Tag Archives: Miyazaki

Review: The Secret World of Arietty

The Secret World of Arietty (Kari-gurashi no Arietty)
dir. Hiromasa Yonebayashi, written by Hayao Miyazaki
Studio Ghibli/Walt Disney, 94 min.
Release Dates: 7/17/10 (Japan), 2/17/12 (US)
Starring (US dub cast): Bridgit Mendler (Arietty), Will Arnett (Pod), Amy Poehler (Homily), David Henrie (Shawn), Carol Burnett (Hara)

Summary

Young Arietty, the daughter of loving parents Pod and Homily, is a Borrower—a race of miniature people who live in the baseboards of human houses and “borrow” cast off items for their needs: a single sugar cube, a sheet of tissue paper, pins. They spend their time avoiding menaces such as cats, crows, insects, and above all else, being seen by the giant “human beans.” However, one day, a sickly young boy named Shawn arrives in the house they share with his aunt Jessica and their housekeeper, Hara. Shawn catches a glimpse of Arietty when she is out on her first “borrowing” expedition with her father, and thus begins an unlikely friendship that will change her, and her family, and his own life.

The story is based on the 1952 children’s novel by Mary Norton, The Borrowers.

A fine example of the detail in this film.

Review

The Secret World of Arietty, or Arietty the Borrower, is not the first of its kind: a film penned by Hayao Miyazaki and directed by someone else. The last such film was the heartwarming coming-of-age tale Whisper of the Heart (1995), which, with its memorable take on “Take Me Home Country Road,” still remains one of the great anime stories about the birth of a young artist. Arietty is not quite the equal of that masterwork, but there is plenty here to savor nonetheless.

Miyazaki’s animation, at its best, has always been able to convey a sense of wonder and grandeur. That tradition continues in Arietty, though not through grand vistas, soaring flights, and surreal sights: this time, it is by magnifying the ordinary household and its environment to a place full of danger, adventure, and life. Leaves shimmering with dew and rainwater are canopies for the tiny Arietty. Nails hammered into the wall are steps, and the side of a cabinet a tall cliff. An intricate dollhouse is a luxurious mansion. Much work was clearly done examining the physics of smallness: cups and teapots are filled with single droplets, sounds like refrigerator hums and footsteps become ominous echoes. For the Borrowers, the world is both scary and (for Arietty, at least) full of exciting possibility. This sense of scale is perhaps the film’s greatest success, and rightly so: if this aspect did not work, nothing else would have. It helps the audience take Arietty and her family’s predicament seriously. The first twenty minutes—Arietty’s first “borrowing” expedition with her father—convey the necessary tension, secrecy, and urgency.

Paper clips, staples, and fish hooks all become tools for adventure.

After that sequence, the plot slows down to a more leisurely pace, focusing on the growing relationship between Arietty and the sickly human boy who has been brought to live in the house, Shawn. Since this is a film that does not rely on the grand gesture or the surreal, their friendship is conveyed through relatively quiet and restrained means: a sugar cube with a tiny note. Conversations in the field and through screen windows. These moments, accompanied by the gorgeously haunting Celtic soundtrack by French singer/composer Cecile Corbel, are beautiful in their simplicity and directness, free of the increasingly surreal accoutrements of Miyazaki’s recent works. (The use of insert songs, however, are not quite so successful and tend to be a bit overbearing—one of the signs that this is not a Miyazaki-directed film. He never uses insert songs.) The plot only seems to hiccup in the final act, when the Borrower family is about to leave, but this is more than made up for in the film’s final scene before credits, which earns its warmth and tenderness. It is, in fact, a little more natural than the final scene of Whisper of the Heart, which contains one of Miyazaki’s all-time left field conclusions. (Those who have seen the film will know what I mean.)

Disney usually picks solid voice actors for the dub, and this is no exception. Arietty, played by 20-year-old Brigit Mendler, sounds like a real teenager and like most Ghibli heroines is risk-taking and spunky enough to keep the otherwise languid plot moving. Her interaction with her parents, Homily (Amy Poehler) and Pod (Will Arnett), is natural and believable, which adds great credibility. Arnett does not use his usual comic talent here, opting instead to intone his deep manly baritone. Poehler is put to great use as the frazzled and easily frightened Homily, reminding me of the freak out moments in her role as Leslie Knoppe in Parks and Recreation. Carol Burnett, as the suspicious housekeeper Hara, gives a great comic performance filled with different moods ranging from suspicion to frantic exasperation, though her motivation for ruining the lives of “the little people” seems underdeveloped. Shawn’s American voice actor, David Henrie, conveys a sense of melancholy and helplessness at his possible death that teeters on maudlin at times—the only somewhat uneven voice acting performance in an otherwise solid cast. He is also supposed to be 12 years old, but sounds much older. (Then again, if he had the sort of voice heard in shows like, for instance, Naruto, that would be far worse, so this is a minor complaint at most.)

