Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Hayao Miyazaki's Films and Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli was founded in 1985 by animation director Hayao Miyazaki, a name that would soon become synonymous with the finest animated features produced in most any country in the world.
Below were the films that I've seen so far..and I'm hoping to see more of Miyazaki's films.

Ponyo is a beautifully drawn animated film, with amazing visuals that improved over his other films.Though this is not his best, that is, in all honesty, not saying much at all. It’s a story about a young boy who finds a humanoid goldfish, who desperately attempts to be a human girl. The story was great, nothing really too familiar about the plot. But what made it low on the list? Well Ponyo was certainly not bad, it’s plot was more exuberant than compelling. Usually Miyazaki’s films either had a compelling plot, or their characters were very memorable, which this failed at. While Ponyo’s plot was still intriguing, it’s characters were very predictable most of the time. Oh just an FYI, Ponyos's dad was voiced by Liam Neeson in English dubbed version!

Grave of the Fireflies
This is a grim depiction of life (and death that made me cry huhuhu) during the last days of WWII when Allied firebombings claimed many civilian lives in Tokyo—a story that has not been reported as often as the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Derived from Akiyuki Nosaka’s novel, it shows how two youngsters, Seita and his little sister Setsuko, struggle to survive in the charred ruins of the city and fend off starvation. It’s difficult to watch, but also impossible to forget, and definitely not a children’s movie due to the graphic way it depicts the aftermath of war.

My Neighbor Totoro
Oh I love this film..my niece and I always sing the opening song of this film. This is the most beloved of any of Miyazaki’s films, and more than almost any of his others about the world as seen through the eyes of children (my niece love this film so much). Two girls have relocated with their father to a house in the country, to be close to their ill mother; they discover the house and the surrounding forest is a veritable hotbed of supernatural spirits, who play and keep them company. A synopsis doesn’t do justice to the movie’s summery, gentle atmosphere, where what happens isn’t nearly as important as how it’s seen by Miyazaki and his creative team. Most any parent should grab a copy of this for their kids.

Pom Poko
Cadre of shapeshifting Japanese raccoons, or tanuki, collide with the nature-threatening ways of the modern world. Some of them choose to resist the encroachment of humankind, in ways that resemble eco-saboteurs; some instead opt to assimilate into human life. It’s a great example of how anime often mines Japan’s mythology for inspiration, although note there are some moments that might not be suitable for younger viewers.

Whisper of the Heart
This is about a girl with ambitions to be a writer and a boy who dreams of becoming a master violin-maker cross paths and learn to inspire each other.

The Cat Returns
A cheeky fantasy about a girl who saves a cat’s life, and is repaid by being invited to the Kingdom of the Cats—although the more time she spends there, the greater the risk she’ll never be able to get back home. A follow-up, sort of, to Whisper of the Heart: the cat is the character in the story written by the girl. But you need not to see Whisper of the Heart first to enjoy this charming film.


Castle in the Sky

Quite possibly the best storytelling of all, out of any Miyazaki films. Castle in the Sky, considered an epic itself, is the second Studio Ghibli film. It tells the story of a young princess, Laputa, who wears a magical necklace that has the ability to lead people towards the legendary flying castle in the sky. Laputa meets a young boy, Pazu, who joins her as he too searches for the legendary castle, but pirates and agents get in their way. When this film was released, people realized that Miyazaki was a master storyteller. The film’s plot was amazing, it’s English dubbed voice acting had an awesome cast, and the animation was beautiful. The visuals leaves you in awe, all at the same time as it’s amazing script comes into play. Though Miyazaki did not yet reach his full potential, Castle in the Sky is as good as it gets, with an underrated score, I might add.

Kiki’s Delivery Service
Kiki (voiced by Kirsten Dunst in English dubbed version) is a very exuberant story by Hayao Miyazaki. This film is about a young witch who leaves her home and parents to train on her own for a year. All witches are required to have a profession, and she decides to start a delivery service – using her magical flying broomstick, of course. Though the film does not sound compelling, it still delivers enough awesome visuals and storytelling to accomplish greatness. The film had charming characters and a great message. Though the film lacked conflict, which people would have been begging for, it was still entertaining enough to keep anybody hooked from start to finish. Another Miyazaki film for the whole family to enjoy.

 An epic that would make David Lean proud. The story involves a young man, cursed with a an animal demon’s scar that will kill him. He leaves his village, hoping to find a cure as he gets caught in a war between animal and man. He meets a girl, San, who happens to believe she is a wolf and despises humans. This film has almost everything, great visuals that inspired James Cameron’s Avatar (Believe it or not), great storytelling and great animation as it was Miyazaki’s first use of CGI (computer-generated imagery) in a film. There were a ton of characters, and most of them had importance. The villain was not one sided like most villains in his other films. But the problem with this film was how violent it was. Like I said, it’s a David Lean style film, of course it’s violent. But, then again, it’s animation. Kids love Miyazaki’s previous less violent films, but his brutal and frightening scenes might take them by surprise. Either way, Princess Mononoke was the next step in the evolution of animation, being one of the first to include CGI in it’s film. Toy Story, also.

and my all time favorite :

Spirited Away
A magical, fun, haunting, poignant, amazing, compelling tale of a young girl who gets trapped in a world of spirits after her parents get caught eating food presented to the spirits. I don’t want to say too much as this film was great enough for me not to even mention anything. Spirited Away captures the essence of fantasy. The characters in the film are memorably amazing, the animation was awesome, and the story was unbelievably astonishing. The film’s elements are interesting, and the world is full of unpredictability and shockers. Some of the characters are frighteningly intriguing, and the villain seems pretty menacing. There seemed to be no flaws in this film, which is a main reason why I put this film at the top of my list. Just when you thought Miyazaki had made his best films, Spirited Away came out.

Studio Ghibli for images

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