Saturday, October 07, 2006
Monday, September 04, 2006
Studio Ghibli's My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbor Totoro, STUDIO GHIBLI's timeless hallmark of family films helped to make master storyteller Hayao Miyazaki and premiere animation studio Studio Ghibli into household names. Almost 20 years later, with Totoro dolls continuing to sell out in most of Asia and other parts of the world faster then stores can stock them, a protected forest in Japan, pushed for by Miyazaki, called the Totoro Forest, and the character of Totoro himself the symbol of STUDIO GHIBLI, My Neighbor Totoro is ensued immortality.
Even as his 18th birthday approaches, Studio Ghibli's My Neighbor Totoro, continues to weave it's magical timeless story, filled with stunning animation and characters, who each come alive with real pasts, real problems and concerns for the future and about the present. This depth of characters is a hallmark of all Studio Ghibli films, and helps keep My Neighbor Totoro timeless.
As with all STUDIO GHIBLI films, for those not familiar with them, My Neighbor Totoro has numerouse small subtle details. Ones that might not normally nor perhaps should normally be noticed on a conscious level. They are ones that would be missed if not present but also oddly ones often not noticed when present. Within Kiki's Delivery Service, these were often seen with objects in the background, people moving within cafes and the marketplace Kiki was flying over, within My Neighbor Totoro these details are also everywhere though perhaps most easily noticed within the famous rain scene. Within this scene watch the rain closely, watch the reflects off the puddles, watch how the rain rolls off various objects and drips, these are all subtle details that in another form of animation could be done in a simple manner; yet doing them this way makes what is being seen, makes the world, so much more real and alive.
These subtle details help make each of the worlds found within Studio Ghibli movies come alive, but they are not alone. A common theme that will be mentioned throughout all blog updates featuring these wonderful movies will note different ways in which the characters are brought to live that help bring life to the world. Each world is indeed it's own unique place but each world is also special in having characters you might expect to meet on the street someday filling them.
For My Neighbor Totoro the best way to discussion part of the depth to these characters is first to provide a summary of the movie.
Eleven-year-old Satsuki and four-year-old Mei Kusakabe in rural 1950's Tokyo are moving along with their father who is professor of anthropology at a Tokyo university to their new home in the country, which is close to where their mother is recovering in the hospital. One of the first things Satsuki and Mei notice when they arrive at their new home is a massive camphor tree towering in the sky.As the summary hints the girls are very worried about their mother's health throughout the movie which is the main reason they moved to their new home. As the story progresses it is obvious they are very worried not sure if she will live of die. On top of which they have to deal with being in a new place and the troubles that come along with such a move. These are real problems and how they are dealt with leads to these girls having a realism that is hard to find in movies, especially animated ones.
When exploring their new home and the massive acreage it comes with, Satsuki finds one acorn after another dropping from above, which leads her to think they are sharing a house with squirrels. Mei not to be left out quickly joins in the search for acorns as they run around opening the shutters of the house to start allowing in fresh air. When they find the bath tubs a cloud of cinder creatures scatter into the various cracks and crevices of the room. Scared and unsure of what they just saw Mei and Satuski run to tell their father what they saw and ask him about the creatures. He tells them they must be creatures that always hide in rooms and old houses dashing from the light into the shadows when people enter rooms. Liking this idea the girls start yelling for the creatures to appear but none show up.
Opening the upstairs rooms Satsuki and Mei discover even more of the cinder creatures and quickly want to tell their fathe that the house is haunted, which he just laughs about as Satsuki runs downstairs. Mei though is determined to capture one of these creatures and does so running downstairs to show her find to Satsuki and her father. Arriving downstairs though she runs into one of their neighbors who had watched over the house when it was empty, an old woman that asks them to call her "granny".
Seeing the soot that both girls tracked, the soot on Mei's hands from the one she thought she caught and hearing their story "granny" at once knows the creatures to harmless spirits that only fill empty houses.
