Tag Archive | studio ghibli

Anime Update: July 2019

Hello again! Its time for another edition of Anime Update, this time detailing the cool anime-related stuff coming to North American shores for the month of July. I hope you’ll check out some of the sites discussed herein and consider buying in the otakudom through the unique merchandise and/or experiences on offer this month.

My usual go-to manga distributors for the North American market are Viz Media and Seven Seas Entertainment as they release large numbers of manga each week. Unfortunately, there is little of note coming through their stores this month. Regardless, I recommend you put their names on a list somewhere and keep them in mind for the future.

On June 1st, Kodansha Comics is releasing a new 4-volume omnibus edition of the original Sailor Moon manga entitled Sailor Moon Eternal Edition. These four volumes are each around 300 pages and of a larger size than your typical manga. So pick ’em up if you ever felt the desire to read the source manga in its entirety. On the 16th of July, Kodansha is releasing a new Ghost in the Shell graphic novel entitled Global Neural Network. Although not a new work by GITS originator Masamune Shirow, it contains four new stories by younger manga-ka inspired by Shirow’s cerebral subtexts and kitschy iconography.

Dark Horse Comics’ manga division is releasing many interesting omnibus editions of some of the most gritty manga on the market. But their coolest new release, set to hit shelves on the 31st, is Start Blazers 2199 Omnibus Vol. 1. Again, this new story is not the work of Star Blazers’ (Space Battleship Yamato) creator Leiji Matsumoto, but instead it is comprised of new stories by younger manga writers and artists inspired by Matsumoto’s monumental influence.

The boutique anime home video release company, Discotek Media, has been experiencing some major technical difficulties as of late regarding their releases. They moved warehouses earlier this year and have been having trouble getting back into the swing of things. This is very apparent during this month when a new Cutey Honey release and a new Lupin III acquisition have both been scheduled for release and subsequently shelved until late August. Bummer…

Luckily, there’s always Sentai Filmworks as an alternative for the best in home video anime releases of classic and cult anime. On the 23rd, they are releasing the Cutie Honey Universe: Complete Collection on Blu-Ray. And exactly one week later, they are releasing a definitive steelbook edition of Elfen Lied: The Complete Series on Blu-Ray complete with tons of extra features and an artbook.

Where theatrical anime is concerned, Funimation Films is really slacking off. They typically show a film in the U.S. once every two months. However, they currently have a number of films slated for release with no tentative date attached. Since February, Funimation has been touting the release of Eureka Seven: Anemone , and is no closer to releasing it now than all those months ago. In April, they announced the acquisition of a Cyberpunk anime adaptation of an Osamu Dazai story called Human Lost that seems currently lost in the fray of planned releases. And now, they’ve released information regarding the premiere of a pop idol film called Love Live! Sunshine!! The School Idol Movie: Over the Rainbow. The former two of these prospects are at least vaguely interesting to the common otaku, but the latter seems so asinine as to turn away any but the youngest, greenest audiences from the theater. If they ever get around to releasing any of the films theatrically that is…

But thank Ohirume-no-muchi-no-kami that we have GKIDS! Together with Fathom Events, GKIDS is screening Studio Ghibli classics’ Whisper of the Heart on July 2nd and Kiki’s Delivery Service on July 28th and 29th nationwide. Also on July 2nd, GKIDS is releasing Ghibli alum Kitaro Kosaka’s new film Okko’s Inn on a DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack. On the 16th, they will be releasing a new French animation (from the studio that brought us Ernest and Celestine) called The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales. Finally, as of July 1st, GKIDS has announced its acquisition of Masaki Yuasa and Studio Science Saru’s new film Ride Your Wave set for theatrical and home video release in 2020.

Although I’ve already mentioned Fathom Event’s work with GKIDS on the Studio Ghibli Fest showings above, there are two other notable anime films being release through their cinema circuit this month. The first, playing on the 11th and 15th, is Sound! Euphonium: The Movie. The film is a sequel to a popular series by Kyoto Animation and is helmed by some of the same artists in the studio who produced great films like A Silent Voice and Liz and the Blue Bird. The second film, set for release on the 23rd only, is Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Arrow of the Orion. Unlike Sound!, this second film is more kid-fare than anything else and probably not up the alley of anyone who has made it thus far into this review.

Finally, in the last section of my monthly anime update, I like to take a few sentences to introduce the anime conventions coming up this month in my region: the South-Eastern United States.

Cosplay America, July 5-7th, Cary, NC

Anime Blues Con, July 12-14th, Memphis, TN

Blerdcon (a classic), 12-14th, Arlington, VA

Banzaicon, 19th-21st, Columbia, SC. I’m a regular at this one.

GalaxyCon, 25-28th, Raleigh, NC

& Otakon, 26-28th, Washington D.C. One of the largest anime conventions in the country.

 

Ciao for now

Anime Update: June 2019

As always, this is my update for all the notable and important goings on with manga releases, anime home video releases, and theatrical anime coming to North America this month, as well as a short rejoinder about the anime conventions happening in my own region of the USA. So without further ado…

Manga Releases:

Seven Seas Entertainment, usually a goldmine for classic collection releases by manga-ka auteurs like Go Nagai and Leiji Matsumoto, is not releasing any new manga of note this month, but are always an interesting indie to keep an eye on in the ever-increasingly-burgeoning field that is North American manga distribution. So keep them on your radar.

Kodansha Comics is releasing a very interesting compendium on June 25th: the Princess Jellyfish Complete Manga Box Set. For anyone (like myself) who watched the short-running cult classic anime series of the same name, loved it, and wanted to learn more about the story, this box set is your answer. And if I had more money, know for certain that I’d be getting this box set myself.

Viz Media is releasing, amongst a large sleight of titles, three extremely interesting items in the month of June. The first two of these are to be released on June 4th (the day of this posting): the Dragon Ball Complete Box Set and the Dragon Ball Z Complete Box Set. These are obviously classic series and the list prices ($140 and $220, respectively) are very reasonable for the sheer number of volumes in each work. The third notable release from Viz comes to us on June 11th: Evangelion Illustrations 2007-2017. Unlike many art books, which seem to be little more than cash grabs from dated franchises looking to cash in on nostalgia instead of producing new content, this book attempts to cash in by selling readers a book of pictures of past merchandise and merchandising campaigns. And because I’m a mark for anything Evangelion, I might bite this time around (don’t be like me if you can help it).

