Editors' Notes The animated films produced by Japan’s hallowed Studio Ghibli present a dazzling fusion of lifelike natural scenery and fantastical cartoon characters, and their accompanying soundtracks play a crucial role in helping you get acclimatized to their surreal surroundings. Since the studio was founded in the mid-’80s, composer Joe Hisaishi has played the John Williams to resident auteur Hayao Miyazaki’s George Lucas. And like Ghibli’s animations themselves, Hisaishi’s scores mediate between ancient traditions and psychedelic futurism, as exemplified by the operatic ambient synthphonies of Princess Mononoke. But within Ghibli’s films, traditionally scaled pop-song sing-alongs complement Hisaishi’s impressionistic pieces, be it Spirited Away’s stirring folk-ballad centerpiece, “Always With Me,” or the mechanized, pan-flute-speckled overhaul of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” heard in Whisper of the Heart.

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