Ultimately, Arietty is best understood as a small-scale coming-of-age story, both for Arietty and Shawn. Their encounters are relatively brief, and so don’t quite hit the deep longing that Whisper of the Heart tap into so well, save perhaps for the one scene where Shawn talks about his impending operation. Then again, not all films need to: as a depiction of the wonders of the ordinary world, as a light-hearted adventure, and a portrait of two young people becoming unlikely friends, Arietty is more than competent. This would be a triumph coming from any other studio, and it’s only with Ghibli that it is simply a solid entry alongside formidible masterpieces and classics: a testament to the studio’s greatness and consistency. They just know how to make ’em, is all.


The Secret World of Arietty is currently playing in US theaters nationwide.

Akihiko Yamashita (Studio Ghibli) Interview – AM2 Press Junket

And here is the last interview I’m posting from this summer’s conventions: a conversation with character designer and animator Akihiko Yamashita. He’s best known for serving as animation director on numerous Studio Ghibli projects, including Ponyo and The Cat Returns, as well as being one of the two character designers on Giant Robo. In this interview, we ask him about what being at Ghibli and working alongside Hayao Miyazaki is like, his outright worship of JJ Abrams, and why he likes middle-aged male characters so much!

Note: the woman sitting next to him in the video is another character designer, Miho Shimogasa, who’s done work on Cutey Honey FlashGravitation, and Powerpuff Girls Z. She is silent in this interview.

Transcript follows after the break.

Continue reading Akihiko Yamashita (Studio Ghibli) Interview – AM2 Press Junket

What Pixar and Miyazaki have in common (and what anime can learn from them)

John Lasseter and Hayao Miyazaki at Comic Con 2009

The people at Pixar are well-known admirers of Hayao Miyazaki and his works. Creative chief John Lasseter and his crew often watch Studio Ghibli movies for inspiration when they are stuck. He personally introduced Miyazaki at last year’s Comic Con. Totoro even appears in their latest work, Toy Story 3, and Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki are named in the “Special Thanks” credits.

Pixar, of course, has one of the most consistent track records in animation quality and storytelling–one only equalled by…well, Miyazaki himself. I’d like to suggest that some of the reasons why are similar, and that anime in general might learn something from the consistency of their success.
Continue reading What Pixar and Miyazaki have in common (and what anime can learn from them)

Love and Purity in Ponyo

Ponyo (崖の上のポニョ, Gake no ue no Ponyo) is not a date movie, but it has a lot to say about relationships.

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Ponyo is about love. It’s not necessarily about the love of a man and a woman, which we tend to obsess over in Western media, but it’s about a childlike, innocent love. “Ponyo loves Sasuke,” which the title character says over and over, is in many ways the catchphrase of the movie, and it is in Sasuke’s love for Ponyo that we see the sublimation of the samurai ethic of bushido into a modern ideal of relationships.

Continue reading Love and Purity in Ponyo

Hayao Miyazaki Interviewed by LA Weekly

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From the LA Weekly, via ANN:

At 68, Hayao Miyazaki sounds like he might be slowing down. The director of such animated classics as Princess Mononoke and the Academy Award–winning Spirited Away seems content to sit back and watch life around him go by, a pleasure he passes on to us through the colorful world bursting from every frame of his latest film, Ponyo….

“For me, it’s more a case of bringing my own experiences as a child into the film and also watching the small children who are currently around me,” he says. “I’ve come to the age when I can finally understand the instant-by-instant experience small children are having. When you’re being a parent yourself, you don’t pay attention to some of those things because you’re so busy being a parent. There’s so much going on.”