Finally, Dark Horse Comics- a name more typically associated with Western comics than manga- is releasing the first of a two-part omnibus by Gou Tanabe entitled H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. Gou Tanabe is a masterful artist whose work bridges the gap between the Japanese manga style and the Western graphic novel and his adaptations of Western literary classics are known for their sumptuous artistry and attention to detail. This first half of the story will come in a 320-page book for only $20 and is set for release on June 12th. If you were to pick up only one of the manga recommendations listed here thus far, this would be the one.

Anime Home Video Releases:

Discotek Media is, as they do each month, releasing a small number of highly curated material. And in June, two of their releases deserve mention here. The first is the 1986 anime series The Wonderful Wizard of Oz set for release for the first time in North America on Standard Definition Blu-Ray Disc. The second is Cyborg 009: The Cyborg Soldier also set for an Sd Blu-Ray Disc release. Both of these home video releases will be available through the Discotek Media website or from one of their booths at an anime convention near you on June 25th.

Sentai Filmworks is releasing a number of interesting titles in June 2019, the most important and critically-acclaimed of which is their Blu-Ray release of Studio Gainax’s classic Space Opera Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise. Hitherto, I’ve only been able to find this film on a decade-old DVD release from Sentai, so this new release (June 4th) comes as a breath of fresh air, especially since Gainax (or more correctly, their subsidiary Gaina) is currently working on the film’s sequel Uru in Blue set for a 2022 release (if we’re lucky.

The third and final company to mention here is GKID’s who are known for releasing most of Studio Ghibli’s film library to the West (minus many early Isao Takahata classics). On June 18th, they will be releasing a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack of the Studio Ponoc anthology film Modest Heroes. But that’s not all. GKID’s has also recently acquired the North American distribution rights to four anime films: 2 Studio 4°C anthology films entitled Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond; the coming of age story The Case of Hana and Alice; and the 2007 minor classic Summer Days with Coo by acclaimed anime director Keiichi Hara (Miss Hokusai). That said, keep an eye out in the coming weeks and months for more news about how GKID’s plans to handle these films and whether and which ones will receive home video release and theatrical releases through Fathom Events.

Theatrical Anime:

Funimation Films is one of the few distributors of theatrical anime in North America that shows its films in more than a few select cinemas. As such, it is always an interesting and promising prospect for those like myself who like to see their animated features on the largest screen possible. Unfortunately, they have no features set for theatrical release in June of 2019. Fortunately, they will have a number of interesting features set for release later this year including the Osamu Dazai adaptation Human Lost and the new Eureka Seven film Anemone. 

Fathom Events is typically the theatrical anime distributor you can trust to have at least one release in theaters in any given month. And unfortunately, they too have no films sleighted for release this month! Luckily, next month there a number of great Ghibli films and otherwise set to reach their theater distribution chain including Yoshifumi Kondo’s mesmerizingly  beautiful coming of age story Whisper of the Heart in theaters July 1st and 2nd.

Conventions:

Last but not least, there are three notable conventions in my region (the South-Eastern USA):

Gamga Con in Greensboro, NC on June 8th.

Anime Ink in Richmond, VA from the 14th-16th.

& Rangerstop and Pop Con in Atlanta, GA from the 21st-23rd.

 

Ciao for now,

Cody Ward

Anime Update: May 2019

Normally, in this monthly anime update I discuss all notable or classic manga and home video anime releases coming to the North American market for the month. However, after an extensive search of about a dozen manga distributors and half a dozen home video anime distributors, I have come up short with suggestions for this month.

At this point I’ve seemingly become jaded and bored with much of the light novel adaptations, slice of life, kitsch, and low-brow productions offered up. My critical apparatus is somewhat dull by virtue of spending so much time away from the cinema as of late, and yet my taste remains true and my standards remarkably high. If you don’t believe me, go check out my go-tos for suggestions in this regard: Seven Seas Entertainment, Viz Media, Kodansha Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Discotek Media, Sentai Filmworks, and GKID’s. None of these companies is coming out with a new manga series of note in this particular month or releasing any classic anime either.

But I digress… for the time being. Theatrical anime is still a good prospect for the month of May. To begin, Funimation Films is releasing Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;urrection (not a typo btw) to select theaters on May 5th, 7th, and 8th. So if you’re a fan of that somewhat kiddy fair ten years after it was popular with a whole host of, shall we say, less than effete minds, then by all means go check it out.

GKID’s and Fathom Events are still partnering to present North American audiences with Studio Ghibli Fest 2019. And for the month of May, they are delivering the goods with what is quite possibly the greatest animated feature ever made: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. This film (released in 1984) was famously the impetus for the creation of Studio Ghibli (founded 1985) as Miyazaki and Takahata worked together to fund and create it along with Studio Topcraft (who they would later acquire after the bankruptcy of Topcraft’s No.1 commisioner Rankin/Bass), which established the core of Ghibli. The film will show nationwide on May 20th and 21st, and as this is the film’s 35th anniversary, expect some extra features.

GKID’s is also releasing an interesting new Ghibli home video product on May 14th: a Princess Mononoke Collector’s Edition Set with a ton of extra features that more than make up for the $50 price tag. This release will be the definitive home video release of the film, potentially for decades, so I advise you to check that out here.

Fathom Events, like the champs they are, are also delivering more theatrical anime to your veritable doorstop this month. In 2017, a light novel about a Japanese Salaryman who dies and is reincarnated into an alternate reality world where World War I meets II with magic was adapted into a 12-episode anime. In 2019, the direct sequel of this beloved series was adapted into an animated feature. And now, it comes to American theatrical audiences through Fathom Events for one day only: May 16th. The series is called The Saga of Tanya the Evil, and is looks pretty phenomenal.

Finally, the convention schedule, like everything else this month, is pretty slim for the South-Eastern United States. As far as I can tell, there are only four cons going down within 12 hours of Charlotte, NC (my city). They are as follows: Carolina Anime Day in Charlotte on the 4th; Animazement (NC’s biggest anime convention) in Raleigh from the 23rd till the 26th. MomoCon (one of GA’s largest cons) in Atlanta from the 24th-26th. And GalaxyCon in Richmond, VA from the 31st until the 2nd of June.

With that, I’ll be signing off for the time being. So…

 

Ciao for now,

Cody Ward

Anime Update: April 2019

Though I’ve been largely absent from the reader for the past month, I wouldn’t miss this day if I can help it: the first day of the month. That means it’s about time I send out an update here regarding all of the cool new things going on with theatrical anime, home video releases and manga coming to a North American audience, plus a review of my region’s best upcoming Anime and Otaku Conventions. So, without further ado, here I go.

