Taken away as if by magic is easily one of Studio Ghibli’s most popular films, loved by domestic and international audiences. Miyazaki’s masterful construction of the world adds a magical touch to it. It allows viewers to immerse themselves in a world rich in Japanese culture and tradition, while remaining connected to the journey of the protagonist Chihiro.
But Miyazaki isn’t the only filmmaker who can weave magic so well into his works, and here are some anime movie recommendations for those who appreciate a good story with fantasy elements.
8 animated films like Taken away as if by magic that emphasize storytelling with amazing visuals
1) Hotarubi no Mori e (2011)
Like Taken away as if by magic, Hotarubi no Mori e begins with the human protagonist Hotaru who gets lost in a forest inhabited by spirits and yokai. She meets Gin, who helps her find the way out of the forest. Gin, who is more spiritual than human, says he will disappear forever if touched by a human.
Hotaru returns to the forest every summer to visit, growing up while Gin remains frozen in time. As their ages finally seem to coincide, Hotaru and Gin become more aware of their romantic feelings for each other.
2) Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)
The first film produced by Studio Ghibli, Laputa: castle in the sky mixes fantasy and science fiction. With the legendary island of the novel Gulliver’s Travels, the film has something for everyone.
The story follows Sheeta and Pazu as they are followed by secret agents and pirates, all searching for the location of a long-lost floating island called Laputa.
3) Children Who Hunt Lost Voices (2011)
A list of anime movies featuring magic is incomplete without Makoto Shinkai movies. Similar to Taken away as if by magic, The children who hunt the lost voices shows protagonist Asuna traveling to Agartha, also known as the Land of the Dead.
This animated film has darker undertones than the Ghibli classic, but it’s also a coming-of-age story. The film beautifully depicts the loss and grief, as well as the maturity that comes with letting go of the past.
4) The Boy and the Beast (2015)
Most of the entries in this anime movie list, including Taken away as if by magic, take place in rural or suburban locations. On the contrary, The boy and the beast begins amidst the urban cacophony of the streets of Shibuya.
Runaway orphan Ren is taken in by Kumatetsu as a disciple. Accompanying the Beast to the Beast Realm, he spends the years training under his master who is also motivated by Ren to prove himself worthy of becoming the next lord of the Beast Realm.
5) Penguin Highway (2018)
When Chihiro falls into a magical world in Taken away as if by magic, magic itself pours into the ordinary world in penguin highway.
This animated film revolves around Aoyama, a mysterious woman who goes by the simple name of “Lady”, and the sudden appearance of a large number of penguins in the city. This anime belongs to the “coming of age” genre, but contains elements of mystery and science fiction.
6) Beautiful (2021)
Animation Film, Beautiful, is perhaps the most unique entry on this list, as it is a ‘scientific fantasy’. A modern adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast”, the film oscillates between the real and virtual worlds, with people using supernatural characters as avatars.
Beautiful deals with the trauma of protagonist Suzu and her inability to cope with the death of her mother. He follows her as she ventures into a web of danger and intrigue as “Belle”, after encountering a mysterious vigilante called “The Dragon”.
7) A Letter to Momo (2011)
Oddly enough, many animated films incorporate magic into their narratives while also dealing with heavier subject matter. Just like Studio Ghibli My Neighbor Totoro is cast as Setsuki and Mei coping with their mother’s illness,
A letter to Momo begins with Momo and her mother moving to a small island town in Tokyo following the death of her father. Like Taken away as if by magic, the film features supernatural creatures, as Momo begins to see the yokai haunting the estate who help her deal with her loss. The film is named after an unfinished letter from her father with just the words “Dear Momo”.
8) The Return of the Cat (2002)
To be an anime list similar to Taken away as if by magic, it’s only fitting to end with another Studio Ghibli-animated movie.
The cat returns tells the story of Haru who ends up getting engaged to the Prince of the Cat Kingdom after saving him from being hit by a truck. She is soon drawn into an adventure that takes her to the Cat Kingdom, where she slowly begins to transform into a cat.
To be a spin-off of Whisper of the heart, the film features the Baron Humbert von Gikkingen cat figure who tells him the secret to saving his human self.
While all of the entries on this anime movie list are critically acclaimed, many of them are rather underrated. Even among Studio Ghibli productions, only a handful of movies like Taken away as if by magic, Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle and My Neighbor Totoro are popular all over the world.
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This list will hopefully encourage viewers to dive into the magical world of anime movies, especially with the upcoming movies from Makoto Shinkai and Hayao Miyazaki.
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