Mike’s take: this brief interview actually cleared up a couple of interesting questions I had. First, it looks like he’s publicly denying the story that Sousuke, the boy in Ponyo, is based on his own son Goro and that the depiction of the absentee father is meant as an apology of sorts for his own absentee parenting when Goro was young. Goro and Hayao have worked together recently on a commercial, however, so the overarching story of a possible rapprochement between father and son after the spat over Tales from Earthsea might still be true. In either case, he says it’s actually his experience of the empty nest that inspired his return to exploring early childhood. It reminds me of a favorite line from TS Eliot: “And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.”

I’d also heard conflicting reports about whether Miyazaki would be retiring–once again–after making Ponyo. Apparently, if this interview is accurate, he seems to be of two minds. I thought I heard somewhere that he felt he had “two more” films left in him after this one, but considering his age and his stubbornness–he draws much of the movies he makes himself, remember, and you should see how he comes down hard on his staff in the Spirited Away documentary–I get the feeling he’s the kind of man who will die with a pencil in his hand, slumped over the animation desk. That’s the way artists should go. :)

Review: Ponyo (Dub) – 88%

ponyo.jpg

Scores
Animation: 90%
Music: 95%
Voice Acting (dub): 85%
Story: 89%
Overall: 88%

See explanation of scores below.

Ponyo is Hayao Miyazaki’s most joyous film since Porco Rosso, and the purest evocation of childhood he’s done since My Neighbor Totoro. After flirting with darker and more surreal themes in the past several films since Princess Mononoke, he has returned to deliver a delightful film that entertained the young adult audience at the premiere and should please even the youngest children.

Continue reading Review: Ponyo (Dub) – 88%

What? Miyazaki is only #2?

From Anime News Network:

The survey firm Oricon marked Japan’s Culture Day on November 3 by reporting a questionnaire asking which cultural figure represents Japan….Studio Ghibli’s co-founder and anime director Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away) placed second with 56 votes.

Mike’s Take: admittedly, since the question was who “represents Japan,” Miyazaki is certainly the best choice out of most anime directors who have any name recognition. Miyazaki is a cultural conservative in the Japanese context: respectful of the nation’s religious and spiritual heritage, environmentally aware, and not above using his films to inculcate such values of working hard without complaining (Spirited Away), venerating the spirits (My Neighbor Totoro), and of course being anti-war and pro-enviroment in general (like…every one of his movies almost). He also thinks most anime sucks and that Japan is going down the tubes, and almost can’t wait for it to collapse if the New Yorker interview with him is any indication. In all this he really reminds me of what we know about JRR Tolkien, who also couldn’t stand his rabid fans, was a cheerful curmudgeon, devoutly religious, and had a strong loathing of technology in general. Both Tolkien and Miyazaki also created fantasy worlds that were quintessentially English and Japanese, respectively. So Miyazaki is an excellent choice if the criterion is Japaneseness, though I think I’d expand it slightly to include all of Studio Ghibli, especially Takahata’s works. How can one leave out the director of Grave of the Fireflies and Only Yesterday, which are some of the sharpest evocations of 20th century Japan anywhere?

I think the online, youth-oriented bias of the poll though is revealed in the winner: Takeshi “Beat” Kitano, the prolific director of many both artsy and schlocky movies, some of which have made it even over here. I haven’t seen any of his films, but he is certainly an exemplary figure of modern Japan–eclectic, incredibly talented in many fields, and having a taste for violence. :)

So, Japanese tree hugging hippies wins the battle for the forest.

From ANN

Miyazaki’s Group Raises 73 Million Yen to Save Forest

On October 9, famed anime director Hayao Miyazaki, along with a group of supporters, presented about 73 million yen (US$620,000) to the city of Higashimurayama to preserve what local residents are calling “Totoro’s Forest…”

Ray’s take: So the Japanese hippies win one for the day! Boy, are they gonna get some good lay with Mononoke Hime tonight! Har har har…

News for our Canadian readers – if they didn’t know already.

From ANN

Spirited Away’s Canadian Network Premiere on Sunday

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) public television network will broadcast the Academy-Award-winning Studio Ghibli film Spirited Away on Sunday, September 30 at 5:00 p.m. ET/PT. Not only will this be Canada’s network television premiere of director Hayao Miyazaki’s work, but it will apparently mark the film’s first over-the-air broadcast in North America.

Ray’s take: Canadians are cool…Canucks FTW! Americans, let’s bomb Bouchard!