For starters, Seven Seas Entertainment is releasing a very important Classic Collection title that all true manga nerds will want to get their hands on immediately: the Space Battleship Yamato complete collection in one volume, set for release on April 9th. This tome contains Leiji Matsumoto’s legendary space opera series in its entirety for what I believe is the first time in the West. Author of series like Galaxy Express 999 and Space Captain Harlock, Matsumoto is one amongst a godhead of classic manga-ka including names like Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy), Go Nagai (Devilman), Shirow Masamune (Ghost in the Shell), and Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma 1/2) who have helped to influence and shape the current form and content of manga like none other. So I hope you check out this manga when it becomes available.

Viz Media is also releasing some pretty exciting books this month such as The Art of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind on the 16th and a hardcover Nausicaa Picture Book on the 30th. Most interesting, however, is the publication of a new series of everyone’s favorite horror comics artist Junji Ito. Smashed: Junji Ito Story Collection is set for release on April 16th and will assuredly be filled with spine-tingling macabre art and head-trippy surreal concepts in spades.

As for home video releases, Discotek Media is back in the game this month after a short hiatus brought on by their distributor moving house. On April 30th, they have quite a few releases slated. The ones that most piqued my interest include a DVD of the 1988 Cyberpunk OVA Appleseed (based on Shirow Masamune’s classic manga) and an HD Blu-Ray of Episodes 1-26 of Lupin III Part IV The Italian Adventure. 

Sentai Filmworks has a ton of releases set for this month, but the most important of these, historically-speaking, is their Gatchaman Collector’s Edition slated for release on the 30th. This includes the entirety of the over-100 episode series, the OVAs, the film, and a large artbook. This is THE definitive version of this classic series, and thereby deserving of its $99.99 price tag.

Then we have theatrical anime to consider for April. Funimation recently released some interesting material in February and March, but is currently not announcing any films for April. However, keep them in mind for the summer as they have two interesting films already set for release during that time period: Anemone: Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution (The newest Eureka Seven project) and POLYGON Pictures Human Lost based on an original story by famed Japanese author Osamu Dazai and directed by Fuminori Kizaki (Afro Samurai, Psycho-Pass). The latter of these two films looks to be an intense and arresting cyberpunk-tinged tale of future dystopian society, and thereby a film this anime reviewer will not be missing out on (if he can help it).

GKIDs is releasing two films they hold the North American distribution rights to through Fathom Events. The first is the long-anticipated 1st feature-length film by Studio Ghibli-veteran Kitaro Kosaka entitled Okko’s Inn. The film is produced by Studio Madhouse and thereby retains a high level of executive quality control in the process of choosing scripts and in releasing a film with their name on it. As Kosaka’s previous short film efforts Nasu and Nasu II were fantastic and even milestones in the history of anime (the former was the first anime filmed premiered at Cannes Film Festival), Okko’s Inn ought to be a great film. Catch it in theaters on the 22nd or 23rd of this month.

The second film being released by GKIDs through Fathom Events is the first film in this year’s Studio Ghibli Fest: Howl’s Moving CastleAs this is the 15th Anniversary of the film, expect to see some interesting bonus content about the film before or after its airing. Plan to catch this film on the 7th, 8th, or 10th at a theater near you.

And finally, GKIDs is releasing Mamoru Hosoda’s new film Mirai of the Future on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital on April 9th. So pick that up when you get a chance to continue rounding out your collection with great films by anime’s auteurs.

I’ll conclude this update with a quick run through of my region’s upcoming anime cons of consequence. The first is Nashicon in Columbia, SC from the 5th-7th. Nashicon was the first convention at which I ever presented a panel and it means a great deal to me. I would be there myself this upcoming weekend if not for the fact that my band is releasing our debut EP in Charlotte, NC on Saturday night. If you live in the area and are interested in attending that, here’s a link to The Boron Heist EP Release Show.

From the 13-14th, TigerCon is going down in Valdosta, GA. From the 19th-21st, Middle Tennessee Anime Con is happening in Nashville. And on the 20th, a one day convention entitled KiraKira Con is being held in my home city of Charlotte, NC at UNC Charlotte!

This concludes this month’s anime update. If I left out any pertinent media companies, events, or types of information you wished I had covered here, please let me know and I will do my best to incorporate said information in future Anime Updates!

 

Ciao for now,

Cody Ward

Anime Update: March 2019

It’s about that time, in fact a few days past that time, when I review all the cool things going on in the world of anime, manga, theatrical anime, and the monthly convention schedule for the Southeast U.S.

For starters, I searched through the monthly manga releases by Viz and Seven Seas Entertainment and found no new series being released that really piqued my interest in any way this month. However, I am open to suggestions for other North American manga re-publishing houses to cover in the future (this also holds true for home video anime release companies I may not mention and groups who release theatrical anime on a nationwide scale).

That said, there are a few anime home video releases to keep an eye out for this month. The first is the classic sci-fi stop motion series Star Fleet, which is being released in full along with the complete X-Bomber series by Discotek Media on March 26th on SDBD, or Standard Definition Blu-Ray disc.

Sentai Filmworks is also releasing an important series in complete collection form this month. That series is the Armored Trooper VOTOMS TV Collection on SD DVD. So check that out and the rest of Sentai’s upcoming release schedule HERE.

This past month, the GKID’s licensed Studio Chizu film Mirai of the Future  was honored at the Academy Awards by becoming the first non-Ghibli anime film to ever compete for the Best Animated Feature Film category. To celebrate, GKID’s decided to re-run the film a second time in theaters. So if you haven’t seen Mamoru Hosoda’s fifth film on the big screen yet and thought you had missed your chance, use the opportunity asap while its still a possibility. And also keep updated on fellow Ghibli alum Kitaro Kosaka’s new film Okko’s Inn, set for release in April, at the GKID’s site.

As always, Funimation is an important name to keep in mind regarding monthly theatrical anime. And this month, they came through in a minor way. Funimation will be releasing the first two episodes of the new Fruits Basket anime theatrically on March 26th and 27th in select theaters nationwide. So keep that feather in your cap and stay updated on their projected release of the new Eureka Seven film later this year HERE.

