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Archive for the ‘Ghibli’ Category

When Marnie Was There

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Anna is a girl who has trouble being social and has no friends. When her health becomes poor, she is sent to family friend Yoriko, who with her husband lives in a town by the ocean. Almost immediately, Anna is attracted to an old great house that at first seems deserted, but then Anna meets a girl who lives there whose name is Marnie. Finally, Anna has made her first friend. However, Marnie has her own mystery about her…

This movie is based on a book by Joan G. Robinson. I reviewed the book here. However, I actually saw the movie first. What can I say, Studio Ghibli says it all to me.

Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the director of Arrietty, directed this film. The style suits the story.

The story itself has been altered slightly. The setting is Japan instead of England. Thus Marnie is half Japanese/half European. At the beginning of the tale, the only pleasure Anna has is in drawing, but she refuses to show her drawings to anyone at first.

But the major outlines of the story are the same, with the same plot points centered on the friendship between Anna and Marnie.

This is a very sweet story, and is now one of my favorite Studio Ghibli movies.

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Porco Rosso

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I recently realized that while I had seen Porco Rosso years ago, I had never reviewed it. I think I watched it either before this blog began, or about the same time I was just beginning it. I re-watched it a few months ago, and here are some thoughts.

Porco really is a nice guy at heart, or at least he has learned to be by the time this film starts. He is just very good at hiding it. His actions do speak louder than his gruff words. After all, he starts by going to rescue a group of children kidnapped by pirates. Granted, Porco does this for money.

Porco’s curse is interesting. In many ways it is a physical manifestation of his survivor’s guilt. Porco does have a blind spot: Gina. Ah well, we all are usually blind where our hearts are.

I love Flo. She is competent as a mechanic and isn’t afraid to stand up for herself (or Porco), while still being clearly a girl. And I love her family. They stick together and survive, even through hard times.

Curtis is an interesting foil for Porco. He is  just as a good of a pilot, he is charming and has good looks – enough to be an actor. And yet there is a part of him that is more selfish than Porco is.

Of course in this movie we have plenty about airplanes, one of Hiyao Miyazaki’s loves.

In the end we are left wondering about Porco’s fate. Personally I think either his curse is undone or he learns not to care about it and he marries Gina and they settle down with her running her hotel and him running deliveries. But you will have to decide for yourself.

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The Cat Returns

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So I finally sat down to watch this one. I must confess, I have been avoiding it. I love Whisper of the Heart so much, it was hard to believe anything could live up to that movie, especially with a different director.

And it doesn’t.is a deep

But that is because it is a different kind of movie.

In Whisper of the Heart, we see Shizuku’s dreams and imaginations, but in the real world the Barron is only a figurine that inspires her. In The Cat Returns, the kingdom of cats does intrude on the normal, everyday world Haru inhabits. And the Barron is indeed real – which is a good thing, since Haru needs all the help he can offer to escape the clutches of the King of Cats who wants to marry her off to his son in gratitude for saving said son.

The art is serviceable, though not as spectacular as some Studio Ghibli movies. Still, the Barron’s home and the Kingdom of Cats are quite amazing. As for the story itself, as I said, this is a different kind of story. I still think Whisper of the Heart is a deeper story, but Haru is a great heroine who gains a spine by the end of the movie, and it is wonderful to see her interacting with the Barron. I was delighted from beginning to end.

So is this the very best of the Studio Ghibli movies? No. But it is a most worthy entry, and if you enjoy Studio Ghibli you will not regret seeing this one.

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My Neighbor Totoro

So I finally got around to watching My Neighbor Totoro. I know, I know, I’m late to the party. The detail is what we expect from Miyazaki. Okay, the two girls Satsuki and Mei act like girls, but that is what makes them charming. They aren’t perfect, but they are good in spite of dealing with some real-world problems. So is their family and their neighbors. The reactions of everyone is quite realistic. And Totoro and his world is quite magical. And the Japanese countryside is lovingly depicted. If you want to remember what being a child is like, watch this movie.

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So this is the first film that Hayao Miyazaki directed. It is interesting in that it is part of a franchise and that it isn’t a fantasy. Lupin himself is charmingly incorrigible as a thief with a heart of gold, and Lady Clarisse’s damsel is distressed is balanced by the camo-dressed and gun wielding Fujiko. The Count is a bit of a megalomaniac, but it works. Interesting that even at this point Miyazaki managed to get in an airplane into the movie, and it even has real use:) Already Miyazaki is doing detailed work in the setting. Okay, Cagliostro isn’t a real place, but it is more of an idealized place in Europe. And the surprise at the end is visually stunning. I can’t completely recommend it since it has swearing, smoking, and as cool as Lupin is he isn’t exactly the best role model. Still, it is a fun ride, and if you like heist movies you might enjoy this one. Again, this isn’t exactly a typical Miyazaki film, but you can still see Miyazaki hallmarks in it. If you enjoy Hayao Miyazaki, give this one a try.

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The Wind Rises

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I don’t think any of my regular followers will be surprised that I couldn’t resist seeing Hayao Miyazaki’s last work. It is about a boy, Jiro Horikoshi, who dreams of flying. Since he has terrible eyesight and wears glasses, he decides if he can’t fly planes, he can at least build them. We see him as his dream comes true, from school to college to working for Mitsubishi. Along the way, we meet a number of people whose lives he touches and who touch his life. There is his friend at Mitsubishi who works on designing bombers, as opposed to Jiro’s fighters. There is the German man who encourages a budding romance between Jiro and Naoko, who had met years earlier during an earthquake. There is Naoko herself, which features some of the sweetest and saddest sequences in the entire movie. There are dream sequences with Italian aircraft designer Caproni which inspire Jiro. Over all of this is overlaid the fact that World War II is coming. This movie asks the question at the end, was it worth it for Jiro to design the fighter that Japan used in World War II? It is a complicated question with no easy answers.

While this movie has fun moments, its tone over all is more somber. It never goes into Grave of the Firefly territory. Fitting, considering the topic. The music by Joe Hisaishi is splendid as always. The animation is superb, and the dream sequences are some of the best. I don’t think I can say this is my absolutely favorite Miyazaki film. But it is up there, and was a great way for him to end his movie career. If you enjoy Studio Ghibli films, then this is a must see.

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After seeing the movie, I figured I better read the manga. The movie was clearly condensed. The political situation in the manga is at least twice as complex. We get to meet many more people as Nausicaä is forced to leave her home both for political reasons, and to try to find out how to stop the spread of the Sea of Desolation, which has left mankind only a few livable places. The ending is quite different, though not surprising when you get there. And of course, we are treated to Hiyao Miyazaki’s wonderful art. All in all, if you enjoyed the movie you will probably enjoy the book. One final note, if you love the manga, the deluxe hardcover two volume set is the way to go.

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