The next morning, the girls visit their mother in the hospital and are relieved to hear she doesn't mind living in a haunted house. The following morning as Satsuki makes lunch for everyone one of her classmates calls for her warning her she will be late for class. Mei goes out exploring as Satsuki is off at school and her father is busy with work. Working her way around the house playing she finds a small Totoro (Chibi Toroto) creature. Chibi Totoro is a small translucent creature that she starts to follow. Seeing he is being followed Chibi Totoro does his best to run and hide from her but Mei doesn't give up easily and starts to follow the creature finding a slightly larger Totoro carrying a bag of acrons. Following the trail of acorns that comes out of the ripped bag Mei finds a tunnel under the camphor tree which she follows, losing her hat in the process, to find a massive Totoro sleeping amongst the trees roots.
After Satsuki returns and cannot find Mei she and her father search, finding the tunnel Mei did, but instead of Totoro's tree they find a small enclave within the branches that deadends and Mei sound asleep in her little "hide out". Mei tries in vain to find where Totoro might in fact be and the way back to his tree until her father mentions that sometimes the forest spirits do not wish to be found. When Tototo wants to be found again he will allow Mei to find him.
After a rainsquall breaks out the next day, the girls go to the bus stop to give their father his umbrella. Mei begins to get tired and sleep, so Satsuki puts Mei on her back and soon noticed a large shadow standing next to her.
Surprised she looks and sees it is Totoro, who is wearing a large leaf on his head. Seeing Totoro's attempts to keep the rain off of him, Satsuki gives Totoro the umbrella they had brought with him. Totoro becomes enchanted by how this is keeping the rain from falling on him much better then the leaf and jumps up and down a few times to cause the rain to cascade down from the trees hitting the umbrella. Mei soon wakes up just in time to see the arrival of the catbus, which Totoro boards handing the girls a package as thanks for the umbrella.
After they get home the girls quickly open the package to find it full of acorns.
Satsuki for the second time since finding Totoro writes to her mother updating her on the events and telling ther mother that her garden will be full of acorn trees because of all the seeds they planted there thanks to Totoro.
.Awaking that night to noise outside the girls see three Totoros dancing around the patch in the garden where they planted the seeds This dance causes the seedlings to start to sprout. Rushing out to join them all five now start the dance and watch in awe as the acorn forest grows and grows forming a massive tree.
Waking the next morning Satsuki and Mei rush outside to find acorn tree sprouts in place of the giant tree and unsure if they dreamed last night of if it actually happened.
Shortly after though, while the girls are helping out granny at her garden patch, a mailman arrives. Satsuki is happily telling granny that her mother will be coming home for the weekend to get use to her new home. At that moment, Kanta granny's grandson, brings the telegram to them which was given to him since no one was at Satsuki's home.
Satsuki panics as the letter says to call the hospital at once. Rushing to Kanta's uncle's house she calls her father who later calls her back saying that their mother is not feeling and will not be coming home this weekend. Mei starts to cry loudly that it isn't fair, and Satsuki who is trying hard to put on a brave face grows upset at Mei asking Mei if she would rather their mother came home and died, which causes the girls to go their own ways.
Mei tries to take the corn she is convienced will make her mother well to the hospital and it is only later that Satsuki realizes Mei is missing and starts a rushing to the hopsital herself thinking Mei would have gone that way. Kanta , granny and the rest of the town start a search for Mei but no one can seem to find her.
Near tears and almost out of hope Satsuki heads for the tunnel to Totoro’s lair and begs for his help finding Mei. Totoro takes her to the top of the camphor tree and calls out for the catbus, which bounds across the countryside and jumps to the top of the tree.
As it moves along the countryside Satsuki is stunned to find out that no one else can see the catbus. Finding Mei safe and sound the catbus then offers to take the girls to the hospital their mother is located in, which is when Satsuki asks if tthe catbus will really take them to their mother, the catbus just smiles.