Finally, I would be extremely remiss if I didn’t mention the best distributor of theatrical anime in the nation, Fathom Events. These cats were the ones who got me into watching anime in theaters in the first place and on every given month, they will have multiple titles coming to major theater chains near you like the AMC in my hometown, for example. This month you can catch Fate/Stay Night [Heaven’s Feel] II. Lost Butterfly in theaters on the 14th; as well as an edited theatrical version of the Made in Abyss series on the 20th and 25th in support of the projected second season set for release later this year.

Moreover, Fathom finally announced its 2019 Studio Ghibli Fest on Valentine’s Day last month and we’ll start off in a big way with Howl’s Moving Castle in early April. And as always, don’t fret if (like myself) you have already seen every Miyazaki film on the big screen. There will a variety of great Ghibli classics playing throughout the year like Yoshifumi Kondo’s classic Whisper of the HeartHiromasa Yonebayashi’s The Secret of Arriettyand Isao Takahata’s final film The Tale of Princess KaguyaCheck all of that out and more (like boxing events, classic film series, and operas) HERE.

Finally the con schedule for my region this month is as follows:

Agama Con from 2nd-3rd in Aiken, South Carolina.

Murfreesboro Anime and Comic Kon from 2nd-3rd in Murfreesboro, Georgia; Savannah Animazing Con from the 30th-31st in Savannah, Georgia.

Madicon from the 8th-10th in Harrisburg, Virginia; KigaCon from the 15-17th in Newport News, Virginia.

MidSouthCon from the 15th-17th in Memphis, Tennessee.

And finally, Triad Anime Con from the 15th-17th in Winston-Salem, of my home state North Carolina. At this convention I will hosting a panel on the ‘Other Studio Directors’ beyond the Studio’s founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. So, if you know anyone in the area, alert them to that and if you yourself are planning to attend, hit me up!

 

Ciao for now,

Cody Ward

Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki

(Check out my previous Hayao Miyazaki film review here: The Wind Rises)

Late last year, GKIDS brought the 2016 Japanese made-for-TV documentary Never-Ending Man to U.S. theaters through Fathom Events distribution. As a Ghibli fanatic who enjoys any window into the production and personal sides of the the studio’s operations, and one who thoroughly enjoyed their previous documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, I made it a point to mark my calendar and ready myself for 70 minutes of interviews with Miyazaki and in-depth behind-the-scenes coverage of the studio.

But first, a bit of backstory is necessary to put you readers who didn’t see the film into my headspace at the time (and likely the headspace of many American otaku). In 2013, Miyazaki released The Wind Rises, which was slated to be his last feature length production after his umpteenth retirement announcement in early 2014. What’s more, Isao Takahata, the Studio’s founder and Miyazaki’s mentor, had just released his first film in 14 years The Tale of Princess KaguyaDue to Takahata’s advanced age, it was speculated rightly by many that this would be his final film. Moreover, Miyazaki was no spring chicken and it seemed he might really go into retirement this time around. 

To add complications, Ghibli director Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki’s protege Yoshiaki Nishimura left the Studio during this production halt in 2014 to found their own studio: Studio Ponoc. And every prospect for the continuation of Studio Ghibli animation was now working elsewhere on productions outside of the Studio including Kitaro Kosaka at Studio Madhouse, Sunao Katabuchi at Studio Chizu, Mamoru Hosada at MAPPA and Studio M2, directors Tomomi Mochizuki and Hiroyuki Morita so turned off by directing due to the pressures of past Ghibli work that they rarely helmed a production themselves anymore, and Ghibli’s greatest prospect Yoshifumi Kondo long dead from a karoshi-related heart attack due to his long hours and hard work at Ghibli. Although Goro Miyazaki had begun to blossom as a director at the Studio, he was only able to do so when surrounded by great animators and directors who had now left the Studio and when his project’s screenplays were shaped by his father Hayao. Even so, after Goro’s direction of the first Studio Ghibli CGI and first TV series Ronja, The Robber’s Daughter, no new projects had been discussed for some time for the young director (whose primary interests always lay in architecture and installation art anyway).

So, in late 2014, when Ghibli announced that Miyazaki was partially coming out of retirement to develop a short CGI film entitled Boro the Caterpillar, I was elated with hope that this production might gestate into another feature-length animation, or scratch that, that it might help the Studio finally find another successor to mantle of head director and creative visionary. Never-Ending Man follows Miyazaki from his initial decision to jump back into the fray through the film’s completion and into his future plans for his work and for the Studio.

But none of this would have occurred at all without the happenstance appearance of a group of young CGI animators who just graduated college and wished to elevate themselves into a full-fledged production company. To do so, they went out on a limb and took many chances including offering up their skills and showing highlight reels of their work to Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki. Miyazaki found the possibilities of the format of CGI to be refreshing and new, and as such, he took up the helm and decided to begin production on a short film for release at the Studio Ghibli Museum Theatre. However, he also came head to head with the limitations of the by now three-decades old technology that had still yet to reach a degree of realism and beauty on par with the kinds of works he could produce on pen and paper blindfolded, with just his pinky, and one hand tied behind his back.

Because of these limitations, Miyazaki became the old taskmaster once again and pushed the young animators to work harder than they may have ever imagined they could. At many stages along the way, Miyazaki considered scrapping the project in its entirety and either returning to retirement or firing the CGI staff for a hand-drawn approach. Ultimately, he rescinded his reservations with Suzuki on numerous occassions and only succumbed to changing his plans once when he invited another promising young CGI animation crew to show hi their work in the hopes of supplementing the work of his own crew. Unfortunately, this new crew of animators were interested in the surreal and horrific possibilities of the medium of CGI and AI-assisted animation. What they presented Miyazaki and his team with as a highlight reel was the animation of human bodies by AI without knowledge of human locomotion. The traumatizing figures shown within the reel used their heads as limbs and distorted and contorted their bodies in unnatural and heart-rending manners that was about the farthest thing from realism. But more importantly to Miyazaki, these images reminded one immediately of the locomotion of the physically handicapped and deformed, and thereby elicited an ethical response in Miyazaki (and in myself) of horror. He felt that the young animators were immoral youth who never even considered how such images, though only a highlight reel of their program’s possibilities, could negatively affect the mental health of handicapped individuals. While holding back tears, Miyazaki abruptly asked the young animators to leave his sight hence and forevermore.

