The Gateway Film Center has become known for presenting films that normally wouldn’t be found in larger theater chains.

Since the start of the year, GFC has been displaying the complete collection of films from Studio Ghibli (pronounced jee-blee), a prominent Japanese animation film company. All 22 Studio Ghibli films will be shown in subsequent, chronological order before the end of May.

It really has been one of the most successful series that we have done here,” said Johnny DiLoretto, director of communications at GFC. “This is really exciting for me because I didn’t realize how passionate and devoted the fan base was for these films.”

Studio Ghibli draws a lot of cross-cultural comparisons to Pixar Animation Studios because of the impact and successes of the two animation companies, but there are two very significant differences: Studio Ghibli was founded almost a year before Pixar and, while Pixar’s films are mostly computer-animated, Ghibli films are meticulously hand-drawn.

They are emotionally complex, psychologically rich and the artwork is untouched,” DiLoretto said. “They’re really beautifully hand-crafted films, and it’s the complexity of them that I think elevates them sometimes above your basic computer-animated film from America.”

GFC’s display of Ghibli films also comes at a tumultuous time for the Japanese film company, which now sits at a crossroad.

Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki retired from his head position in 2014, which resulted in the company taking a brief hiatus from film production to discuss its future. However, a Ghibli film has still not been produced since Miyazaki’s departure.

For now, GFC can play all of the films made before Miyazaki’s departure to fill the void. Eight of the films have already been shown, leaving 14 more for fans to enjoy.

Ghibli films are presented weekly, with different showtime options for both dubbed and subtitled versions.

“Initially, we were planning on doing a couple screenings per week, and right away the audience said, ‘We want more shows,’” DiLoretto said. “So we’ve been trying to accommodate those demands as best we can.”

DiLoretto also commented that families typically attend the dubbed showings of Ghibli films, while the subtitled movies attract a more mature audience.

The Ghibli series is not just attracting nearby Ohio State students. Moviegoers are coming from Worthington, Grandview and throughout Columbus to experience the showcase, DiLoretto said.

“I think it’s very valuable for the entire Columbus community, as well as for the Ohio State community, that we have the opportunity to watch the films in the order which they were made, and thereby to see the arc,” said Kerim Yasar, assistant professor in Japanese in OSU’s Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures.

The precision that Miyazaki and other Ghibli producers use to craft their animated stories conveys a high level of respect for the brand and Ghibli fans. Yasar mentioned that, at times, they have taken extreme measures to make sure the seemingly sacred films are protected and displayed as they were made to be.

When noted Hollywood producer and aggressive movie manipulator Harvey Weinstein tried to commercialize Miyazaki’s film, “Princess Mononoke,” by cutting it shorter, an unnamed producer reportedly sent a samurai sword with a note warning Weinstein not to cut parts of the film.

The effort shown toward protecting the namesake of Studio Ghibli’s style could explain why it has been able to attract a cult-like following.

I think what makes it different is the tremendous amount of creative control that the directors and producers at Ghibli can exercise, and that’s a result of the early success that they had,” Yasar said.

Aside from the awe-inspiring animation, the films also delve into morality values and issues deeper than American animation, Yasar said. Ghibli films are designed to let one’s imagination run wild, which is what makes the series so iconic in Japan.

A Ghibli membership can be purchased at GFC for $199. The package includes perks, such as unlimited access to all Ghibli films, advanced screenings and free popcorn.

This week’s featured film in the series is “Only Yesterday.” The dubbed version is set to play at 2 and 4:40 p.m. on Friday and the subtitled version is scheduled to be shown at 7:20 and 10 p.m.

Promotional photos for Ghibli. Credit: Courtesy of Mike Cargioli

Promotional photos for Ghibli. Credit: Courtesy of Mike Cargioli