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2017-07-29

Photos: Kiki's Delivery Service





Some screenshots of Kiki's Delivery Service on Blu-Ray. The picture quality is astoundingly good and a big upgrade over DVD, just like all of the Studio Ghibli movies. Colors just pop off the screen and flow with grace and style.

I always think of Kiki as a quiet film, much like My Neighbor Totoro, with its focus on personal growth and relationships. It's about the beginning of adolescence, the journey from childhood to adulthood, and the joys and turbulence that inevitably result. It is a time of discovery and wonder and new horizons, but also a time of loss. New connections are forged, but old connections are lost.

It's a great testament to Hayao Miyazaki's skills as a storyteller that this movie embraces all of these moods and contradictions, while maintaining a pastoral, almost nostalgic tone. There is no emotional manipulation or cheesy melodrama, no forced plot points or tired coming-of-age cliches. What we see is a character who is very relatable and honest. We can understand Kiki's journey because it reminds us of our own. We can relate.

To date, the only home video release to have proper English subtitles belongs on the Hayao Miyazaki Blu-Ray box set, which is becoming increasingly rare and expensive. If you're still on the fence whether to purchase one, you better do it now before Ebay requires you to send in a major organ as payment. Hopefully, GKids will use the correct subtitles (and not the ancient Streamline "dubtitles") for their upcoming BD/DVD reissue this fall. If they do so, I will gladly double-dip and grab another copy.

Mary and the Witch's Flower Promotional Guide





Here is an impressive promotional guide for the newly-released Mary and the Witch's Flower, the latest animated feature by Studio Ghibli alum Hiromasa Yonebayashi (Arrietty the Borrower, When Marnie Was There). The movie was released in Japan on July 8, where it launched to very positive box office returns. Let's cross our fingers and hope the public embraces this film, and ensures that the new Studio Ponoc will have a promising future.

Mary feels like a stylized mashup of Miyazaki movies, most obviously Kiki's Delivery Service, with nods and inspirations to several others. Yonebayashi clearly wishes to carry the mantle of his mentor, and he clearly has great talent and potential. He may become a great filmmaker if given the proper time and support.

Studio Ponoc is looking for international distribution, and I would be very shocked if Ghibli's distributors didn't jump onboard as quickly as possibly. Here in the USA, I would expect GKids Films to pick up the title for theatrical and home video releases next year. No official announcements have been made, but we all know the score. Hopefully they will also release a cool press booklet like this one.

Riffs: Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind



Studio Ghibli movies have found their way into Japanese videogames over the years, in various riffs and cameos. One example is Wolf Team's 1991 Sega Genesis side-scrolling title Earnest Evans, which quotes the underground caverns from Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind in one of its stages. And is that an Ohmu in the right edge of the screen? I guess it might be.  I suppose I could play the game just to be sure, but, c'mon, Earnest Evans is terrible. "Emoji Movie" terrible.

That said, I always liked and respected Telenet's Wolf Team crew. Nice Miyazaki riff, guys.

Ghibli Blog Comix: Totoro at the Bus Stop


It happens even to the best of us.

2017-07-28

Studio Ghibli Calendar 1997





Here is a sampling of illustrations that belong to the 1997 Studio Ghibli Calendar, which has been a popular tradition in Japan for over two decades. Each of these are original works, but rendered in the style of the movies. It's like having a peek into their worlds, like unused or alternate takes. Many of these would appear on official home video releases on VHS, LaserDisc, DVD and Blu-Ray.

The Ghibli calendars are a great find for fans and collectors, and I'm a bit surprised that they aren't discussed more among the fan community. I remind myself that our fan community is still quite young, and many of us are still discovering these wonderful movies. In time, the dedicated Ghibli Freaks will become obsessive collectors of all the various forms of merchandise. I would definitely advise collecting these classic calendars if the opportunity arises.

2017-07-24

Updates: Site Redesign, Zine Coming

As you can see, we're in the middle of redesigning the site, which means installing a new template and tweaking it so it's somewhat workable. The older design just became too glitchy and problematic, so I just had to make changes. For the time being, I'm switching over to one of Blogger's default themes, which are all uniformly terrible, because Blogger is terrible.

Please be patient with me, as I am aware this is making a big of a mess. Most of the important links don't seem to be working at the moment. I have another theme on my iMac at home, and we'll try to get it installed tonight. Once the DT Media website is finally up and running, I may just make the jump to WordPress for this site.