By the film’s end, Miyazaki managed to push his initial crew extremely hard while animating elements himself and producing thousands of renderings and cels for the guidance of his crew in adjusting their models to be more realistic and more Ghibli-esque in their aesthetic qualities. And while the film was a critical success for those who have seen it, the entire process left a bad taste in Miyazaki’s mouth. He has now realized once again that traditional, hand-drawn animation has yet to be matched by any other form in its aesthetic quality and ability to draw out emotion in its characterizations. And what else could you expect? A mere decades-old technology like CGI animation does not have the history of millenia to draw upon like hand-drawn animation, and I would argue, could not thereby ever even approximate its visual quality or power.

In the film’s final moments, Miyazaki discusses how CGI was a mistake and how he will never attempt to return to it ever again in his work. Furthermore, he explains that his new plan is to develop another feature film, a film he has already dedicated to his grandson and plans to leave behind as his final picture for posterity. It is tentatively titled How Do You Live? based on the title of a novel by Yoshino Genzaburo, which was the first work in years to influence Miyazaki’s worldview in such a way as to make life seem new and beautiful to him once again. The protagonist of the film is, like Miyazaki, hopelessly enamored with this book and finds it invigorating and en-spiriting in his own life.

Though details of the film’s release are hazy, we know a few things. 1. It was initially planned for release before or around the time of the 2020 Olympics in Japan. 2. It will not be finished in time for this great cultural event. 3. It is now slated for a release between 2021 to 2022. 4. Reports from as early as late 2017 seem to show that Goro Miyazaki is also working on a feature film simultaneously on which he will incorporate CGI animation. 5. There was a year-long period in which no new news was forthcoming on either project. 6. Now, it seems that Goro may be helping his father to create his the former film and the latter film’s production may be halted as reports are contradictory at this time and Ghibli has made no formal announcements (at least none that the Western press has interpreted and commented upon).

Nevertheless, even if this is the final Ghibli film and the studio decides to call it quits after this one, revel in this time while you can. A new Miyazaki film is forthcoming, various Studios and Directors have emerged in his wake to create beautiful animation inspired by his and Takahata-san’s examples, and no end is currently in sight to these developments as digital assistance technologies make traditional animation models more cost-efficient and lucrative. At least for the foreseeable future, Miyazaki’s work and spirit live on a time horizon that is never-ending in its scope and influence.

 

Ciao,

Cody

Modest Heroes (Ponoc Short Films Theatre: Volume 1)

(Check out my review of the previous Studio Ponoc film here: Mary and the Witch’s Flower)

When Studio Ponoc was founded after the initial dissolution of Studio Ghibli in 2014, it seemed that its head talent and lead director was Hiromasa Yonebayashi who had previously directed two films for Studio Ghibli (The Secret World of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There). Yonebayashi had well over two decades of experience in animation by this time as an in-between and key animator for Ghibli productions like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Tales of Earthsea, Ponyo, and From Up on Poppy Hill  as well as the Nasu films by fellow Ghibli alum Kitaro Kosaka (and director of the highly anticipated Studio Madhouse feature Okko’s Inn) and acclaimed anime series like Monster and Serial Experiments Lain

However, with the arrival of Studio Ponoc’s first anthology film comprised of short films by three different directors, it seems the studio is working to recruit many talents (probably to avoid the successor problem that hounded Ghibli throughout its days). In an extensive interview (released as part of Modest Heroes’ U.S. theatrical run) with Studio Ponoc producer and former Ghibli producer (Howl’s Moving Castle, The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, The Tale of Princess Kaguya) Yoshiaki Nishimura discussed the future direction of the Studio and revealed therein just how integral his vision is for that future.

Nishimura is not only the one who drums up support and funding for projects at the Studio, but he is also the one who brought Yonebayashi along with him to start the Studio. Nishimura was also the one who initially came up the idea to start a short films anthology series at the Studio to help develop new talent. The idea came to Nishimura while at Ghibli where tons of short films were produced throughout the years for commercial use at the Studio Ghibli Museum. Unfortunately for all of the talented young directors who worked their ways up in the ranks of Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki cannibalized most opportunities to work in this way, and few beyond the old master ever got the opportunity to direct anything for Ghibli during their tenure there. Nishimura reasoned that this lack of opportunity for other directors beyond Miyazaki and Takahata to direct was the principal reason that Studio was unable to find a successor, and as such, Nishimura has no such plans to repeat their mistake.

The first short films anthology begins with ‘Kanini and Kanino’ directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi and based on an original idea by Nishimura (as are all three short films in the anthology, once again establishing Nishimura’s role at Studio Ponoc as a bonafied auteur in his own right). When Yonebayashi released Mary and the Witch’s Flower, it was received with open arms by an anime community yearning for more works in the Ghibli tradition. However, many criticized the film for being unambiguously Ghibli and too similar to past Miyazaki films and plots, with characters all too similar to those we already know well. Mary was also Yonebayashi’s first film created with an original script not based on a classic British fantasy novel. If anything, that misstep merely reveals that he ought to stick to adaptations until a time comes when his abilities as a writer improve. Suffice it to say that ‘Kanini and Kanino’ suffers from much the same problem and is the least compelling of the three films in the anthology.

The second film is entitled, somewhat awkwardly, ‘Life Ain’t Gonna Lose.’ It is the tale of a young boy who is deathly allergic to eggs. The boy finds his life difficult because of the presence of eggs in almost any baked good and often avoids outings with other children to avoid potentially life-threatening accidental exposure. As a spiritual successor to the Ghibli helm however, the situation works out for the best as this little boy works to overcome his allergy by deciding to go to the hospital on a more regular basis where he can be treated through exposure therapy until he is one day able to eat eggs like other children.

This segment was directed by Yoshiyuki Momose who had previously only directed on two occasions (Ghiblies Episode 2 and Space Station No. 9) for the rare Studio Ghibli short films not helmed by Miyazaki-san himself. Momose is an animator whose career began all the back in 1971, or shortly thereafter Miyazaki himself entered the field of animation in the mid to late sixties, and therefore, it was imperative for Nishimura to hire Momose on to direct something as a test to see whether he was ready for feature film work down the road. Imperative, because Momose is currently 66 years old, and although he may have thirty more years of productivity ahead, the fates may also find it fit to yield less than ten to him (fickle as they are). Momose’s career hitherto has involved animation work for classics like Lensman, A Journey Through Fairyland, Grave of the Fireflies, Porco Rosso, whisper of the Heart, Spirited Away, Mary and the Witch’s Flower, and the popular Ghibli inspired RPG series Ni no Kuni. Hopefully, we will see more work from him in the coming years through Studio Ponoc.