At the hospital, they learn their mother is fine, and though shocked their father thinks he sees them sitting in the tree and soon finds the ear of corn with "To Mommy" written on it.
This is again one I highly recommend and think deserves a place on everyone's movie shelf, both for being a great family classic and being a film that is just fun for people of all ages to watch. Enjoy this one and make sure not to overlook it or other Studio Ghibli movies for seemingly being "childish" , "simple" or "animated". The last one it is, but the first two none of these moves are in the least.
Format: DVD (NTSC, Region 1)
Publisher: Studio Ghibli US release through Walt Disney Home Entertainment
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Runtime : ~ 86 minutes
Cast, Disney Version
Satsuki: Dakota Fanning
Mei: Elle Fanning
Mother: Lea Salonga
Granny: Pat Carroll
Totoro/Catbus: Frank Welker
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Studio Ghibli's Majo no Takkyuubin
Majo no Takkyuubin (Kiki's Delivery Service) was the first Studio Ghibli movie I ever saw. Back when I first saw Majo no Takkyuubin I had no idea it was a Studio Ghibli film or who Hayao Miyazaki was and no clue that animation could be as powerful as all his films and all Studio Ghibli films have proven themselves to be. Seeing it for the first time on television, full screen did little to diminish the power this film holds and just amazed me. Being use to animated films having singing, dancing cute furry animals who sign the hero to success it was beyond belief to have a story with such realisitic animation, beautiful music and depth of plot.
Kiki's Delivery Service blew me away. I'd never seen the world it opened too me, one where stories could be on more then one level, one where the animation could help make a world real and one where characters are not just one dimensional but have such life breathed into them that they become as real as people you could meet in daily life. Kiki herself is not just a teenage witch in a story for children, but a girl with real problems and real issues she has to deal with, truly set within her losing her self-confidence and belief in her own abilities only symbolized through her magical powers fading.
Musically this is not the typical animation background music which mostly exists to fill quite times, this is symphonic, it helps to tell the story at times when there are no words needed. The opening and closing themes are so upbeat and peppy I find myself tapping my foot to them every time I hear them play and hum them for days after seeing the movie.
With characters that are as deep as mentioned, with music that helps to tell a story, the plot too is well developed. On one level it is a simple story of a witch having adventures with her talking cat. On a whole other level there is a depth to the story as the viewer can see Kiki's internal struggles with finding her place in the world, seeing the world isn't as ideal as she believed it to be within the comfort of her own home, and that making her way in this world is not as easy as she had hoped it would be.
Years later, after seeing Majo no Takkyuubin (Kiki's Delivery Service) when I was much younger on television, I finally was able to see it again and see that different world. In so doing I was re-introduced to this wonderful world and it's "siblings" that exist in this brave new world of animation. I truly thank Majo no Takkyuubin (Kiki's Delivery Service) for opening the door to Studio Ghibli movies and the world of animation with depth and meaning beyond anything even Disney has been able to manage. Though I will never intentionally rank Studio Ghibli movies in terms of favorites I will say Kiki being the first I ever saw holds a special place in my heart and is one that I encourage everyone who has not seen to give a try, you won't be disappointed! Below is a summary and information about the movie, be warned though spoilers are contained within this brief summary.
Kiki is a 12 year old witch-in-training. According to Witch's tradition, Kiki must spend a year on her own in a new town in order to become a full witch. She soon finds herself, under the full moon, setting off on her mother's old broom with her black cat, Jiji at her side seeking a new town and new adventure.
Always hoping to find a seaside city, Kiki is lucky enough to find herself in the beautiful town of Korico, which very much resembles a mixture of a French and Italian small town. Without knowing what he skills truly are but loving to fly Kiki soon finds herself with her own flying delivery service in this beautiful town.