Also, I'm nearly finished with a new zine that will be given away to everyone who joins our mailing list. Problems with the HP Pavillion desktop forced me to buy a new computer, which set things back a bit, but fortunately for us, the zine pages being assembled on Scriber (a freeware desktop publishing program) have been preserved.

My goal is to have the mailing list and zine up and running by the end of this month. The zine will either be 44 or 48 pages, 8.5" by 5.5" size, and presented digitally in .pdf format. It contains essays and reviews from my upcoming books, including Zen Arcade, Pop Life and Greatest Hits/Conversations on Ghibli. It looks really good and if the response is positive, I may publish more issues on a regular basis. We'll see how it goes.

We're slowly making progress on all fronts. Please excuse the mess around here. As always, Ghibli Blog is active every day on Twitter and Facebook with original content.

2017-05-01

Horus, Prince of the Sun on Blu-Ray


Here's a friendly reminder that Horus, Prince of the Sun is now available on Blu-Ray at all your favorite online retailers. This new edition features an all-new audio commentary track written and recorded by yours truly. All of the bonus features from the DVD are present, including revised (and copy-edited) notes for the "riffs" feature.

I haven't seen any attention given to the Horus BD yet, aside from a couple mentions on the Blu-Ray.com forums. I am looking forward to what all the reviewers have to say, especially those who complained about the DVD release. Well, your wishes have been granted. Here's the HD version in all its glory, packed with features and content. This is the best release of this groundbreaking anime movie anywhere in the world.

If you haven't yet done so, please pick up a copy and share your thoughts. You can also write a review on Amazon, which is always helpful. Arigatou!

Miyazaki's Next Feature Film Delayed Past 2019


Hayao Miyazaki's upcoming feature film, officially revealed on NHK's The Never-Ending Man, will no longer meet its original 2019 release date. This is according to Toshio Suzuki, who made the announcement at this weekend's Niconico Chokaigi 2017 convention in Japan. The film was planned to be released ahead of Japan's Summer Olympic Games in 2020, but this deadline may no longer be possible.

According to Suzki-san, Miyazaki-san has currently finished storyboards for the first 20 minutes of the movie project (title and details have yet to be revealed). This has caused some concerned among Western anime sites such as Anime News Network, but I assure everyone that this is fully in keeping with Miyazaki's directorial style. Unlike most animation directors, he does not wait until storyboards or script are finalized before beginning production. Instead, only the first of five acts, roughly 20-30 minutes, are completed once the machine starts running. From that point on, everything moves full speed, a desperate race to finish the story just ahead of the animators.

This is a habit born from the legendary TV productions of the 1970s like Heidi, Girl of the Alps, 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother, Future Boy Conan, and Anne of Green Gables. The stories are being created during the productions themselves, lending a freewheeling, almost improvisational groove to Miyazaki's films. The sole exception was 1979's Lupin the 3rd: Castle of Cagliostro, which was fully written and storyboarded before production began. In every other instance, the stories, and the endings, remain a mystery to everyone, including Miyazaki himself.

You will notice that Miyazaki's feature films often don't "end" as much as they "stop." The true climax will be several scenes earlier, such as Spirited Away's scene of Sen riding in the train, or Howl's Moving Castle's flashback scene where Sofie witnesses Howl's childhood. Sometimes, the endings can feel a bit abrupt. There's a great line at the end of Howl, where Suliman, watching the heroes, sarcastically quips, "What? A happy ending?!" It's always very funny, because that's what the audience is thinking, too (it also reminds you of Charlie Chaplin's original ending to The Gold Rush, which was similarly self-conscious of its movie conventions).

For now, I wouldn't worry about the status of Miyazaki's storyboards. The main pressures on the new Studio Ghibli production will be budget, staffing, and the stamina of the director himself, who turns 76 this year and will be nearly 80 when his movie is finished. The strain of hands-on working on The Wind Rises, personally approving or editing key animation drawings (a practice he retired from after Spirited Away, but was forced to revive under the pressure of staff shortages, as Isao Takahata's The Tale of the Princess Kagua was also in production).

With a normal two-year production cycle, Studio Ghibli could meet their orginal Summer 2019 release date. But with an aging Miyazaki at the helm, greater care will be needed. And that means more time.