Looking back at the last 10 years of anime in 2017

From The Diet 3 Daily (long ago known as believewhatyouhear.org news) in The Diet 3 –

Sept. 23, 2017, The Diet 3, Atlantis. As the Anime Diet web site is now literally a Cyber City with the address thediet3.atn that also has real physical infrastructure on the current continent of Atlantis (used to be known separately as California, China, India, Japan, and Taiwan) with the address atlantisempire.atn, the Diet 3 Daily will look back at the last 10 years in anime.

Lady Hirano Aya became the first “Haruhi (the rough equivalent of a high priest. Some have been calling her the Popette)” of the Religion of Haruhi. However, these days she’s looking to pass on her position to the current idol seiyuu, Tanaka “Tiffany” Sakura, because according to the Haruhi Apostles’ Creed, once “the Haruhi” becomes 30 years old, she has to give up her position to a younger woman.

We are expecting political intrigues, assassinations, poisoning and many more Otaku riots.

The Cyber Nation of Gainax has been fighting a bitter 2-front war with The Cyber Federation of I.G. Bones and the Cyber Ghibli Liberation Front. Anno Hideki lost his life in a cyber terrorism incident and lost all his capacity to be creative. These days he can be seen posing as Ultra-man in front of the physical infrastructure of Tokyo 30, the capital of the Cyber Nation of Gainax and muttering phrases like: “I mustn’t run away”, and “I alway bring trouble to everyone around me.”

Goro Miyazaki, the leader of Cyber Ghibli Liberation Front, has been churning out stick figure anime with exceptional quality music and gorgeous scenery; he insists on these being hand drawn without the use of any CG. Many critics hailed these as “facinating art pieces commenting the mockery of the truly classic of animation”.

Ishii Mamoru started a cult named Shirow Savior, which also happens to be the name of a mecha anime that features Ultranet-ready mecha that features only bishonen pilots and only moe girls that simply can’t be killed outright. The believers of “Shirow Savior” and the believers of “Haruhiism” have been in constant cyber paper fan battles since 2014.

The giant robot “Rahxephon” has been installed as the Guardian of I.G. Bones and it has been almost completely invincible in battles against The Cyber Nation of Gainax. In its last battle is slayed 15000 Eva Unit 13 mass-production types. Miraculously, a pilot only known as Ikari S., piloting Eva Unit X1, actually successfully defeated Rahxephon using the Lance of Longeness and what is now known to the Cyber domains as AT attack Field.

KyoAni remained an animation studio in Japan. However, it’s now also known as the “Underground Diet (Parliament)” of Japan. Because Cyber Gainax took over Tokyo and made it into Tokyo 30 and became separated from the rest of what once was Japan, Kyoto became the capital of what once was Japan once again. KyoAni’s AIR defense force series became one of the best sellers in anime all time. Rumor has it that KyoAni is actually run by Lady Hirano Aya, but our sources couldn’t confirm that.

the Otaku is now the 1st class citizens on the entire continent of Atlantis. Instead of the New Year’s Day, January 1st was change to “Otaku shopping Day”, on the day no anime-related stores would close and Otaku can shop 24 hours straight on that day and on January 2nd, which is now known as the Cosplayer’s Day, by law, everyone on the continent of Atlantis is required to cosplay as an anime character.

Common crimes include: whacking someone with a cyber paper fan and steal his or her memory while screaming: “nandeyanen!” Stealing priceless artifacts (figurines) of Kanon, Air, Haruhi, Akane (from Ranma) and others, Gigaslaving people up their asses and almost destroying the world in the process, disrespecting Lady Hirano Aya, dressing up as Zetsubo Sensei without screaming “I’m in despair” every 5 minutes, riding giant robots, mechas, Tachikomas and the like without a pilot’s license (a special license is required for piloting transformable robots). conducting mecha combat without applying for combat permits, carrying Claymores without symbols, using anti-Akuma weapons without registering with the Black Society of Jesus, dating yaoi vampires without drawing doujinshi of them, sexually harassing mecha musume (military mecha girls) and/or using them for prostitution purposes, hacking people’s cyber brains and play the OP song for Potemayo 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 or 366 days per year in their heads, disrespecting your mother and Inoue Kikuko-sama(Belldandy, Mizuho, Miria) in the same sentence, and many other crimes, all of which are punishable by death with “Full Cavity Synchronization Capacity” probes, in groups inside special death agencies.

We here at The Diet 3 Daily is now fearing for our lives.