However, the more she uses her flying magic, which comes so easily to her and brings her such happiness, the more she begins to dislike flying, the more she finds herself even as a witch facing the problems everyone faces in their life. She is not an overnight success as she had hoped she might be, and with having to deal with her feelings of not fitting in, of loneliness in this exciting and beautiful but strange new town, she finds that her freedom doesn't truly make her free. It brings with it worries and loneliness in her attempt to become the self-sufficient and independent witch she must to succeed in her training.
As her dislike of flying, her worries, and disillusionment with the world around her grows, Kiki begins to lose her magic. Suddenly a skill she has had since a small child and one her business depends on, flying, becomes seemingly impossible to her as she can no longer fly or even hear Jiji her companion cat.
Through the help of her friends, Kiki finds the strength to overcome her own inner turmoil. In the end, Kiki rediscovers her own strength and independence, and rediscovers the love of flying regaining her magic and taking a major step into being truly independent in this brave new world she has entered.
Now just almost 20 years old Majo no Takkyuubin (Kiki's Delivery Service) has the same impact on me it did when first seen and perhaps even a more powerful one since it is a timeless story and a timeless tale, like many of it's siblings from Studio Ghibli. Time cannot fade the magic in this timeless classic.
- Original Japanese Title:
Majo no Takkyubin
- English Release Title:
Kiki's Delivery Service
- Running Time: ; ~103 minutes
- Release Year : 1989
- Original Story: Eiko Kando (published by Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers)
- Produced, Written and Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
- Music by: Joe Hisaishi
- Availability : DVD (NTSC, Region 1), Walt Disney Home Entertainment
- Songs: (Original Japanese version) "Rouge no Dengon" and "Ysashisa ni Tsusumaretanata" by Yumi Arai
Monday, August 28, 2006
Omohide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday)
Omohide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday) is very much in the spirt of Mimi wo Sumaseba. It is also the last film of the Disney-Tokuma deal which is yet to be released as a Region 1 DVD, though it has most other places including subtitled in the UK on Region 2. Sadly it seems that it is not likely to be released soon either according to information found on nausicaa.net. Equally interesting is how this could be true since Omohide Poro Poro ranks high on the lists of many people as being one they desire to see on home video. On Turner Classic Movies Not-On-Home Video it ranks as second, TCM's Not-On-Home Video Rank: 2 behind only 1938's Marie Antoinette on Turner Classic Movie's most requested films not on DVD.
Omohide Poro Poro was a surprise for me. During this past January when Turner Classic Movies was having it's "Month of Miyazaki" tribute it was one of the many first time Studio Ghibli movies for me. Unlike ones such as Tenkuu no Shiro Rapyuta, Kurenai no Buta , Tonari no Totoro and Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko, which just blew me away with their spectacular animation and epic stories, Omohide Poro Poro, much like Mimi wo Sumaseba, shocked me with again with it's masterful storytelling but this time with two stories based more in reality.
While all these movies have depth of characters, are must see's for anyone who has yet to discover their powerful storytelling abilities, those two held more realism and touched me on a way anime, movies in general have not in a long time.
This time instead of following the almost heoric or spiritual archetypes found in other Studio Ghibli films, the story follows Taeko who comes across much more like someone you might work with, or see when walking around your neighborhood. In truth the story itself feels like a good friend or family member just having a great chat about their life.
Even fifteen years later the animation remains stunning, the backgrounds, as with all Studio Ghibli films, create the feeling of looking out a window rather then at a screen. You can almost smell the flowers, feel the rain as it is falling, and believe this is a place that you not only can go but have been in the past.A masterful film with such magical abilities should not be so easily overlooked by those brining over Studio Ghibli films. Granted it might be overlooked for perhaps being based too deeply in realism, for that magical feel of not watching a movie but of talking to a good friend about their life, but it is one that is demanded by the fans, one that after seeing it even subtitled, a way I normally hate to see things, I couldn't see enough times. Sadly so far I've only been lucky enough to see it once, and for that I thank Turner Classic Movies.