Finally, the third and final film in this short film anthology is ‘Invisible’ by director Akihiko Yamashita. The story is by far the most visually, aurally, and thematically arresting of the three tales as it depicts the bleak, grey life of a man doomed to live in the world as a spectre, invisible to all but those who suffer his same misfortune, though they too are few and far between. The heaven’s call toward him as some sort of suicidal impulse he can only assuage by carrying heavy objects that weigh him down using the earth’s gravity. But through a redemptive action wherein he saves the life of another, of an innocent child, the invisible man finds redemption and solace, and more importantly he finds himself once again.

Akihiko Yamashita is the least experience director of the three in this anthology as he has only previously directed the Studio Ghibli short film A Sumo Wrestler’s Tail. Yet, Yamashita can also be considered the most accomplished animator of the three as he has served in more capacities than merely an in-betweener or key animator. Thus far, his credits include highly prestigious production roles like Assistant Animation Director on The Cat Returns, Ponyo, When Marnie Was There, and Mary; Head animation Director on Howl’s Moving Castle and Arrietty; and Assistant Director on Tales From Earthsea. Moreover, his work outside of Ghibli and Ponoc includes more classic anime than any of his fellow Ponoc directors: e.g. Urusei Yatsura, Legend of the Overfiend, Nadia, Giant Robo, Serial Experiments Lain, Blue Submarine No. 6, and Big O.

Besides the hope for a future for Ghibli animation, this short film anthology signals the willingness of Studio Ponoc to experiment continually with the medium of animation, to foster a home for new animators and a testing ground for future directors, and as a future gateway for potential droves of new viewers to rediscover Ghibli in the future when the all too short-sighted masses begin to forget its impact. The most hopeful takeaway for me, however, toward this end was Nishimura’s stated promise that he enjoyed the process of producing films, was good at drumming up financial support, and that the Studio’s films have thus far been moderately profitable enough for him to continue the series. And not only to continue it for a while, but indefinitely as Nishimura plans to release Ponoc short film anthologies well past the tenth installment, and until the very day he dies.

A final rejoinder. This anthology was originally sleighted to be somewhat longer due to the initial plan for a fourth film by Studio Ghibli founder Isao Takahata. Unfortunately, Takahata passed away before such a plan could come to fruition. Modest Heroes is dedicated to his memory and to the influence of his films without which anime would be a completely different beast than the one we know it as today.

 

Ciao,

Cody Ward

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Mamoru Hosoda is one of the most iconic, talented directors of his generation. He directs unique films with an eye for compositions and scenarios that reflect the interior conflicts and emotions of characters in his films and composes each work with its own rhythm, using cinematic methods to achieve specific goals. Hosoda makes films that connect with audiences, young and old, and works from the stable Studio Madhouse where he is one of their critical and commercial hot tickets. Meaning his continued presence is something to take for granted as long as he continues to create masterful work.

Hosoda began his career in animation in the early 90s, somehow managing to immediately snag a job as a key animator at Toei working on episodes of Dragon Ball Z and four films in the series between 1993 and 1998. He also worked as a key animator during this period on films in the Yu Yu Hakasho and Sailor Moon franchises, as well as on the classic anime series Revolutionary Girl Utena and the Leiji Matsumoto Studio Madhouse film adaptation of Galaxy Express 999: The Eternal Fantasy. 

In the late 90s, Tamagatchi founders Akiyoshi Hongo, who had fused their three identities into one media icon for the presentation of this new venture, hired Hosoda to direct a pilot film for their new multimedia empire Digimon. From 1999 to 2001, he directed that film, Digimon Adventure, as well as the Episode 21 of the subsequent anime series, the short film, Our War Game!, and seven episodes of Digimon Adventure 02. His style was never workmanlike and always showed promise of developing into something promising from the very beginning. And most importantly, his approach was cinematic and always aimed at an adult audience in a theatrical setting. Despite the darkness of emotions he plumbed in these early works, they were accessible to all kinds of people and made him a sought after figure as a director for the strength of his visual style, his attention to detail, and just how many people his work could potentially reach (which would later turn out to be millions).

After this point, he directed a short commercial for Louis Vuitton in 2003, which he co-wrote and designed with the acclaimed Japanese artist of the Superflat Art movement Haruki Murakami, and called Superflat Monogram. True to the brand’s impression, the film is a work of high art and culture first and foremost whose preoccupations are with modern culture and life, and beauty. In 2004-2005, Hosoda directed an episode of One Piece before helming the franchise’s sixth film: One Piece: Baron O-Matsuri and the Secret Island.

Finally, in 2006, Studio Madhouse hired Hosoda full-time as one amongst their staple of directors for feature films and gave him his first chance at making a feature-length film of his own, not attached to a franchise, or with a pre-written script delivered to his desk by a Studio exec. He had complete creative freedom for the first time. And with this freedom, he decided to direct a science fiction picture based on a novel by the legendary Japanese writer Yasutaka Tsutsui (also the author of Paprika, which was simultaneously being adapted another masterful Madhouse director named Satoshi Kon).

The tale follows the day to day life of a young girl named Makoto Konno who is clumsy and riddled by bad luck. She is an awkward senior in high school who has thought little about what she wants to do with her life or how to get her grades in order to go to college. One day, in the chemistry class supply room after school, she finds an odd acorn lying on the ground as well as the shadow of a boy rummaging about the room. As she turns, she slips and falls. But not directly onto the floor. No, instead she falls through time, through different dimensions, and finally back into her own time and place and onto the ground. She has inadvertently leapt through time.

For much of the remainder of the film, Makoto uses her newfound ability to avoid accidents (including one which proves fatal to herself in her normal timestream), to spend longer periods at karaoke with her friends, to eat the best meal of the week at home on multiple occassions, and to generally have a good time. All the while, she explains the events to her Aunt, who is her closest confidant and friend, and the one she goes to for advice. She alerts Makoto to the possibility of her newfound ability having negative effects on people around her. Makoto refuses to acknowledge this possibility at the time, but eventually realizes that she has in fact made life rather difficult for a number of different people inadvertently.

However, every time she goes back to right a wrong, negative consequences seem to always occur and the situations she tries to get her and her friends out of worsen. What’s more, she eventually notices that a number has appeared on the back of her arm, which seems to count down the number of times she can use the time leap ability. As she races through time to prevent tragedy and to return her life back to normal, a subplot arises about her Aunt. She works as a restoration artist at a local museum in town and has spent the previous few months on a particularly difficult piece that was painted during a time of famine and war, and was laden with muck and minor surface damage. Only recently discovered, the painting’s creator is unknown.