In addition, the question of personnel is a major challenge for Ghibli. When the studio dismissed their longtime animation staff, they lost their best available talent. Many are now working at the nearby Studio Ponoc, working quietly on Hiromasa Yonebayashi's Mary and the Witch's Flower. The two studios maintain a very warm relationship, like a parent and fully-grown child. Would some of those animators return for one final Hayao Miyazaki movie? It's a welcoming idea. However, if this is not possible (Ponoc no doubt has future plans already in place), then staffing and talent will prove more challenging. And that means more time.

Finally, the issue of money. Financing is always the bane of filmmakers, even famous studios and directors. The ever-rising production costs of feature film animation, coupled with diminishing returns at the box office (as audiences reject hand-drawn in favor of computer animation), means that even Hayao Miyazaki must struggle to pay the bills. The Wind Rises earned a spectacular amount of money at the Japanese box office, yet still failed to turn a profit (Paku-San's Princess Kaguya only earned half its total budget). And that means more time.

Time...tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Hayao Miyazaki is 76 years old, and his tomorrows are drawing short. The question of whether he even lives to complete his latest project is no trivial matter. This issue may influence all others.

Hayao Miyazaki's Boro the Caterpillar Arrives in July


Hayao Miyazaki's latest short film, Boro the Caterpillar (Kemushi no Boro) will debut this July at the Ghibli Museum in Japan. The eagerly-awaited movie marks the celebrated director's return to animation after The Wind Rises and his much-publicized retirement from feature film directing. The news was announced by Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki, spoke at the Niconico Chokaigi 2017 convention this Saturday.

Boro is also known to feature computer graphics animation, although what form this shall take remains a mystery. On The Never-Ending Man, NHK's recent documentary program, Miyazaki was shown creating his drawings the old fashioned way, with pencil and paper. A modern tablet was the only nod given to today's technology, which Miyazaki-san famously and stubbornly resists.

Many people are not aware that Studio Ghibli has long experimented with computer animation, albeit in a supporting role, while hand-drawn animation remained dominant. As CG animation has become the overwhelming favorite of moviegoers around the world, Japan remains a fierce holdout for the old artform. Any future evolution of anime will likely continue to combine pencils and computers in their wholly unique way.

So where does that leave Hayao Miyazaki? My own personal gut feeling -- and this really is nothing more than that -- is that Boro the Caterpillar will feature elements of both traditional and computer animation. Anyone expecting Studio Ghibli to suddenly morph into Pixar will likely be disappointed. Perhaps this will be closer to Yoshiyuki Momose's celebrated Capsule music videos, or the experimental styles of Ghiblies Episode 2? Or will this movie resemble Goro Miyazaki's Ronja the Robber's Daughter?

July approaches, and expectations are high. Anything could happen. Let us hope Boro marks the renaissance of Studio Ghibli, not its swan song.

2017-03-27

Ocean Waves (Umi ga Kikoeru) Blu-Ray Arrives April 18



Ocean Waves (Umi ga Kikoeru) is scheduled to be released on Blu-Ray this April 18. The 1993 made-for-television movie, directed by Tomomi Mochizuki, is the final Studio Ghibli feature film to see a home video release in North America. This is also the first time this movie has been released on our shores in any format.

Interestingly enough, Universal Studios Home Entertainment has picked up the distribution, under license from GKIDS, and the film has been given a PG-13 rating. This is a bit excessive and overly cautious, in my opinion, but the important thing is that this movie will be available in its complete and uncut form at last.

In addition to the main film, a 40-minute documentary featuring the production staff reunion has been included. This bonus feature was originally included on the Japanese DVD and Blu-Ray discs, and it's terrific that we finally get the chance to have it here (with English subtitles, of course).

Best of all, Ghiblies Episode 2, the outstanding 2002 anthology short film directed by Yoshiyuki Momose (one of Studio Ghibli's great talents) will make its appearance as an added bonus. In Japan, this 30-minute short appeared as the opening slot of a double bill with The Cat Returns the Favor. I think it made more sense to put those two movies together on home video, but it's great to finally have Ghiblies in our collections.

Ocean Waves is presented in its original Japanese language with English subtitles. As expected, there is not enough audience in the US to support an English-language dub or wider theatrical release. I think the distributors are selling audiences short. Animation doesn't have to merely be "The Electric Babysitter," existing solely to pacify toddlers and sell cheap merchandise. More and better options are available. Oh, well, at least we have the home video release, which is no small shakes.