In the days to come I will be reviewing and talking a little bit about each of the Studio Ghibli movies that I mentioned here and ones yet to be mentioned in the hopes of sharing this love of these special movies with those who have yet to see them and who have yet to discover their epic magic that makes each watching feel like returning to an old friend.
In the meantime I ask those reading to follow the advice on nausicaa.net and try to help bring Omohide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday) to Region 1 release, hopefully dubbed but at the very least in the subtitled version that already exists.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
ADV Translation Titles Ended Forever ..... ?
2. Happy Lesson - one volume released
3. Dream Gold - one volume released a great one that could have easily been a major sleeper hit for ADV had they allowed it to continue. In fact it was one that the second after finishing it I tried to mark down when the next one would be released or grab it if it was already out.
4. R-Squared - one volume released another sleeper hit which would have done a lot for ADV I think had they allowed it to continue. In fact it was one that the second after finishing it I tried to find the next one almost the same day.
5. Desert Coral - three or four volumes released this is one which spoke to me on a level I cannot express to people if they don't understand it themselves, but took what I always have hoped for, the making of a dream world and dream girl, and turned them both real
6. SkyBlade Sword of the Heavans - two volumes released - which had the promise of being a very funny serious
7. The Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok - one or two volumes released
8. Tacits - one or two volumes released by ADV I believe another company has picked up the license for this one.
9. Louie the Rune Soldier - four volumes released with a promised fifth that has never come this was a very funny one a good laugh out loud enjoyable series
10. Aria- three volumes released with rumors Tokyopop has picked up this series along with the series that came before it. visually this is a stunning epic masterpiece of a manga which has a great story and stunning artwork. more then worthy of having the entire series released
11. Jinki Extend - three volumes released with rumors that this series and the one prior to it have been picked up by another company visually this is nicely done too with a great story.
12. Yotsuba&! - three volumes released with the future of this unknown but four volumes out in Japan at least four volumes.
These are only the ones I can think of off the top of my head too, others have told me more titles that fall or could fall on this list. I am not sure what happened to ADV, some say over exapansion, some say they never took the manga market seriously. I am not sure which I beleive but I hope by bringing attention to these titles others who like these and those not listed will show equal interest in getting this series continued if not by ADV by whoever desires to pick up their licenses.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Anime for a change
The list might be old to some of you but it's a list I hope to keep current and update as more titles fall or amend if some are picked up again.
Apologies on lack of updates, a death in my family has kept me from doing at least three times a week updates I hope to get back too starting later tonight.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Hanaukyo Maid Team - Ironcat Is Gone, Is The U.S. Release?
There are still high hopes in my mind, particularly now with some licenses from ADV being picked up, that some company will also pick up the license to Hanauyko Maid Team. For me this series, along with another to be mentioned in the next entry, is special. It is one of the first that truly drew me into manga and showed me something other then Love Hina style while also in that style. The story was fresh, it was original and it was funny while also being very raunchy but also romantic.
Taro loses his mother at the young age of 15. With no other family to turn too, he travels to Tokyo where he will live with his grandfather. However, Taro gets far more then he expects!
His grandfather is very rich, and has a home that rivals most palaces. The home is a huge mansion filled with near a thousand beautiful maids are loyal too and ready to serve only Taro. Though from Taro's point of view, it is horrible that he has the services of all of the maids 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which includes in some of their eyes "bed warming" duties.
The maids too, while dressed and referred to nominally as 'maids', are all part of various discrete and often unusual departments. These include Defense, Science, Catering, Personal Care, and many others.
This series also has a great cast of ccharacters. Though to others some of them might be cliche, to me it is the first time seeing them. So a lot have become favorites. A one of my favorites is:
Cynthia, who is also known as Grace. Cynthia is a very young blonde girl who is silent and everything a young girl should be. In truth though she is a genius who was first praised, then exploited, and subsequently shunned even by her own parents for her genius. To combat the pressure on her young mind, she created a second personality 'Grace'.