Later, Makoto will find that the painting has some dire significance to a certain boy she has made friends with and who has arrived from the future to view it. The painting had been destroyed by the time he was born and only existed a short time after being found and displayed before again being destroyed in some cataclysmic event that killed off much of Earth’s population. The boy came to view the painting, to reflect upon its beauty as an experience to remember for the remainder of his life. But Makoto has accidentally used his device, the acorn, to time travel. He is now stuck in her time and has unwittingly alerted a past denizen of Earth to the existence of this future technology, meaning that he will most likely be found and decommissioned by his own future people, by time cops as it were.

The ending of the film is sublime, and thereby, something I do not wish to disclose here in the hopes that those who have not seen it will go and seek it out. It received very little in the way of promotion before being released in a limited theatrical run in Japan. However, it was so popular, and the few theaters reported such great numbers, that Madhouse extended both the length of its theatrical run and the number of theaters in which it played. They also entered the film into competition in as many film festivals they could and were rewarded as the film won Best Animation of the year time and again in both 2006 and 2007 at festivals like the Spaniard’s Sitges Film Festival, and Japan’s own Tokyo Anime Awards, the Japan Academy Prize, and the Mainichi Film Competition. And just like that, Studio Madhouse’s gamble on Mamoru Hosoda paid off, in a big way, and they had a new director on their hands for the long haul.

 

Cody Ward

[Next up: Summer Wars]

Iblard Jikan

Iblard Jikan is one of the most artistically compelling visual spectacles produced by Studio Ghibli in its thirty plus years existence. The piece is a phantasmagorical and other-worldly in a way that few animations are without also being terrifying. The world of Iblard in its time is revealed in this short 2007 film to be a world of technology sufficiently complex enough to appear magical wherein the denizens of this land live beside nature, harnessing its power whilst simultaneously deriving pleasure through its proximity, through the beauty of living things and the quaintness with which they frame everything else.

Iblard is painted in an impressionist manner with watercolors and pointillist motifs portraying sheer colors and textures, but figuring as objects, as landscapes, as people, and as mechanisms of scientific advance. The landscapes are idyllic and often elegiac in scope: a vision of a world of the future that embraces the beauty of the world without also foolishly dismissing scientific advances that make life easier, more bearable, less grueling, and ultimately more enjoyable.  The artist of this fantastical utopian vision, Naohisa Inoue, is no banal luddite and no conservative fool with a belief in nature as a first principle or of the simplistic a-rational belief in the natural-artificial divide. No, he is a true progressive through and through, which champions the green revolution and where we can go from there with the beauty of GMOs, shorter seasons, higher yields, and the eventual amelioration of starvation altogether (whereas a conservative might bear total ‘organic’ farming as a Good despite its obvious effect of directly causing millions more to die of starvation and lack of food supply each year).

Inoue is not predominately an animator for manga or Japanese animated television series or films. Rather, he paints and works within the fine art medium of the landscape portraitist. Inoue’s interests in surrealism and impressionism, in fantasy and science fiction render him something of an anachronistic painter by the modern avant-garde’s standards. However, in picturing a mystique of nature and techno-fetishism at the same time, he creates works in a lofty spirit akin to David Foster Wallace’s call for a move beyond Postmodern Irony and Referentiality toward a new sentimentality, toward a true love of humanity and a belief in our abilities to move beyond current forms (although not a base belief in human omnipotence, which has been thoroughly de-mystified through the dialectical relation with Postmodern thought).

In 1995, Yoshifumi Kondo directed his first feature film, which was likewise his first film for Studio Ghibli and the first theatrical film released by the company, which was not also directed by one of its patriarchs: Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. The film was called Whisper of the Heart, and it followed the life of a young girl who struggles to find her talents in this world. She is of the liminal age when love begins to bloom and one’s career is still far off, but quickly approaching. And she is imaginative and well-read for her age, but has found no way to use her talents until she meets an ambitious young boy who captures her heart and gives her the push to begin work, to start writing a novel.

In these moments when she imagines the inner world of the novel, she imagines the world of Iblard. And in that 1995 film, Inoue’s paintings of the fictional landscape, its magical technology, and its enchanting people, appear in their full brilliance. Eleven years later, in 2006, Miyazaki returned to Iblard and used its backgrounds and beauty to house his characters for the 16-minute short film Hoshi no Katta Hi, or The Day I Raised A Planet. How these two events led to Ghibli optioning a full Iblard OVA at half an hour in length, with no real market to make a return, and to be directed by Inoue himself, despite him having no previous animation experience, I have no clue. However, I am glad that they took a chance on Inoue’s film just as they had with Oga’s film, The Night of Taneyamagahara, in the previous year.

The film is split into eight short segments, each around 4 minutes long, which feature unique pieces of music and explore successively larger portions of the world of Iblard. As a small cottage in a wood, which could exist in our own world now, transitions to a house on a hill, and then to a small village linked together by amorphous rail cars, acoustic guitars and synth pads shift to traditional Japanese music, likewise played on  these instruments. As the scenes move to larger pictures of entire islands and of civilizations and cities of Iblard, each more technologically complex, beautiful, and surreal in the sheer impossibility of their designs, the music grows. Two guitars, then three guitars, synths and drums and an epic sweep, and then the images finally just took me over entirely and my notes on the film became less like observations, and more like reflections, and then revelries in the majesty of the experience:

‘First the synths, then the drums, building into an epic piece. Landscapes, artifacts, pavilions of times long forgotten, and always the sea, the rivers, the lakes, and the lush islands of Grecian aspect. Peninsulas and archipelagos of mythic, Elysian Andalusian shores, or Dali re-envisioned through Auguste Renoir. People float upwards, ascending to meet these spaces, aloft along winds of will, and toward a piazza of planes: first water, then land, then water, then homes, and so on.’

Or:

‘A music box and bells building a sinister phantasmagoria, a playful nightmare in a world of labyrinthine topography. A Postmodern playground. Cities and industry, blimps and smog immediately absorbed back into the Earth: an effete bourgeois beauty, inestimable. Organs and a Gregorian chant revive within the spectator ancient yearnings for an idyll whose time never was: only to later be constructed by romantics in pensive moods dreaming of past glories. The people here as phantoms in the streets, as matter transfiguring, as science transmogrifying into magic, into mysticism: a transformation so complete it leaves one wondering whether the object is truly science as magic, or magic merely veiled in technologic.’

