I truly hope you’re doing well in the current social climate and are celebrating Friday the best way you can. This week, I’m reviewing two brilliant animated series that’s female oriented, but fit for every audience imaginable. They’re two very complex and amazing animated series you can sit down and watch with the whole family, that promote strong female heroes, complex ideas about youth and discovery, and confronts very real overtones about loss of innocence and growing up way too fast.
Twenty years ago, Studio Ghibli and the master Hayao Miyazaki opened my mind up to a new dimension of animation and storytelling that pretty much changed my life. It also inspired me to look toward telling bigger tales with richer characters, because Miyazaki is very much about rich characterization and brilliant metaphor. Much of his films revolve around the love of nature, the vastness of the open sky, and the effect humans can have on the environment and the world around us.
“Never-Ending Man” is a meaningful documentary that explores the thoughts and ideas of Hayao Miyazaki that we can’t really find anywhere else. While some may go in to this expecting a more biographical and fluffy film about the man and his life, Kaku Arakawa seeks to give us more of a thoughtful and subtler peek in to the man, who is late in to his career and his life.
Hayao Miyazaki has reached a point in his life where there is so much change but he doesn’t know what to do with any of it. He’s reached an old age and has barely any strength any more to sit down and draw all day, but he has no idea what he’d be doing without a pencil or paper in his hand. At his old age he’s still a very curmudgeonly individual who demands perfection and treats his protégés with harsh criticism when they fail to deliver storyboards that meet his pitch perfect idea of what life is. Miyazaki has lived a full life, and in a way he’s ready to go.
Returns to theaters across the nation for a 20th Anniversary celebration, complete with a new 4K restoration. Premiered in theaters Thursday, January 5 in Japanese with English subtitles and will screen Monday, January 9 with an English dub at 7 p.m. local time. Tickets are available now. The event will also feature a screening of the never-before-released music video directed by Hayao Miyazaki, On Your Mark!
Back when “Princess Mononoke” hit the states in 1999, I literally had no idea who Hayao Miyazaki was. My teacher in high school kept a poster of the movie up on her bulletin board and I thought the movie looked amazing. Years after the Oscar buzz, I discovered “Princess Mononoke” and the brilliance of Studio Ghibli. The great thing about Studio Ghibli is there is no wrong way to enter in to their universe.
I’m very glad to say that “Princess Mononoke” was my first real experience with Hayao Miyazaki’s amazing cinematic contributions. After its Oscar buzz in 1997, I sought out the film, and was shocked at what I’d been missing from the master director. “Princess Mononoke” is probably Miyazaki’s broadest film, but one that also conveys a meaningful alllegory about the sanctity of nature, and how the wars of men can taint the sacred lands. It’s an action packed and incredible morality tale that will win over fantasy buffs instantly. “Princess Mononoke” is set in the Muromachi Period of Japan where a local village is attacked by a vicious amorphous demon. The bow and arrow wielding warrior Ashitaka, comes to the rescue of the village, fending off the demon and defeating it after a horrific battle, but the demon manages to corrupt his body with its vile darkness.
2013 signaled the final film release from master director Hayao Miyazaki with his gorgeous and somewhat controversial “The Wind Rises.” Though Studio Ghibli presses on with their slew of amazing films, Miyazaki will leave a large hole in filmmaking. We’ve been fanatics of Studio Ghibli for many years since we first saw “Kiki’s Delivery Service” in the late nineties and fell in love with Ghibli’s sense of awe and wonder. In celebration of the brilliant studio (that we often prefer over Disney, by the way), here are our top five films from Studio Ghibli.
“The Wind Rises” is such a beautiful note for Hayao Miyazaki to leave us on. It’s a bittersweet affair as a film and an animated feature, mainly because Miyazaki hasn’t lost his ability to tell stories. He’s the most incredible animator working today, and his retirement is heartbreaking because the man has many more years left to deliver lucid, entertaining and thought provoking stories to his fan base. “The Wind Rises” is not an explosive, fantastical exit for Miyazaki, but a respectful and quiet bow out. One that really does stick with you long after the credits have ended.