Where Cynthia is silent, cute, loves playing with flowers, Grace is a vocal, stubborn, and the dominate shell used to protect "Cynthia". There are times Grace even seems to see it as her duty to protect Cynthia.
Both personalities exist in the same body, taking turns at being 'awake'. When one is asleep the other is active, Grace also being the head of the computer and intelligence division of the household having created the supercomputer that runs about everything in the house.
It also seems possible for Grace and Cynthia to "speak" to each other, which is done often as Cynthia truly loves Grace and worries about her tendency to overwork.
My biggest sorrow is the way the anime was done (which was also excellent) and the way Ironcat was only able to bring out three volumes before their troubles, the mystery of Mariel which was just being explored in the manga and over looked mostly in the anime.
That is one of the answers I would love to read someday, why her picture was found where it was and the history of her. The reason Taro's grandfather is so insistent on having Mariel and Taro be together too is another big unanswered mystery.
Even with that gap, the anime is highly recommended, though short it is very enjoyable and one that I re-watch many times over.
Lastly, if you can still find the three volumes of this series that are out, grab them while you can because they are not to be missed!
ARIA IS BACK!
For those yet to discover this beautifully drawn manga, below is an image which fails to do it justice and a brief summary. In my opinion the artwork is truly gallery quality.
Aqua, which was formerly Mars before a massive terraforming project, is hom to Akari Mizunashi. She traveled to Neo-Venezia, a reproduction of Venice (Venezia). She is still determined earn her right to be a tour guide and female gondolier, known as a undine.Again this news might be premature, but with Tokyopop gaining the rights to the prequel, and the rumors increasing as to "some mystery company" having the license, I think it is only a matter of time before Aria returns!
As she travels the canals and enjoys a "primitive" style of life, Akari learns to love the slower pace her ancestors once enjoyed. Cooking meals on her own, doing hwe own clothes without the aid of many machines, all while pursuing tdreams to become independent.
She is not alone in these dreams as she gains the aid of some curious Martians. With their help, and the help of all her friends Akari knos that one day will one day captain her own gondola through the city of Neo-Venezia.
For now I highly recommend the three volumes out in English and the six plus out in Japanese. This is another series not to be missed if for no other reason then the beautiful artwork alone.
AQUA NOW LICENSED BY TOKYOPOP
The year is 2301, it has been 150 years since the planet Mars was terraformed. Mars is no longer a dusty red planet, but now a beautiful aquatic paradise. Water covers more then 90% of the planet. As the old name no longer fit, Mars has been renamed "Aqua".Neither this brief summary, nor the image with the summary can do credit to the gorgeous artwork and additive story that make up these two series. This is one not to be missed when it comes out, and while enjoying this all too short series hope that Tokyopop also has gained the license to it's sequel which is as compelling and as beautiful.
It is to this new world Akari Mizunashi travels. As a young girl she arrives in the Neo-Venezia, which is precise copy, a replica in every detail of the city of Venice (Venezia). She dreams of becoming a female gondolier (Undine) and tour guide.
She finds a job working as an intern with the Aria Company, making friends and trying to adapt to the new life style she has on Aqua. One far more laid back then anything she has previously known as she sharpens her skills to fulfill her dream.
Monday, August 07, 2006
This is very exciting news to fans of Aria who only saw the first three volumes released before ADV put the series on hiatus and eventually it seems sold the license. It's also wonderful to see the first part of this story picked up which hopefully has the same beautiful artwork and very peaceful story telling.
While a few other Blogs mention this, Anime News Network so far only mentions Tokyopop has the right to Aqua, as well as several other former ADV titles such as Tacits, but no confirmation I can find as to Aria.
What is amazing to me is how quietly this seems to have been done, no big announcements and the news itself is about a month old. That leaves me wondering if any other titles from other companies, such as Hanayuko Maid Team, have been picked up.
Look for a review of these this weekend and the other promised reviews later this weekend early next week. The trip was very tiring with all the delays on interstates.