human-adjacent) protagonists of these movies, audiences can’t help but be drawn to the over-the-top, visually disturbing creatures that act as secondary characters or pure and simple antagonists.
10/10 Catbus has a constant smile that bothers viewers
My Neighbor Totoro
The aptly named Catbus in My Neighbor Totoro is a large 12-legged cat that serves as Totoro’s means of transportation throughout the film. While many fans have turned to this character for his feline qualities and interesting design, as he was heavily inspired by the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderlandmany others found his perpetual toothy smile unnerving.
Another creepy aspect of the Catbus is the glowing yellow eyes that act as the feline vehicle’s headlights. Since these eyes rarely blink, they make the Catbus appear to be all-seeing, though the creature doesn’t do anything mean throughout the film.
9/10 The Kodama can be quite unsettling in the right context
Although the Kodama in Princess Mononoke are inherently harmless and can even be quite cute, these creatures’ simplistic features and strange, stilted movements can be unsettling. Despite being a positive presence throughout the film as an indication that the forest they inhabit is healthy, the constant, curious looks on their faces combined with their sketchy features can send tingles down viewers’ spines.
While many viewers struggle to identify what’s so unnerving about these little monsters, much of their creepiness comes from their humanoid qualities, like their pasty white bodies. Because of this, these creatures could easily be turned into creepy, inhuman yet humanoid antagonists in a horror feature film.
8/10 Therru’s dragon form is creepy in an understated way
Tales from Earthsea
Although they are neither good nor evil, the dragons of Tales from Earthsea can be quite unnerving to watch in their sheer scale and jagged, intimidating features. While the enormous size of these monsters is more than enough to make them feared, they are made far more unsettling by their immense strength and cynical view of humans.
Many terrifying dragons are present in Tales from Earthsea, but the scariest is undeniably the dragon Therru becomes towards the end of the film. Although Therru’s dragon form is not revealed until the film’s climax, this transformation is extremely effective due to the enormity of his dragon form and the huge difference between this transformation and Therru’s human form. .
7/10 Blob Men Are Even More Unsettling When Viewers Realize How Humanoid They Are
Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle
Blob men in Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle are magical beings that the Waste Witch created to do her bidding. While these creatures aren’t entirely sinister, their inhuman contorting abilities combined with their humanoid figures make them effortlessly spooky.
Just when audiences thought these monsters couldn’t be more unsettling, Madame Suliman’s blob men appear in skin-tight green soldier uniforms that make their bulbous appearance all the more obvious. While blob men aren’t particularly annoying at first glance and can even look quite silly due to their round noses, these dumb minions can be extremely scary in the right context.
6/10 The Ohmu are unnerving in their scale
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Through Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, the audience gradually becomes attached to Ohmu as they realize how misunderstood these gentle giants are to humans. However, for much of the film, Ohmu are hulking and intimidating presences that are made even scarier by their erratic behavior and unpredictability.
Nausicaä from the valley of the wind ends on an uplifting note that highlights the holistic and restorative results of realizing the inherent wonder of the natural world and the creatures that inhabit these environments. However, it can be difficult to enjoy this resounding theme due to the Ohmu’s intimidating appearances and uncanny ability to cause mass destruction when angered.
5/10 The Kashira prove that humanoid monsters are some of the most unsettling
Taken away as if by magic
The Kashira (which aptly translates to “head”) are a trio of large green heads who serve as minions to Yubaba in Taken away as if by magic. While their appearance as bodiless, free-willed heads is frightening in itself, these creatures are made even more unsettling by their strange movements and the angry expressions they constantly have on their faces.
Without a doubt, the strangest trio’s scariest moment occurs as they ominously jump around Chihiro. Throughout this brief sequence, the eyes of these monsters remain crossed and blurred, a simple but effective detail that reinforces their discreet and disturbing presence.
4/10 Lord Cob’s sinister intentions manifest in his immensely frightening final form
Tales from Earthsea
Although many of Studio Ghibli’s scariest monsters are monstrous in nature, some of these creepy characters appear to be human for much of the film, only to transform into truly unsettling monsters. A perfect example is Tales from Earthsea main antagonist, a dark wizard named Lord Cob, who upsets the earthly balance between life and death by seeking immortality.
While Cob is a compelling presence throughout the film as a mysterious and androgynous character, his taboo motivations eventually begin to manifest physically. When they do, Cob assumes a skeletal, almost rotten form, which highlights the atrocity of his actions.
3/10 Nago serves as a testament to how terrifying animal antagonists don’t need to be anatomically precise to make an impact.
In Princess Mononoke, Nago is initially the respected leader of the Boar clan. However, the film quickly turns sour when Nago is shot by Lady Eboshi, which corrupts him and turns him into a fearsome Demon God.
From this point on, Nago poses an unsettling presence as a ruthless demon god who lives only to make all humans suffer, as Lady Eboshi made her suffer. Nago looked like a typical boar before he was corrupted, but once he becomes a demon god, he really is a nightmarish fuel source – from his glowing red eyes to the crawling worms that cover his body and crush everything and everything. anything in its path.
2/10 Howl’s bird-like monster form is actually creepy despite his lack of screen time
Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle
In the majority of Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle, the powerful wizard Howl is immensely charming and his caring nature shines through as he develops a close bond with Sophie. However, the wizard’s monstrous, bird-like form reminds viewers of the miserable toll Howl must pay to use Calcifer’s magic.
When Howl first transforms into a bird-like monster, any hint of terror is quelled by the fact that the audience can still see Howl’s face. However, as Howl continues to transform, he gradually loses his humanity, and the appearance of his fearsome, monstrous form begins to reflect this.
1/10 No-Face is a chilling illustration of how monstrous humanity’s abundant greed can grow
Taken away as if by magic
Studio Ghibli Taken away as if by magic could easily be considered a psychological horror film, from the central plot device of Chiharu’s parents being turned into pigs, to the abundance of spooky spirits that frequent the bathhouses for pampering and feeding. However, among the Bathhouse’s many annoying patrons, the one that undoubtedly stands out is No-Face, a dark spirit with an emotionless mask for a face.
While No-Face is initially soft-spoken and mild-mannered, this quickly changes as he ingests individuals into the Bathhouse and begins to display their toxic and negative traits. As a result, No-Face becomes a fearsome, gluttonous monster whose hunger and greed know no bounds.
NEXT: 10 Worst Studio Ghibli Villains