Needless to say, I loved the film, and I hope you do as well.

 

Cody Ward

The Night of Taneyamagahara

Some animators while away their time working on backgrounds, in-between and key animations, and assistant work on big productions without ever giving thought to eventually directing a work of their own. Some have the drive and the will to create something, but are only ever relegated to work in the lower echelons of an animation studio, if they’re even lucky enough to join a studio and escape the insecurity of freelance. And then there are those who toil away, get a shot at making a film, and go on to become directors in their own right. The story of the 2006 short film The Night of Taneyamagahara, is unlike any of these scenarios.

In the late 1960s, an animator rose up from the ranks of fine art production and moved into the burgeoning Japanese animation field. His name was Kazuo Oga and his work was immediately recognized for its brilliance in rendering background landscapes realistically, evocatively, tastefully, and with powerful emotional resonances. After working for Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki on their short films Panda! Go, Panda! and Panda! Go, Panda! The Rainy-Day Circus in 1972 and 73, he was hired by a new studio called Studio Madhouse (founded in 1972), which would go on to become one of the biggest names in Japanese animation.

The Osamu Tezuka founded studio Mushi Production was going bankrupt and those in the know left while the getting was good to found Madhouse. The four principal founders of this new Studio included the Producer Masao Maruyama (later of Mappa Studios and M2) and the directors Rintaro, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, and Osamu Dezaki, all three of whom Oga would work for as late as 2007. But his professional relationship with this group began in 1975 when Oga worked as a background artist on the animated series  The Adventures of Gamba. Later the two collaborated on Nobody’s Boy: Remi in 1977 and the films Ashita no Joe II (on which Oga worked as Art Director) and Space Adventure Cobra, which ended their professional collaboration in 1982.

Oga’s work for the other Madhouse directors primarily involved background artwork, though he notably worked as Art Director on two of Mori Masaki’s films, Barefoot Gen and Toki no Tabibito: Time Stranger, as well as a film by Osamu Tezuka entitled The Fantastic Adventures of Unico whose animation Madhouse provided and on Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s classic Wicked City. Other notable Madhouse productions on which Oga provided background artwork include Rintaro’s Harmageddon and The Dagger of Kamui and Kawajiri’s Demon City Shinjuku, Ninja Scroll, Goku Midnight Eye, and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.

Notably, throughout the fifteen year period from 1973-1988, he had not worked on any other productions with Studio Ghibli co-founders Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki despite the two creating six features and numerous animated series during this time. Oga finally rejoined with the two at the tail end of 1988 and began work on My Neighbor Totoro as Art Director. This was to be the beginning of a fruitful career with the new Studio during which he would collaborate as an Art Director or Background Artist another 17 times between 1989-2014 (the latter year being the infamous Ghibli production halt during which animators were fired en masse, directors left to found their own Studios, and no works were commissioned until 2017-though none have, as of yet, been released either).

In the early 90s, a cult following began to surround Oga and his work, which championed his beautiful backgrounds and the quality of those productions on which he had been assigned as Art Director. Tokuma Shoten, one of Japan’s largest publishing houses, commissioned an art book on Oga’s work, most personal and professional, which they released in 1996 and was followed by a sequel nine years later. Art exhibitions were planned and Oga was, in a sense, being enshrined as a cultural and artistic national treasure.

Around this same time, Oga was developing a strong interest in the written works of Kenji Miyazawa, Japan’s great poet and children’s writer of the 1920s and 30s. His works has famously been adapted to the field of animation on dozens of occasions. However, the most important and culturally relevant of these adaptations had been in the 1980s on Isao Takahata’s film Gauche the Cellist (1982), Rintaro’s Matasaburo of the Winds (1988), and the cult classic Night on the Galactic Railroad (1985). Oga decided to develop his own adaptation of a classic work in Miyazawa’s The Night of Taneyamagahara: the tale of a young man working high in the mountains and saving money to buy a plot of land.

One night he dreams that the Oak Saplings and their father Tree deliver to him a message about protecting the forest and letting it remain beautiful. They promise to do their best to change the mind of the current owner of the land so that he will sell the land to the young man one day. However, to gain their trust, the young man must promise not to cut down any of the trees therein and to live off of the land and its sumptuous feasts of mushrooms, chestnuts, grapes and other fruits. And if he must eventually cut a few trees, he should do so respectfully and use their branches fully and to good ends like warming himself or building his home.

The film is a quaint little ecological fable centered around a metaphysics derived from Shinto in which all living things, and even non-living natural phenomena (like rocks and streams), are to be treated with respect for their inherent worth as existing things. In the sense that this approach to ecology, sheer animism, completely loses any credibility once one begins to assess it logically and rationally (stones have no worth, living beings have no inherent worth, there are no gods inside them, we must kill to survive, modernity precludes the need to harvest in favor of farming, there is no nature-civilization distinction, etc.), the film is a failure. But in the sense that it works for its target demographic, children, the film is alright.

The only problem here, however, is that the film contains very little in the way of animation. Like the great Yuri Norstein, Oga prefers to create still images and manipulate particular elements within the stills to merely simulate movement. However, unlike Norstein, Oga minimizes the animations as much as possible to create something of a minimalist animation approach. Adult audiences may find the film extremely visually attractive, from the billowing of smoke from campfires, to the slow dance of the oak saplings, and the softly shimmering light from the fire and from the stars in the sky. But for children, especially children steeped in hyper-saturated imagery of CGI productions in all their banality and lack of art and heart, the film is unwatchable.

And so, it can really only appeal to fans of animation as an art form, which may have been Oga’s intended purpose in the first place. Or, as all great artists will tell you, it was intended for no audience except the artist himself, whose vision was the wellspring of its being. And if we recognize Oga as a great artist, then truly the only opinion on the matter that matters in the final calculation is Oga’s opinion on the work, which he no doubt would not have even released (it is his only animation as director) if it had not satisfied him.

In the Western animation world, such a production would probably squander away in obscurity and never find a production studio to fund it in the first place. But thanks to Studio Ghibli, The Night of Taneyamagahara was created and thereby serves to show just how much Miyazaki, Takahata, and Toshio Suzuki truly value art and the personal vision of those with the imagination to bring it into existence.

 

Cody Ward

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