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.
The idea of the cost of war has never been more thoughtfully and emotionally conveyed than in Isao Takahata’s “Grave of the Fireflies.” The 1988 animated film is still one of the most emotional and powerful films I’ve ever seen, it’s a film that completely transcends all ideas of storytelling, and destroys any stigma that animation is a child’s medium that is limited in scope and substances, especially when telling human stories.
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.
This is one of the very few animated productions where Studio Ghibli’s fantastic storytelling is given a hint of European flavor. While “The Red Turtle” is branded a Studio Ghibli production it garners much of the same elements from Ghibli’s library including a wide open world, a menacing series of creatures and the overtones of the symbioses of nature and humanity. It’s best to think of “The Red Turtle” as a fairy tale, as the movie relies on a lot of inexplicability to tell its thin narrative. The narrative being thin is by no means a criticism as “The Red Turtle” is a lot about raw events, and simplicity at its finest.
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.
Another very rare Studio Ghibli film is finally coming to the states as director Tomomi Mochizuki’s “Ocean Waves” is opening for audiences anxious to visit the lesser known entries in the Ghibli catalogue. “Ocean Waves” is described as one of the very few movies not made by Isao Takahata or Hayao Miyazaki and has rarely ever been seen outside of Japanese television. Adapted from a novel of the same name by Saeko Himuro, “Ocean Waves” is a short (At barely eighty minutes) but very well realized teen drama about two teenage boys hopelessly enamored by a gorgeous young girl named Rikako, who is often given to flights of fancy and adventurousness that allow the two friends Taku and Yutaka a chance to break free from the monotony of their busy school lives.
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.