This is definitely a great movie that all Ghibli Freaks and animation fans should enjoy. This release is highly recommended.

Press Release: Horus, Prince of the Sun Blu-Ray (March 28, 2017)

Horus, Prince of the Sun Blu-Ray



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


HORUS, PRINCE OF THE SUN

Discotek Media announces the release of Blu-Ray, “Horus, Prince of the Sun.” (March 28, 2017, $29.95).

March 28, 2017 -- Horus, Prince of the Sun (Taiyou no Ouji Horusu no Daibouken), the directorial feature film debut of Isao Takahata (Academy Award Nominee, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya), tells a tale of adventure in an ancient world. Four parties are caught in a web of deceit and survival: the hero who seeks to connect with his roots, the heroine who is torn between light and darkness, the villagers who feel caught in the middle, and the ice devil who schemes to destroy them all.

Vivid, visceral and violent, yet charged with kinetic energy, Horus introduced many stylistic innovations and legendary action sequences, establishing a new paradigm of Japanese animation. Unsuccessful in its original 1968 theatrical run, this film is today recognized as a trailblazing milestone in the history of anime.

Horus marks the first major collaboration between Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki (two-time Academy Award winner), a famed partnership that would continue across five decades, from Toei Doga to Studio Ghibli.

Now available in the US in high definition Blu-Ray, Discotek is proud to present this groundbreaking anime feature by the creators of Lupin the 3rd, Grave of the Fireflies, and Spirited Away.

Directed by Isao Takahata. Animation Direction by Yasuo Otsuka. Scene Design by Hayao Miyazaki. Key Animation by Yasuji Mori, Reiko Okuyama, Yoichi Kotabe. Musical Direction by Michiyo Mamiya. Screenplay by Kazuo Fukazawa.


BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES:

New and improved English subtitle translation.

[NEW] Audio commentary by Daniel Thomas MacInnes, recorded exclusively for Blu-Ray.

Audio commentary by noted anime scholar Mike Toole.

Every Poet a Thief: Inspirations From Horus, a gallery of influences and themes quoted in the films of Studio Ghibli.

Hilda and Horus: Just Like Twins, an essay on the film’s main characters and their interconnecting tales of trauma and revenge.

Reiko Okuyama: A Tribute to a Legend, an essay by anime scholar Benjamin Ettinger on pioneering feminist and artist and Reiko Okuyama.

Message of Hope: A Conversation With Isao Takahata, a 2010 interview with Isao Takahata by film critic and Studio Ghibli scholar Peter van der Lugt.

Two 2008 video discussions with director Isao Takahata and key animator Yoichi Kotabe.

Production gallery, featuring publicity stills, movie posters and home video releases around the world

Theatrical trailer, with new and improved English language subtitles.

PLUS: Rare photographs of the film's creators: Isao Takahata, Hayao Miyazaki, Yasuo Otsuka, Yasuji Mori, Reiko Okuyama, and Yoichi Kotabe.


TITLE: HORUS, PRINCE OF THE SUN
RELEASE DATE: TBA
BLU-RAY EDITION
1968
82 MINUTES
COLOR
MONAURAL
2.35:1 ASPECT RATIO
JAPANESE AUDIO WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES
ENGLISH AUDIO

###

For press inquiries, please contact Discotek Media at sales@discotekmedia.com.

2017-02-25

Spirited Away: The 8-Bit Videogame



This is just super cool. The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro has been recreated as an NES-style 8-bit videogame. The video progresses through the major scenes of the movie, as Chihiro/Sen and her family arrive at an abandoned Japanese theme park, which leads to a haunted bath house for the spirit world, and many exciting adventures for the young girl who must rescue her lost parents (who have been turned into pigs).

I really enjoyed this video.  Apart from some 3D effects, it could easily be created for the NES. I could see this working as a side-scrolling adventure game, like Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link, or perhaps a graphical adventure like Maniac Mansion. Somebody should make this happen. It clearly would never receive the official blessing of Studio Ghibli, but at least Miyazaki might respect the effort. He probably wouldn't tear your head off the way he famously did to those CG programmers who created the mutant zombie demo. Ouch. That was just brutal.

Kudos to the programmers who created this demo. This is a great work of classic digital art.